There is some evidence that ashwagandha could help manage an underactive thyroid by increasing levels of thyroid hormones and reducing fatigue and joint pain.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland present in the front of the neck. It is responsible for producing hormones that help regulate metabolism. Common problems occur with the thyroid when it overproduces or underproduces hormones. This results in conditions known as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, respectively.

Ashwagandha refers to an ayurvedic herb that people have used for centuries in traditional medicine. It is available in many different forms and can potentially provide a variety of health benefits. Preliminary research indicates that it may help with symptoms of hypothyroidism. However, it may worsen the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

In this article, we will discuss whether taking ashwagandha benefits thyroid health, what risks it can have, and what other alternatives herbs a person may consider.

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Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, is a flowering shrub that grows in Asia and some parts of Africa. For hundreds of years, people have used the roots and orange-red fruit of this herb for medicinal purposes. Other names for ashwagandha include Indian ginseng and winter cherry.

Evidence suggests that ashwagandha may provide many health benefits, such as reducing fatigue and joint pain. As these are common symptoms of hypothyroidism, it indicates that ashwagandha could be beneficial for the condition.

Additionally, research notes that ashwagandha may help to increase levels of thyroid hormones. A 2019 study on rats indicates that ashwagandha may possess anti-hypothyroidism properties and can improve thyroid function. Similarly, a small 2018 study in humans notes that ashwagandha may offer a safe and effective option for normalizing thyroid hormone levels in people with hypothyroidism.

As such, this suggests that ashwagandha could help to restore thyroid hormone levels in people experiencing hypothyroidism, but could worsen symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Evidence suggests that ashwagandha may possess several beneficial properties, such as:

  • helping with stress, anxiety, and fatigue
  • anti-inflammatory
  • hematopoietic, or supporting stem cell functions
  • neuroprotective
  • helping with sleep
  • lowering blood sugar
  • improving symptoms of arthritis
  • boosting testosterone production and male fertility
  • helping to improve muscle mass and strength
  • improving heart health
  • stopping cancer cells’ growth

As with any supplement, it is advisable for a person to first consult their doctor before taking any herbs or alternative options. For example, evidence notes that ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, such as benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants, or barbiturates. Additionally, as it may alter testosterone levels, a doctor may recommend avoiding ashwagandha if a person has hormone-sensitive prostate cancer.

Some people may also experience unpleasant side effects from ashwagandha, such as liver toxicity, upset stomach, and diarrhea. It is also advisable for pregnant or breastfeeding people to avoid taking ashwagandha as it may be harmful to infants and developing fetuses.

While ashwagandha could benefit thyroid health for people with hypothyroidism, it may result in thyrotoxicosis in others. This term refers to when a person has an excessive amount of thyroid hormones in their bloodstream. For example, a 2022 case report notes that thyrotoxicosis is a rare yet possible side effect of ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is available in a variety of formulations. People can take it in tablet form, or as a powder that they can add to foods or drinks. The ashwagandha dosage a person can take depends on their underlying conditions and personal factors. Research suggests that dosages between 250–600 milligrams per day are tolerable and can provide health benefits.

Taking higher doses may result in unpleasant side effects. A person can discuss the safety and dosage of ashwagandha with their healthcare professional.

Evidence suggests the following vitamins and minerals may be beneficial for thyroid health:

Additionally, research notes that the following supplements may also help support thyroid function:

  • Ginger: Some research notes that using ginger root may help individuals with hypothyroidism to lose weight and stimulate the production of thyroid hormones.
  • Atriplex halimus: This shrub is popular in Algerian medicine. It may be beneficial for underactive and overactive thyroid. It also may help treat thyroid cysts.
  • Saussurea costus: Some animal studies suggest this plant may be beneficial for thyroid health.
  • Bugleweed: This plant may be useful for people with an overreactive thyroid. Bugleweed can enhance the use of iodine and can act as an antithyroid.

A person should consider contacting their doctor before taking new supplements, as some of these herbs can worsen thyroid symptoms or cause complications if taken alongside other medications.

Click here to learn more about supplements and thyroid health.

Ashwagandha is an ayurvedic herb that may possess some health benefits. Some evidence suggests that it could be beneficial for people with hypothyroidism, as it may help relieve some symptoms and may also increase levels of thyroid hormones. However, due to its effect on thyroid hormones, it may worsen symptoms of hyperthyroidism. As with any supplement, it is advisable to contact a doctor before taking ashwagandha.