A Guide to Holistic Thyroid Care
There’s nothing new about the medicinal use of plants. Our ancestors used plants, including their seeds, wood and resins to care for themselves and their families. Happily, in more modern times we don’t have to forage in the forest for our medicines; nowadays we’re blessed with the convenience of little glass bottles brimming with pure, healing essential oils.
Essential oils are 50–75% more powerful than the herb or plant itself, so a little goes a long way.
I was brought up with them. Lavender, peppermint and lemon were part of our family first aid kit growing up, so to me, they were always medicine. One of the reasons I love essential oils is that I believe that everything we need to heal ourselves is provided by nature. Mother Nature knows more than humans ever will. Funnily enough, many pharmaceutical medications created in labs are just trying to mimic what nature is already capable of, so why not go with the original? As a kinesiologist and energy healer, I’m always studying holistic health.
Recently, I was lead to study essential oils, hoping to address a slight thyroid issue I had at the time. In case you don’t know, the thyroid gland is the master control center for the metabolic function of every single cell in your body. Because of this, if it is out of balance, it has the power to disrupt every part of your body and produce serious changes in every aspect of your life including mood, weight gain and low energy levels to name a few. I wanted to deal with some of these issues and get my health back.
How Do You Know if You Have a Thyroid Issue?
Here are some of the possible indications:
Extreme fatigue. If you’re always tired, even after sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night, it’s a common sign that your thyroid hormone levels may be low. Of course, fatigue and low energy are associated with many conditions, but if you don’t have enough TH (thyroid hormone) flowing through your body, your muscles aren’t receiving the signal to get up and get moving.
Brain fog. If it feels as though you’re walking around in a fog all day, are having difficulty focusing or forgetting things frequently, it could be that your thyroid is out of whack. Too much TH can make it hard to concentrate, while too little can cause memory problems.
Digestive issues. Those with hypothyroidism often complain of constipation, as an underactive thyroid can cause the digestive process to slow. An overactive thyroid gland can cause the opposite problem, such as diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.
Mood problems. Mood swings, anxiety or depression can often develop in those that have thyroid disorders. Anxiety and nervousness are linked to hyperthyroidism as the body is flooded constantly with a message to, “go, go, go,” causing it to go into overdrive.
Weight gain or loss. Putting on a few pounds can be caused by many different things, so few physicians will consider that alone as a symptom of a thyroid problem. But if you aren’t eating any more than usual, exercise regularly and still can’t seem to lose those extra pounds, it could very well be an underactive thyroid. On the other hand, a sudden loss of weight without really trying could be a symptom of hyperthyroidism.
What Can You do to Improve Your Thyroid Function?
Everyone is biochemically individual so there is no one set formula for all. However, if you suspect that your thyroid isn’t functioning well, I suggest that you check with your physician or health care practitioner so that they can arrange a blood test and recommend supplements.
Zinc, iodine, B vitamins, selenium and iron have all been found to be beneficial in balancing the thyroid. If your body is deficient in B12, vitamin A or vitamin D your thyroid may slow down its production of hormones, so make sure you are tested for those. Another very efficient way to balance the body is with essential oils. Oils that seem to have a beneficial effect on the thyroid include myrtle, myrrh and frankincense, among others. Let’s look at a few in detail.
Myrtle (Myrtus communis) has a clear, fresh, herbaceous scent similar to eucalyptus and supports the respiratory system, skin and hair. It’s especially good for hair loss, which is a symptom of hyperthyroidism. Myrtle essential oil has been researched by Daniel Penoel, M.D. of France who found that it normalizes hormonal imbalances of both the thyroid and the ovaries.
Myrtle is an adaptogen — a substance that stimulates a gland when its functioning is low, or suppresses an overactive gland. Myrtle either stimulates an increase or a decrease in thyroid activity specifically, depending on a person’s condition. Another essential oil that is sometimes used for normalizing the thyroid is myrrh.
This oil has been used as a natural remedy for hypothyroidism, or a low functioning thyroid, as it helps to decrease stress on an overtaxed thyroid. Symptoms like fatigue, depression, brain fog, headaches and digestive issues can be reduced using peppermint essential oil. Put a tiny drop of pure organic peppermint oil into a cup of hot water with lemon to make an instant uplifting tea. Add some chamomile to this mixture at night to calm anxiety, assist with digestion and help you get to sleep.
Frankincense is the Big Boy as it has a plethora of uses for a number of different imbalances in the body. Dr. Josh Axe, a holistic doctor and expert in functional medicine, suggests that taking a tiny drop of food-grade frankincense oil orally may act in the same way that digestive enzymes do and help to speed up the digestive process.
*There are serious contraindications for frankincense, so please see below.
