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Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD

The 101 on Ashwagandha For Thyroid Health

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine that could be beneficial for those with hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. In several studies, Ashwagandha has been shown to significantly increase thyroid hormones T3 and T4 in individuals with low thyroid function. However, it is advised to consult with a healthcare practioner before supplementing with Ashwagandha as it can interact with certain medications and may not be suitable for individuals with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).


If you’re struggling with low thyroid function, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) may be the perfect herb for you. This traditional Indian adaptogen has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to promote overall health and well-being by helping restore natural balance to the endocrine system. 


It has recently gained attention for its potential benefits for thyroid health, specifically. In this article, we'll explore what the thyroid is, what hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is, why ashwagandha may be beneficial for thyroid health, and why it may not be suitable for those with hyperthyroidism.




What is the function of the thyroid gland?


The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located in the neck, but its impact on the body is incredible. It produces thyroid hormones, which play a crucial role in regulating metabolism, growth, and development. 


The main hormones involved include:

  • TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)
  • Free T3 - the active form of thyroid hormone
  • Free T4 - the primary form of thyroid hormone in your blood before being converted to T3
  • Reverse T3 - an inactive form of thyroid hormone that plays a role in regulating metabolism, stress, inflammation, and more.


The thyroid gland works in tandem with the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in a complex feedback loop to maintain balance and ensure the proper function of many organs and systems in the body. Without proper thyroid function, the body can experience a range of symptoms and health issues, from fatigue and weight gain to mood changes, dry skin, constipation, and infertility. Therefore, supporting optimal thyroid health for overall well-being and vitality is essential.






What is hypothyroidism?


Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. In the United States alone, it is estimated that up to 20 million people have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60% of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Hypothyroidism is the most common type of thyroid condition and is usually more prevalent in women than men, and the risk increases with age. 


Subclinical hypothyroid conditions may be even more common wherein only thyroid stimulating hormone is raised with normal levels of T4. Subclinical hypothyroidism can often signify the beginning stages of hypothyroidism and hence the importance of early intervention. 


The symptoms that people with hypothyroidism may experience can be wide-ranging and may include:


  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain/difficulty with weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Depression and poor mental health
  • Constipation
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Low body temperature
  • Low libido
  • Brain fog


Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial, as untreated hypothyroidism can lead to more serious health issues. With the right approach, including a functional medicine perspective and targeted lifestyle and dietary interventions, it is possible to support optimal thyroid health and improve the quality of life for those with hypothyroidism. Learn more about optimizing your thyroid health here.

Now, let's explore how the health benefits of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) may be beneficial for thyroid function. 


1. Ashwagandha may help regulate thyroid hormone levels.


Studies have shown that ashwagandha may help regulate thyroid hormone levels in humans and animals experiencing low thyroid function. 

For example, a study on participants with hypothyroidism found that taking 600 mg of Ashwagandha root extract daily for eight weeks led to significant increases in T3 and T4 levels compared to those taking a placebo. [2]


In a study of hypothyroid rats, ashwagandha increased levels of thyroid hormones T3 and T4 while reducing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, which are usually elevated in hypothyroidism. 

By supporting healthy thyroid hormones, Ashwagandha may, in turn, support your weight loss journey, which you can read further about here. 



2. Ashwagandha may support adrenal function.


The adrenal glands are involved in producing hormones that regulate the stress response, including cortisol. How is this relevant to thyroid health, you may wonder? The adrenal and thyroid glands have an important relationship, which means chronic stress can impact thyroid function. 

This is because high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can increase thyroid stimulating hormone, which sends signals to the thyroid gland to produce less thyroid hormone. High cortisol can even reduce the conversion of T4 into the active form of thyroid hormone known as T3, elevating reverse T3 (which is an inactive thyroid hormone) and contributing to suboptimal thyroid function. [3]

The great news is that Ashwagandha has been clinically proven to help lower levels of cortisol and the symptoms of stress and anxiety. One study revealed that individuals who supplemented with Ashwagandha experienced a significant 27.9% reduction in cortisol levels after 60 days of treatment, whereas the placebo group only demonstrated a 7.9% reduction in cortisol levels compared to their baseline levels. Multiple additional studies have shown similar effects as well. [4] [5] [6]



3. Ashwagandha may have anti-inflammatory effects.


Ashwagandha has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects thanks to a compound known as Withaferin A. Traditionally, Ashwagandha root was crushed into a paste and applied topically to help soothe painful and inflamed joints like those seen in rheumatoid arthritis and has now been shown in research to lower levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein in arthritic rats with joint pain. [7]

Inflammation can be a contributing factor in autoimmune thyroid disorders like Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Ashwagandha has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects thanks to a compound known as Withaferin A. Traditionally, Ashwagandha root was crushed into a paste and applied topically to help soothe painful and inflamed joints. It’s hypothesized that these anti-inflammatory properties may help to protect the thyroid. [8]




Using an ashwagandha supplement for thyroid health


When it comes to using ashwagandha for thyroid issues like hypothyroidism, it is important to work with a qualified healthcare practitioner who can help you determine the right dose and form of ashwagandha for your individual needs. Ashwagandha is available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and teas; however, these may not all provide the same results since ashwagandha may have poor bioavailability due to several factors. 

One reason is that the herb contains withanolides, which are active compounds that provide various health benefits. However, these withanolides are not very water-soluble, which means that they may not be easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.

Another factor that contributes to the poor bioavailability of ashwagandha is the presence of certain digestive enzymes that can break down the withanolides before they are absorbed. Additionally, the liver may also metabolize some of the withanolides, further reducing their bioavailability.

To overcome these issues, NutriRise has developed a specialized ashwagandha extract that can improve the bioavailability of this medicinal herb. 

NutriRise Ashwagandha extract is made from the root of the ashwagandha plant, which is where the highest concentration of withanolides is found. 

Moreover, NutriRise Ashwagandha also contains black pepper extract, which is clinically proven to improve the absorption of various herbal compounds and nutrients in the body. Black pepper extract contains a compound called piperine, which inhibits the activity of certain enzymes that break down nutrients in the gut, allowing for enhanced absorption.




The safety of Ashwagandha root for thyroid issues


It is also important to note that while ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most people, it may interact with certain medications, and health conditions or have side effects in some individuals. For example, ashwagandha may have a sedative effect and should be used cautiously if you are taking other sedative medications. Additionally, ashwagandha may lower blood pressure, so it is important to monitor your blood pressure if you are taking medication for hypertension.

Since Ashwagandha could help to increase thyroid hormones, this may benefit those struggling with hypothyroidism but potentially harm those with overactive thyroid function, known as hyperthyroidism, in which thyroid hormone production is already higher than normal. Therefore, it’s recommended that these individuals avoid ashwagandha.  




Final thoughts


In conclusion, ashwagandha may be a valuable tool for supporting an underactive thyroid when used in conjunction with a functional medicine approach that addresses underlying root causes. Ashwagandha may help to regulate thyroid hormone levels, reduce inflammation, support adrenal function and reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. 

However, it is important to work with a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine the appropriate form and dose of ashwagandha for your individual needs and to monitor for any potential interactions or side effects.


Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha or starting any dietary supplement.



Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD
As a qualified Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD), Zaheera Swing has a deep passion for restoring balance and harmony to the body through the modalities of nutritional science, herbalism, and holistic lifestyle practices. Using the functional medicine model coupled with wisdom from ancient paradigms, she aims to provide insight into the underlying root causes of poor health and the holistic tools we can harness to enhance the well-being of mind, body, and spirit.
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