(NaturalNews) Perhaps one of the most misunderstood of all the body's systems, your thyroid - a gland that is located in front of your neck - is also one of the most important among them, for it controls or supports a wide range of functions. Consequently, thyroid disorders can be extremely debilitating.
"Thyroid hormones are used by every cell in the body," writes Tess Thompson at NativeRemedies.com, adding that thyroid diseases which "disrupt production of thyroid hormones have far reaching affects upon protein synthesis, calcium levels and the manner in which the body burns energy."
She goes on to say that symptoms related to thyroid problems "can thus surface in any part of the body." Two of the most common problems: Grave's disease, which can lead to hyperthyroidism, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, "which starts with a hyper thyroid condition but converts to hypothyroidism later," Thompson said.
Hyperthyroidism, by the way, is when the thyroid produces too much hormone, causing weight loss, an elevated heart rate, excessive sweating and a nervous, moody feeling. Hypothyroidism is when too little of the hormone is produced; the most common cause of this is Hashimoto's, in which your body produces antibodies that attack and destroy the thyroid gland.
Treating your thyroid condition naturally
With so many functions, of course it is important to maintain proper thyroid health, and there are a number of ways to do so naturally - before you have any problems.
"There are no herbs that have thyroid hormone in them. That being said, there are herbal, lifestyle, and dietary choices that can be done to help the whole body, which in turn will help the thyroid," says Shasta Tierra, a clinical herbalist and nutrition specialist.
Adds Natural Endocrine Solutions, "Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions are interested to know which herbs can help restore their health back to normal," especially "when used in combination with other factors, such as eating well."
Here are some of those herbs:
Eleuthero. This herb can be effective for people with either hypo or hyperthyroidism. It does not directly affect the gland itself but "instead helps the body to adapt to stressful situations, and also helps with the health of the immune system," says NES.
For folks with adrenal problems - common in people with thyroid and autoimmune conditions - this herb is thought to be extremely beneficial, says Dr. Eric Osansky, author of the book "Natural Treatment Solutions for Hyperthyroidism and Graves' Disease," and founder of NES.
Echinacea. Natural health practitioners differ on this herb in terms of whether it can be effective for both hypo- and hyperthyroidism. Health and fitness writer Monica Villarreal lists Echinacea as a herb to avoid for hypothyroidism, along with others - ginseng, astragalus, bamboo, burdock - in the early stages of the condition, at least.
But Osansky writes, "People with Graves' Disease or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis can of course benefit from this herb, since it will help with their immune system health." He goes on to caution, though, that the key is determining "the quality of the herb."
Experts generally agree that it is the herb's ability to bolster the immune system that proves beneficial in cases of thyroidism.
Bugleweed. An odd sounding herb indeed, Bugleweed nonetheless has been associated with positive results when it comes to treating thyroid problems.
"Bugleweed in its pure herb form has been given to those with thyroid problems for years with great success," says Annette Phillips, a natural medicine writer. "Natural doctors also give bugleweed to their clients who are suffering from an enlarged thyroid gland or who are known to have a goiter."
Osansky says bugleweed is his "favorite herb for hyperthyroidism," adding that "when I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease this herb did a great job to help manage the hyperthyroid symptoms I was experiencing." He says the herb is not for those suffering from hypothyroidism, "and also shouldn't be taken by those women with hyperthyroidism who are pregnant or lactating."
Other herbs that can help naturally treat thyroid conditions include bladderwrack and Ashwagandha, Osansky said.
"In the unfortunate event of occurrence of thyroid disease, the emphasis is on herbs for thyroid that contain iodine and those that promote thyroid function and boost immunity," Thompson added.