Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid. Ayurveda recommends various remedies and treatments for thyroid conditions like hyperthyroidism.
What Is Graves’ Disease?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck.
Thyroid hormones control how your body uses energy and they affect nearly every organ in your body—even the way your heart beats.1
In Graves’ disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and causes it to produce more thyroid hormones than your body needs.
If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause serious cardiac, muscular, skeletal, and hormonal problems.
Untreated hyperthyroidism during pregnancy can also lead to health problems for the baby. Graves’ disease can affect the eyes and skin as well.
- Difficulty sleeping
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Fine tremors of the hands or fingers
- Increased perspiration or warm, moist skin
- Sensitivity to heat
- Weight loss, despite normal eating habits
- Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter)
- Change in menstrual cycles
- Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido
- Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
- Bulging eyes (Graves’ ophthalmopathy)
- Thick, red skin usually on the shins or tops of feet (Graves’ dermopathy).
From a conventional medical perspective, the probable cause of this condition is considered to be a dysfunction in the immune system, possibly due to genetic or hereditary factors.
However, little or nothing is known about the details of what actually causes this immune system dysfunction.
Ayurvedic Perspective On Graves’ Disease
In Ayurveda, thyroid disorders are primarily related to the conditions galaganda and gandamala. However, the two conditions are associated with nodular outgrowths of the thyroid gland which can be compared to goiter and its sub-types.
Thyroid dysfunction, however, is not characterized by prominent growths in the thyroid gland although it might become swollen in some people.
Comparing the etiology and symptomatology of thyroid dysfunction with that of the conditions sthoulya and karshya as mentioned in the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita, one can see many similarities.
This would be called Ati Karshya in the context of Ayurveda.
Ati Karshya Causes
- Ruksha Annapana– Consuming drying food and drinks
- Langhana or fasting
- Consuming less food than what the body requires
- Suppression of natural urges
- Inadequate sleep
- Repeated showering or bathing (increases Vata dosha)
- Overindulgence in purificatory therapies
- Old age
- Continued illnesses
Signs And Symptoms Of Ati Karshya
- Karshya or an emaciated person cannot withstand Vyayam (exercise)
- these people cannot intake food in large quantity
- Inability to withstand hunger, thirst, indigestion, and strong medicines
- Intolerance to extreme heat or cold
- Karshya or emaciated people are susceptible to pliha roga (disorders of the spleen), cough, respiratory disorders, and diarrhea
Signs And Symptoms In Western Medicine
- Fatigue and inability to conduct day to day activities
- Weight loss
- Muscle wasting
- Predominant venation
- Prominently visible joints due to muscle wasting
How Ati Karshya Progresses
Improper digestion leads to thyroid dysfunction because of blocked channels in the body. This disorder is believed to occur due to the aggravation of Vata and Pitta doshas.
The aggravated Vata and Pitta cause over stimulation of the metabolic fire leading to excessive hunger, thirst, heat intolerance, excessive sweating, weight loss, vitiation of the doshas, and the direct depletion of ojas (which is considered to be the final essence of tissue metabolism and the primary support for our immune system).
According to Ayurvedic principles, this disorder originates in the digestive system due to imbalanced digestive fire resulting from various causative factors discussed above.
This leads to increased production of ama or undigested food waste.
This ama is absorbed into the blood from the gut along with the imbalanced doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) and as a result, the metabolic fire begins to malfunction.
This malfunctioning of the metabolic fire progresses at the level of rasa dhatu up to the level of shukra dhatu inhibiting the formation of healthy tissues one after another until the formation of ojas is affected.
Once the quality of ojas is disturbed (in this case it is often caused by the presence of Vata and Pitta dosha in the form of heat), the vitiated Vata and Pitta along with ama blocks the body channels.
This causes the immune system to function improperly, thus attacking the thyroid gland and leading to a full-blown autoimmune condition.
Ayurvedic Management of Hyperthyroidism
The first line of Ayurvedic treatment for hyperthyroidism is to clear these channels in order to bring the body’s energies into equilibrium and restore the thyroid’s normal functions.
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
- Include enough quantity of milk, pure ghee (clarified butter), and milk products in your diet.
- Eat fresh fruits like bananas and melons, and dry fruits like dates and walnuts, which pacify the aggravated Vata and Pitta.
