While a lack of iodine may be the first thing that comes to mind when trying to support healthy thyroid function, Ayurveda suggests herbs to support the healthy absorption of iodine into the thyroid.
In one study, guggul (Commiphora mukul) was shown to increase the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland. (1) This was perhaps also due to enhanced activities of thyroid peroxidase and protease, as well as oxygen consumption they found associated with guggul supplementation. (1)
In another study, the results found with guggul supplementation suggested that its constituent factors have the ability to counteract thyroid dampening agents in otherwise healthy subjects. (2)
In a final study, after 30 days, certain constituents in guggul were found to boost the activity of enzymes like super-oxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and lipid peroxides (LPO)—all of which support healthy thyroid function. (3) This increased antioxidant activity is thought to be responsible for the increase in T3 and T4 thyroid hormone levels also noted in this study. (3)
According to Ayurveda, guggul is best used in conjunction with ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Studies suggest that there are constituents in ashwagandha that also support healthy lipid peroxide levels (LPO) in the liver, where thyroid hormones are manufactured. (4) SOD and CAT levels were also found to be significantly increased after supplementation of ashwagandha. Certain constituents in ashwagandha are thought to support the natural production of these enzymes that counteract thyroid-depressing agents in otherwise healthy individuals, resulting in higher levels of T4, which are the precursor hormone to T3, which is considered the active thyroid hormone. (4,5) Other studies have measured a boost in both T3 and T4 levels in correlation with ashwagandha supplementation. (5)
Ashwagandha is also one of the world’s most potent adaptogens, which means it supports a healthy response to stress. In one study, 64 chronically stressed subjects were given 300mg of ashwagandha twice a day for two months. The group that ingested the ashwagandha saw a significant reduction in scores on all stress-assessment scales compared to the placebo group. (6)
According to the researchers, these findings suggest that ashwagandha root safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance toward stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.
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Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul-Sep; 34(3): 255–262. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022. PMCID: PMC3573577
Author: Dr. John Douillard
Editor: Emily Bartran