Does Ashwagandha Improve Thyroid Health?
By Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD
Ashwagandha is a powerful herb also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry (1Trusted Source).
Extracts of its root are most commonly used and sold in tablet, liquid, or powder form.
Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, meaning it's believed to help your body manage stress. It's also used to combat aging, strengthen and build muscle, aid neurological disorders, and relieve rheumatoid arthritis (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Used for centuries in traditional medicine, it has gained recent popularity as an alternative treatment for thyroid issues.
This article explains whether you should take ashwagandha to support thyroid health.
Types of Thyroid Disorders
The three main hormones important for thyroid health are (11Trusted Source):
- thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- triiodothyronine (T3)
- thyroxine (T4)
TSH is controlled by the pituitary gland, a small peanut-sized gland located near the base of your brain. When T3 and T4 levels are too low, TSH is released to produce more of these hormones. An imbalance between them may indicate thyroid issues (11Trusted Source).
There are two main types of thyroid disorders — hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone. It's usually associated with particular medications, iodine deficiency, or Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disorder in which your body attacks healthy thyroid tissue (11Trusted Source).
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, constipation, goiters, and dry skin (11Trusted Source).
In contrast, hyperthyroidism is characterized by the overproduction of thyroid hormone. People with this condition usually experience shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, fatigue, hair loss, and unintentional weight loss (12Trusted Source).
In Western countries, 1–2% and 0.2–1.3% of the population have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, respectively (13Trusted Source).
Both conditions are typically treated with synthetic medication. However, some may seek natural alternatives, such as ashwagandha.
Hypothyroidism is a thyroid disorder characterized by low levels of thyroid hormone, whereas hyperthyroidism is linked to high levels. Some people use ashwagandha to treat these conditions instead of synthetic medication.
Can Ashwagandha Improve Thyroid Health?
While ashwagandha has many potential health benefits, you may wonder if it's worth taking for thyroid health.
Does ashwagandha help with hypothyroidism?
In general, insufficient research exists on ashwagandha supplements and thyroid health.
However, recent studies indicate promising results regarding hypothyroidism.
An 8-week study in 50 people with hypothyroidism found that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily led to significant improvements in thyroid levels, compared to taking a placebo (6Trusted Source).
Those in the ashwagandha group showed significant increases in triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) levels of 41.5% and 19.6%, respectively. Furthermore, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels decreased by 17.5% (6Trusted Source).
Ashwagandha's cortisol-lowering effects may be responsible.
Chronic stress increases cortisol levels, leading to lower levels of T3 and T4. Ashwagandha appears to stimulate your endocrine system, boosting thyroid hormone levels by reducing cortisol (6Trusted Source).
In another eight-week study, adults with bipolar disorder were given ashwagandha. While three participants experienced increases in T4 levels, this study was limited (14Trusted Source).
More studies are needed to better understand the long-term effects of ashwagandha on hypothyroidism.
Does ashwagandha help with hyperthyroidism?
No human studies have examined ashwagandha supplements and hyperthyroidism.
Therefore, it is important to speak with your healthcare practitioner before taking ashwagandha, especially if you have hyperthyroidism.
By boosting T3 and T4 thyroid hormone levels, ashwagandha may play a role in managing hypothyroidism but worsen symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Safety and Side Effects
- high blood pressure
- psychoactive disorders
What's more, ashwagandha may stimulate your immune system, potentially exacerbating autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus (1Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Therefore, it's best to consult your healthcare practitioner before using ashwagandha.
While largely considered safe, ashwagandha should not be taken by those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or hyperthyroid. As this herb can also interfere with several medications, it's recommended to consult your healthcare provider before taking it.
How to Use Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is usually taken in supplement form. Most supplements come in 300-mg tablets ingested twice per day after eating.
It also comes as a powder and is usually added to water, milk, juices, or smoothies. Some people mix it into dishes or sprinkle it on top of yogurt.
In addition, you can make ashwagandha tea.
As all current research uses the tablet form, it's not yet known if powders and teas have the same effects.
Because there's no human data on ashwagandha toxicity, it's generally considered safe for use. Follow the manufacturer's recommended dose unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare practitioner (7Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
Ashwagandha is usually taken as a supplement in 300-mg doses twice per day. It is also available as a powder or tea.
The Bottom Line
Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in alternative medicine.
Preliminary research shows that it may improve thyroid levels in those with hypothyroidism. However, it may worsen the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Therefore, you should consult your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha for a thyroid condition.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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