- Yoga, Pranayama, and meditation also help in balancing the over aggravated Vata and Pitta doshas.
Management of Ati Karshya (Emaciation)
Since the etiology and the symptoms of ati karshya have similarities with the etiology and symptoms of Hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease), the Ayurvedic treatment options for the two conditions would be similar as well.
The following measures are described by Acharya Charaka in the management of Ati Karshya which are applicable in case of Graves’ disease.
- An emaciated person should avoid staying up late at night
- Avoid physical exertion
- Avoid stress and worry
- Emaciated persons should follow a healthy and cheerful lifestyle
- They should try to get a good night’s sleep
- They should consume a diet consisting of newly harvested grains
- They should have soups with the meat of domesticated animals and fish
- Should have a diet consisting of laghu (light) and madhura rasa (sweet) foods
- Should consume yogurt, ghee, milk, dairy products, and fruits like bananas and melons
- Should undergo Abhyangam (warm oil massage), snigdha (oil based) udwarthanam, regular showering/bathing
- Should undergo Panchakarma therapies according to the season.
- Should intake Rasayana (rejuvenating herbs)
All these practices remove karshya (emaciation) and nourish the body.
Herbs For Ati Karshya 3
Melissa officinalis L. Family: Lamiaceae – As noted in the older studies, lemon balm is effective in blocking the binding of TSH to the receptor by acting on the hormone and the receptor itself.
It also inhibits cyclic AMP production stimulated by TSH receptor antibodies. Traditionally, lemon balm has been used to treat symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, such as tachycardia, insomnia, and hyperactivity.
Convolvulus pluricaulis Choisy (Shankhapushpi) Family: Convolvulaceae Convolvulus pluricaulis acts strongly on some of the liver enzymes and helps in improving symptoms of hyperthyroidism. It has antiulcer properties and is helpfulness in alleviating the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Leonurus cardiaca (Mother wart) L. Family: Lamiaceae In autoimmune diseases, it is important to reduce inflammation, making motherwort a good choice in treating hyperthyroidism. In addition to reducing inflammation, the enzyme 5-deiodinase is inhibited. Annona squamosa L. Family:
Rauvolfia serpentina (Indian Snakeroot/ Devil Pepper) L. Benth .ex Kurz. Family: Apocynaceae The R. serpentina root extract administered to T4 induced hyperthyroid mice significantly decreased both the serum T3 and T4 concentrations. A great potential Ayurvedic herb for treating thyroid conditions like hyperthyroidism.
Emblica Officinalis Gaertn (Amla) Family: Phyllanthaceae The fruit extract decreased both serum T3, T4 concentrations. The decrease in T3 was by inhibiting peripheral conversion of T4 to T3 in extra-thyroid tissues.
Trigonella graceum L. (Fenugreek) Family: Fabaceae The seed extract induced reduction in T3 level could be the result of inhibition in the peripheral conversion of T4 to T3 in extrathyroidal tissues. Fenugreek is a great Ayurvedic herb for thyroid.
Aegle marmelos (L.)Correa (Bael/ stone apple) Family: Rutaceae The plant has a specific role in the regulation of thyroid functions and in maintaining the Thyroid hormone levels.
Ocimum sanctum L. (Tulsi) Family: Lamiaceae The leaf extract of O. sanctum administered to male mice for significantly inhibited only T4 concentration. Tulsi is a great Ayurvedic herb for thyroid conditions.
Moringa oleifera (Shirish) Family: Moringaceae M. oleifera leaf extract treatment of female rats decreased serum T3 concentration and increased in serum T4 concentration. This observation suggests the inhibitory activity of the plant extract in the peripheral conversion of T4 toT3
Consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before trying Ayurvedic thyroid treatments mentioned in this article. Do not try to self diagnose Graves’ disease. Consult your primary healthcare practitioner for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
- Graves’ Disease Information. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/graves-disease
- Agnivesha, Charaka Samhita, Sutra Sthana, 21/4-16, refined and annotated by Charaka, redacted by Dridhabala with Ayurveda Deepika commentary by Chakrapanidatta; edited by Yadavji Trikamji Acharya; Varanasi: Chaukhamba Press; reprint 2011. 9. A]
- Bharthi V, Kavya N, Shubhashree MN, Bhat S. Herbal approach to management of thyroid disease – a review. J Ayu Herb Med 2017;3(1):48-52.