Can Turmeric Help in Thyroid Disorders?
The Endocrine system is a network of organs and the hormones they secrete which regulate body processes such as growth, metabolism, sexual function, sleep etc. The Thyroid gland is one of the largest organs belonging to this system and plays a very essential role. It is located in front of the throat above the collarbone with two lobes each present on either side of the windpipe.
The hormones secreted by thyroid regulate body metabolism and activity of other hormones. The principal hormones secreted by it are: triiodothyronine, thyroxine and calcitonin. The first two hormones control growth and the rate at which body burns calories while calcitonin regulates calcium levels.
The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary, which is considered the ‘master gland’ of the endocrine system. 1 in 20 people suffer from a thyroid dysfunction at some stage in life. Thyroid disorders include:
- Thyroiditis: Inflammation and swelling of the thyroid
- Hypothyroidism: Decreased production of thyroid hormones
- Hyperthyroidism: Increased production of thyroid hormones
- Thyroid nodules: lumps in the thyroid
- Thyroid cancer
- Goitre : Enlargement of thyroid gland
Thyroid treatment involves taking thyroxine supplements, natural dessicated thyroid or any combination, in case of hypothyroidism and drugs to reduce activity in case of hyperthyroidism. When this line of treatment fails, part or the whole gland can be removed surgically.
Thyroid cancer and nodules is treated by surgical removal or radioactive iodine. Alternative medicine and naturopathy also offers remedies to these disorders.
Therapeutic role of turmeric in thyroid disorders
Turmeric is a perennial plant native to India whose root is used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Turmeric exhibits a number of pharmacological properties such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial etc. Turmeric oil and curcuminoids are the principal components in turmeric that are responsible for its medicinal value.
Curcumin is a compound that belongs to the group of curcuminoids and research proves that this compound can serve to be a remedy for many disorders.
To understand the role of turmeric and its healing ability in relation to thyroid disorders we will go over the following studies.
To investigate the effect of antioxidants on hypothyroidism a study was conducted wherein hypothyroidism was experimentally induced in rats and they were treated with 3 antioxidants: Vitamin C, vitamin E and turmeric extracts. Hypothyroidism caused increase in weight of glands and decreased production of thyroid hormones.
However those treated with the antioxidants, one of them being turmeric extract, showed reduced weight of the thyroid gland and better circulation of hormones. This suggests that antioxidant property of turmeric can positively affect the activity of the thyroid gland.
Curcumin’s potential in controlling thyroid cancer has been proven by a study conducted in Korea. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that spreads rapidly to surrounding tissues and is resistant to standard anti-cancer treatment.
In this study thyroid cancer cells were treated with curcumin and docetaxel (chemotherapeutic agent) individually and in combination. Both the agents prevented proliferation of cancer cells and curcumin supplemented docetaxel’s ability to curb cancer.
Anti-inflammatory property of curcumin was responsible for this effect. Transcription factor nuclear factor-kappa B and enzyme cyclooxgenase-2 support cell survival and proliferation. Curcumin when used in combination with docetaxel suppressed the effect of these proteins in cancerous cells leading to cell death of tumor cells and preventing spread of cancer.
Thyroid dysfunction affects the kidney’s rate of filtering toxic substances from the body. Increased thyroxine levels can cause oxidative stress in kidney cells and bring about physiological changes.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between antioxidants and prooxidants present in the organ tissue. An experimental study performed on rats proves that turmeric and curcumin can reverse the effects of thyroxine induced oxidative stress. This treatment was provided for 15 days.
Both turmeric and curcumin were able to restore the antioxidant levels in kidney tissue, whereas turmeric alone restored the pathological changes caused by the oxidative stress. Results of this study indicate that turmeric can protect damage to organs caused by thyroid dysfunction.
Thyroid hormones influence body processes that affect male fertility therefore thyroid disorders make the testis susceptible to oxidative stress. Research confirms that turmeric can reduce testicular oxidative stress caused by thyroid disorders.
Curcumin administration helps increase levels of antioxidant enzymes and it scavenges free radicals that cause oxidative stress. Curcumin works better than other natural antioxidants and it brings about better results in combination with vitamin E.
Turmeric supplements are available in the form of capsules, fluid extracts and tinctures. Turmeric intake through diet is reported to be safe. However dosage for other forms is as follows:
- Cut roots: 1.5-3 g per day
- Powdered roots: 1-3g per day
- Standardized powder: 400-600mg 3 times a day
- Fluid extract with 1:1 concentration: 30-90 drops per day
- Tincture of 1:2 ratio: 15-30 drops 4 times a day
For a detailed article on doses, please refer here.
Turmeric supplements should be consumed with caution to avoid allergic reactions and risks posed by inappropriate dosage. Conditions in which turmeric supplements should be avoided or are to be taken with care are as follows:
- Diabetes (if consuming blood thinning medication)
- Pregnancy & Lactation
- Gall bladder disorders
- Bile passage obstructions
- Prior to surgical procedures