An Amazing Adaptogen: Ashwagandha Improves Thyroid Hormone Levels
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a frequently utilized botanical in Ayurvedic medicine and is known as a rasayana – a rejuvenator. It is probably one of the world’s most potent adaptogens, right up there with rhodiola and red ginseng.
Adaptogens help people stay resilient in the face of mental or physical stressors. Ashwagandha in particular, has been shown to normalize cortisol levels, reduce physical symptoms of anxiety and stress, and enhance physical endurance. Like many adaptogens, it helps the body and mind stay strong and, not surprisingly, able to adapt to changing circumstances.
The adaptogenic abilities of ashwagandha are well known. But additionally, ashwagandha appears to help normalize thyroid hormone activity as well.
One of the chief functions of the thyroid is the production of the hormone, thyroxine (T4), and the conversion of this hormone into triiodothyronine (T3) as needed for metabolism.
However, things can go bad if the body produces too little thyroxine to begin with. Normal metabolic and other chemical processes slow down, and hypothyroidism or low thyroid is the result.
Low functioning thyroids are common in both men and women, although from my experience, women are far more apt to have hypothyroidism than men. But diagnosing hypothyroidism isn’t always what it should be. The most serious problem is that many doctors rely completely on a blood test that is grossly inaccurate and overlooks a majority of low thyroid function diagnoses.
That’s because most of the current test were really inadequate, and didn’t show the full picture of how well the thyroid was functioning.
When doctors test for blood levels of T4, they generally find adequate levels of the hormone, so they naturally rule out hypothyroidism. But, only looking at T4 levels is only half of the picture, and the tests aren’t truly far-reaching. Many of these “good” readings of T4 don’t take into the consideration the levels of T4 that need to be converted to T3, the active hormone.
In fact, readings of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroxine levels and other blood parameters may lead one to believe you are in the “normal” range when the normal range may be far too broad.
This study found that for individuals with subclinical slow thyroid, an eight-week regimen of ashwagandha extract improved TSH levels, T3, and T4 levels. In other words, ashwagandha helped the thyroid with one of its most important jobs.
If you’re dealing with a slow thyroid and the additional burden of stress that it can bring about, consider adding ashwagandha – partnered with another strong adaptogen like rhodiola – and see if you start feeling more energetic and better able to meet the challenges of the day.
Sharma AK, Basu I, Singh S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Mar;24(3):243-248.
BACKGROUND: Subclinical hypothyroidism, a thyroid disorder without obvious symptoms of thyroid deficiency, occurs in 3%-8% of the global population. Ashwagandha [Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal], a traditional medicine in Ayurveda, is often prescribed for thyroid dysfunctions.
OBJECTIVE: This pilot study was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of ashwagandha root extract in subclinical hypothyroid patients.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A prospective, randomized, double-blind, single-center placebo-controlled study was performed at Sudbhawana Hospital, Varanasi, India between May 2016 and September 2016. Fifty subjects with elevated serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels (4.5-10 μIU/L) aged between 18 and 50 were randomized in either treatment (n = 25) or placebo (n = 25) groups for an 8-week treatment period.
INTERVENTIONS: Ashwagandha root extract (600 mg daily) or starch as placebo. Efficacy Variables: Serum TSH, serum triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4) levels.
RESULTS: A total of four subjects (two from each group) withdrew their consent before the second visit. Eight weeks of treatment with ashwagandha improved serum TSH (p < 0.001), T3 (p = 0.0031), and T4 (p = 0.0096) levels significantly compared to placebo. Ashwagandhatreatment effectively normalized the serum thyroid indices during the 8-week treatment period in a significant manner (time-effects: TSH [p < 0.001], T3 [p < 0.001], and T4 [p < 0.001]). Four subjects (8%) (ashwagandha: 1[4%]; Placebo: 3[12%]) out of 50 reported few mild and temporary adverse effects during this study.
CONCLUSION: Treatment with ashwagandha may be beneficial for normalizing thyroid indices in subclinical hypothyroid patients.