Hypothyroidism is an underactivity of the thyroid resulting in too little production of thyroid hormone. Although it may be caused by a variety of diseases that affect the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, this condition is due primarily to disorders of the thyroid gland itself.
Orthodox therapy is based upon taking thyroid hormone daily to replace what is not there. Often this must remain the basis of therapy, in which case therapy will aim at helping the body deal with the repercussions of the condition. The use of bitters (herbs that have a bitter taste) in mild cases is sometimes enough and is sure to be beneficial. Kelp has been used in the past; although it has much to offer, it is only truly specific where iodine deficiency is present.
Hypothyroidism accelerates the onset of atherosclerosis; thus coronary artery disease may occur because of deposits of mucopolysaccharides in the heart muscle. This damage may be lessened through the use of cardiovascular tonics such as hawthorn, ginkgo and garlic.
Relieving some aspects of the symptomatic distress may be achieved with herbs. Chronic constipation may be alleviated with laxatives. Hepatic laxatives are the best, as they support liver function; examples include yellow dock and butternut. In extreme cases, strong purgatives (e.g., cascara sagrada or senna) may be called for. Nervine tonics and other varieties of nervine may be indicated, but avoid the stronger relaxing remedies such as hops and valerian.
Antidepressant plants such as St. John’s wort and mugwort can also be helpful.
Adapted from Herbal Prescriptions After 50: Everything You Need to Know to Maintain Vibrant Health, by David Hoffman (Healing Arts Press, 2007).