Do you have fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, and never-ending stress? You may be suffering from a thyroid imbalance. The thyroid is a tiny gland with big responsibilities. When it suffers, many of the body’s normal processes get out of whack and we wind up with these (and several other) frustrating symptoms.
Thankfully, there are many natural ways we can improve the health of our thyroid, as well as protect it against damage in the future. One amazing herb for thyroid health is ashwagandha, a tonic root originally used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine.
Here we’ll learn more about ashwagandha and how it can help us support the thyroid while boosting our overall wellbeing.
What is Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)?
Ashwagandha, or Indian ginseng, is one of the most common healing herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine. The name “ashwagandha” interestingly means “smell of the horse” in Sanskrit – a nod to both its musky smell and its ability to build strength and vitality in those who use it regularly.
Ashwagandha has been used for over 3,000 years in holistic healing traditions for a wide range of conditions such as energy, memory, and vitality. Today, ashwagandha is still an important healing herb and is even gaining popularity in mainstream medicine as a health tonic and energy booster. Ashwagandha also offers much more than an added “boost” – especially as an herb for thyroid health. Let’s discover some of the herb’s most impressive health benefits.
The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Reduces Stress and Improves Mental Health
While there are many benefits of ashwagandha, one of the most popular is its ability to relieve stress and promote balanced mental health. It does this mostly by reducing the body’s levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
Many people take ashwagandha for its ability to improve natural energy, kind of like a natural dose of herbal coffee. Unlike regular coffee, ashwagandha does not simply increase our energy at the moment, it helps our bodies work more efficiently so we naturally feel more energetic and less sluggish.
Improves Overall Health
Ashwagandha is rich in antioxidants and natural compounds that help the body heal, fight illness, and stay strong. The benefit of this overall health boost can be seen with improved fertility, general mood enhancement, and even better sleep.
Improves Memory and Concentration
One of the original uses for ashwagandha in ancient Ayurvedic medicine was to boost memory. The official effects of ashwagandha on cognition are still being studied by modern researchers, but studies currently show that it may help improve memory, reaction time, attention, and task performance.
Can Improve Strength and Endurance
Like many tonic herbs, ashwagandha improves energy. But can it also help us grow stronger – and even fitter? It seems so! Studies suggest that taking ashwagandha while participating in a resistance training exercise program can increase the development of muscle mass, improve strength, and help us attain a healthier body composition.
Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
Studies show that ashwagandha reduces blood glucose levels in those with diabetes and offers better insulin sensitivity.
May Reduce Inflammation and Boost Immunity
Inflammation is a vicious cycle that often leads to pain, fatigue, immune weakness, and eventually chronic disease. Thankfully, research shows that ashwagandha may be able to increase the activity of natural killer cells (which are essential in fighting infection) while also reducing C-reactive proteins (some of the main culprits in inflammation). Together, these effects help to enhance immunity and restore our balance.
May Prevent Cancer
Ashwagandha is being actively researched for its abilities to stop tumor growth and potentially impede cancer formation. Studies suggest that it can prevent new growth of cancer cells, while also activating apoptosis (cell death) in existing cancer cells.
Ashwagandha and Thyroid Health
Along with all the above benefits, ashwagandha is one of the most respected natural remedies for thyroid health. One of the reasons ashwagandha is so effective is because it is an adaptogen. This means that it can both increase thyroid activity or decrease thyroid activity based on the body’s needs, allowing the body to achieve optimal thyroid levels.
Recent research shows that ashwagandha can help improve the balance of thyroid hormones specifically in those with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It has shown to increase T3 and T4 levels while decreasing TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Scientists believe some of this effect may be linked to ashwagandha’s ability to lower cortisol and reduce stress.
Stress is a major contributing factor in many health conditions. As the body takes on more stress (and higher cortisol levels) it becomes less capable of maintaining a healthy balance. Thyroid hormones are particularly vulnerable to falling out of balance as increased cortisol causes T3 and T4 levels to drop.
By reducing cortisol, ashwagandha helps the body regulate its natural thyroid levels. Other natural benefits of ashwagandha (such as reduced anxiety, high antioxidant levels, and improved energy) also help those with an underactive thyroid regain their balance.
Supplementing with Ashwagandha: What You Need to Know
In general, ashwagandha is a safe and gentle supplement that can benefit a wide range of people. As with any herb, supplement, or medication, however, it’s important to do your research and make sure you are choosing the right product for you and your body. Let’s cover some of the basics of buying and using ashwagandha safely!
How to Take Ashwagandha
Most ashwagandha supplements come in a tablet, powder, or tea. A daily tablet is a great choice if you are experiencing symptoms or want to improve your thyroid health. If you simply want to prevent and protect, tea or powder are helpful, more mild choices. For optimal thyroid health, ashwagandha is best taken at bedtime.
How to Choose a Quality Ashwagandha Supplement
Finding a quality ashwagandha supplement is important to ensure you’re getting all the thyroid benefits of this medicinal herb. Look for a supplement that contains 300-600mg of root ashwagandha, with 1.5% withanolides (the key healing compound).
Is Ashwagandha Safe For Me?
Ashwagandha is relatively safe for most people, but it is always a good idea to speak with your doctor or health care practitioner before starting a new supplement. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or taking medications for immunosuppression, diabetes, high blood pressure, or thyroid conditions, speak with your doctor before using ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha: A Helpful Herb for Thyroid Health
Whether you’re looking for a natural treatment for your thyroid condition, or simply a healing herbal tonic to improve your overall health, ashwagandha has you covered!
But, the most important thing to remember when taking ashwagandha (or any other adaptogen) is that they are supplements. They should add to a healthy lifestyle, not be the only factor. A balanced lifestyle that supports the thyroid gland is the foundation for good thyroid health. Take the necessary steps to reduce stress, eat a healthy diet, improve your sleep, eliminate habits that drain your energy, exercise, and practice mindfulness techniques.