One in 20 million people suffer from hypothyroidism. Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera helps hypothyroidism as it assists in balancing hormones and T4 levels.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. It restores energy, supports adrenal function and combats depression, anxiety and stress. Keep reading to learn how hypothyroidism occurs, the Ayurvedic view, how Ashwagandha helps hypothyroidism and supporting research studies.
How Hypothyroidism Occurs
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland positioned in the throat region.
Iodide which is taken internally through food is converted into iodine and used to make the thyroid hormones. These are known as Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4).
This process is governed by Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is released by the pituitary gland.
Hypothyroidism results when thyroid hormone levels are deficient. It occurs as the result of low intake of iodide or a lack of response to that nutrient by the body.
READ MORE: Reverse The Root Cause Of Thyroid Disease
The Ayurvedic View
According to Ayurveda, an increase in Vata and Kapha doshas are mainly responsible for hypothyroidism.
A prolonged Vata and Pitta imbalance depletes ojas and causes Vata to push Kapha out of balance.1 A stressful lifestyle in which a person travels a lot may contribute to these imbalances.
According to Dr. Marc Halpern, “The management of hypothyroidism is the management of Vata and Kapha”.
READ MORE: Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know
How Ashwagandha Helps Hypothyroidism
Ashwagandha is a saponin glycoside known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry.
Ashwagandha is excellent for all three doshas. It is especially prized as a Vata and Kapha pacifier and is one of the best adaptogens. It is beneficial for increasing the essence of life or ojas and restoring energy levels.2
Classically, it is considered a nervine sedative.
It’s a well established fact that depression is one of the major reasons for hypothyroidism.3
Ashwagandha supports adrenal function and reduces levels of serum cortisol, which is elevated in stressful conditions and mental anxiety.
Several research studies reveal that Ashwagandha helps to combat depression, anxiety and stress.4 It relaxes the body and mind and fortifies all the body systems.
Ashwagandha contains alkaloids. These are steroidal and saponin chemicals essential for hormonal activity.
Alkaloids support the overall functions of the endocrine system, helping in hormonal balance.
The chemical constituents increase the production of T4 hormones.
This indicates that it has a stimulating effect at the glandular level via its effect on cellular antioxidant systems.5,6 That is why it is considered such a promising natural cure for hypothyroidism.
High T4 levels may generate free radicals and damage cells. Ashwagandha is able to scavenge free radicals and reduce lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress due to its antioxidant activity.
So even as it stimulates the thyroid to produce more T4, it keeps potential risks of excess T4 in check.
Supporting Research Studies
In a study conducted in 2011, it was seen that Ashwagandha extract has the ability to improve thyroid activity and also enhances the anti-peroxidation activity in tissue.7
A study on female mice found that extracts of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) along with Bauhinia purpurea are capable of stimulating thyroid function in female mice.8
Ashwagandha supports strong hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands all play a role in proper thyroid function.9
Ashwagandha is helpful in boosting the immune system and has anti-inflammatory activity. This is responsible for slowing down the growth of tumors and reducing inflammation in the body.10
So, you can see that Ashwagandha is a perfect herb for targeting many of the contributing factors associated with hypothyroidism. It is the most beneficial herb due to its effectiveness and safety.
How To Take Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha powder can be taken in a dose of 1-2 tsp mixed into warm milk. Alternatively you can mix it with honey and take it on an empty stomach in the morning.
If you are not able to take it in powder form, you can take it in a tablet or in your food.
Try one of these tasty and healthy Ashwagandha recipes.
1 Dr. Marc Halpern, Clinical Ayurvedic Medicine Sixth Edition, 7-10
2 Dr. J.L.N.Sastry, DravyagunaVijnana, Study of essential Medicinal Plants in Ayurveda Vol 2, Chaukhambha Orientalia,Varanasi.
3 Bathla, Manish, Manpreet Singh, and Pankaj Relan. “Prevalence of Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms amongPatients with Hypothyroidism.” Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism 20.4 (2016): 468–474.
4 Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine, 7: 463-469 (2000)
5 Tiwari R, Chakraborty S, Saminathan M, Dhama K, Singh S V, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Role in Safeguarding Health, Immunomodulatory Effects, Combating Infections and Therapeutic Applications A Review. Journal of Biological Sciences 2014;14(2):77-94. 17.
6 Sitansu Kumar Verma and Ajay Kumar. Therapeutic uses of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) with a note on withanolides and its pharmacological actions. Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research Academic Sciences 2011;4(1):1-4
7 Singh. G, Sharma P.K , Dudhe R and Singh S ; Biological activities of Withania somnifera ; Annals of Biological Research ; year- 2010, volume 1 (3); page no.56-63
8 Panda, S., and A. Kar. "Withania somnifera and Bauhinia purpurea in the regulation of circulating thyroid hormone concentrations in female mice." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 67.2 (1999): 233-239.
9 Verma SK, Kumar A. Theraputic uses of Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) with a note on withanoloids and its pharmacological actions. Asian J Pharma Clin Res. 2011;4(1):1–4.
10 Ruchi Tiwari ,Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Role in Safeguarding Health, Immunomodulatory Effects, Combating Infections and Therapeutic Applications: A Review, Science Alert