Another basic and excellent essential oil to fight anxiety, hair loss, stress and insomnia is lavender. If you suffer from any of these issues, rub a bit of lavender oil on your pillow, use it in a diffuser, as a scalp massage with your shampoo or add a couple of drops to a hot bath at night with Epsom salts or a magnesium soak for a relaxing bedtime ritual.
The University of Maryland found that individuals who rubbed rosemary oil on their scalp every day for seven months while shampooing their hair saw significant hair re-growth and reduced hair loss on a consistent basis. It’s a wonderful tonic for stress, digestive upset, joint pain and inflammation too. Might be worth a try!
Remember the quality of the essential oils you use is crucial. I use oils that are organic, pure and unadulterated.
More Tips for Taking Care of Your Thyroid
Remember that essential oils can be part of a plan for balancing the thyroid, but improving your overall lifestyle and diet is also necessary. Chemicals found in cleaning and hygiene products can interfere with thyroid function, as can fluoride found in tap water and heavily processed forms of soy, corn and sugar found in packaged foods. Too much exposure to these substances on a regular basis can weaken thyroid function, exhausting the body quickly.
Nature gave us exactly what we need to heal our bodies. Increase your intake of organic leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like avocado, coconut and olive oil. If you eat animal products, be sure to choose wild, pastured, organic, and/or grass-fed sources to avoid herbicides, pesticides and GMOs that can weaken the body and interfere with optimal thyroid function.
How do I use essential oils?
You have to use caution with anything, even when it’s natural. It is very important to remember that not everything from nature is safe for everyone — indeed many things can be quite dangerous. Every body is individual; something that might be beneficial for one person could easily be harmful to another.
Due to the molecular composition of EOs, they’re easily absorbed by the skin and can be safely applied topically, sometimes diluted with a carrier oil and sometimes ‘neat’ (undiluted). Once they’re applied, essential oils can have an almost immediate, localized effect on the area where applied. However, before applying topically, do a skin test. Dilute a small amount and apply to the skin on your inner arm. Do not use if redness or irritation occurs. You can still use the oil by inhalation or diffuser to receive the benefit of it or try another oil that has some of the same benefits.
The bottoms of your feet boast the largest pores on your body and allow for quick absorption into the bloodstream in order to reach all glands and organs. This makes it a great place to apply your essential oils. You can pinpoint the thyroid by focusing on the area beneath the ball of your foot below your big toe, where it meets the arch.
- NEVER put essential oils into the eyes or ears. Be sure to use caution, but if you accidentally get some in your eyes, use pure olive oil to dilute and rinse from the eyes. For the skin, in the case of a negative reaction, any carrier oil will do. Dilute well and then wipe off. DO NOT rinse with water. Water will only enhance the oil’s ability to penetrate and push the oil deeper into sensitive tissues.
- Essential oils can be taken internally, but you do need to use caution. I do not recommend it unless you are under the direct supervision of a health-care professional trained in essential oil use.
- Some essential oils will cause the skin to become photosensitive. Always use caution if you are using citrus oils and will be in the sun.
- If you are pregnant please consult your physician about using oils. Some essential oils can be harmful to unborn babies.
- People who have high blood pressure (hypertension) should avoid using these oils: hyssop, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
- People who have low blood pressure should avoid the more sedating oils such as clary sage, ylang ylang and lavender.
- If you suffer from epilepsy avoid these oils: fennel, hyssop, rosemary and all types of sage.
- If you suffer from asthma, the oil of wild rosemary may aggravate your condition.
- Keep essential oils closed tightly and out of the reach of children.
- Keep essential oils out of sunlight and extreme temperatures. All aromatherapy products should be stored in a dark, cool environment.
- If you experience redness, burning, itching or any irritation while using essential oils, discontinue use immediately.
* In Western medicine, frankincense oil is of interest because of its anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Some side effects are possible, but the MSKCC notes that frankincense seems to have fewer negative effects than drugs that treat inflammatory conditions, such as steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Gastrointestinal side effects are possible when taking frankincense oil, according to the Physician’s’ Desktop Reference. They may include an upset stomach, nausea, stomach pain, burning sensations or an unpleasant feeling of fullness. Frankincense oil can also make an upset stomach or stomach pain worse. Frankincense oil has blood-thinning effects and can increase the risk of abnormal bleeding, as noted by the University of Maryland Medical Center. This is of primary concern for people with a bleeding disorder or anyone taking medications or other herbs with anti-coagulant effects, such as warfarin, heparin, ibuprofen, aspirin or ginkgo biloba. Anyone scheduled for a surgical or dental procedure should stop taking frankincense oil well beforehand.
Author: Linda Penny, LindaPenny.com