Natural Approaches to Increase Thyroid Function


Thyroid function is critical for overall health as the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones which set the pace at which the body functions. When the thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism can occur. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are congruent with the slowing function of the body overall and can include fatigue, poor mood, cold intolerance, muscle aches and pains, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, fertility problems and hair loss. 

While hypothyroidism is a well-recognized medical condition, there can still be issues with its diagnosis. Many doctors will only test thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to detect hypothyroidism, and they often go with standard lab values to assess the result. Yet research clearly suggests that lab ranges are not adequate for identifying thyroid problems (Fitzgerald 2020). As such, many patients may have symptoms of low thyroid function yet are unable to get standard treatment. 

For patients with mild thyroid problems that are symptomatic, but not severe enough to warrant thyroid hormone replacement, a number of integrative approaches may help improve thyroid function to alleviate symptoms. Potential therapies include:

  • Ashwagandha
  • Black seed
  • Coleus forskohlii  
  • Galangal

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Subclinical hypothyroidism is a condition that involves elevated TSH, but normal levels of other thyroid hormones. It can be a precursor to thyroid disease, although patients may not have significant symptoms. 

In a small study on patients with subclinical hypothyroidism, two months of ashwagandha was able to restore thyroid hormone levels (Sharma 2018). A study in rats also confirmed that ashwagandha can help to treat low thyroid function (Abel-Wahhab 2019).

For ashwagandha, the only caveat is that there are rare case reports where the herb overstimulates thyroid function (Curry 2019). One of the more recent case reports of overstimulation found that ashwagandha supplementation caused anxiety, fatigue, weight loss, poor cognitive function and increased heart rate. The thyroid gland was also swollen with laboratory hormone levels indicating hyperthyroidism or too much thyroid hormone. After discontinuing the ashwagandha, thyroid function normalized and symptoms disappeared. 

While case reports of excessive thyroid function from ashwagandha are extremely rare considering its widespread use, it’s still worth being aware that some individuals may have a negative response.

Black Seed (Nigella sativa)

Black seed or black cumin is a revered Middle Eastern spice. The seeds have long been used for medicine with research starting to suggest a number of benefits. 

In a study of patients with hypothyroidism, black seed was able to improve thyroid hormone levels and reduce body weight after two months (Tajmiri 2016). Levels of inflammation were also reduced. A separate clinical trial administered black seed to patients that were being treated with thyroid medication for low thyroid function. In the study, however, thyroid parameters remained unchanged (Tekieh 2019).

Similar to ashwagandha, animal studies also appear to suggest that black seed can increase or improve thyroid function (Avci 2022, Sharif 2012). However, unlike ashwagandha, there aren’t any case reports that I could find of black seed causing overstimulation of thyroid function.  

Coleus forskohlii

Coleus forskohlii is an herb from ayurvedic medicine with a long history of use. While human trials are lacking, one of the herb’s main constituents, forskohlin, has been fairly well studied in thyroid cell cultures. In these cell cultures, low doses of forskohlin effectively increase thyroid hormone production (Laurberg 1984). Beyond cell culture experiments, an animal study of a water extract of Coleus found improved thyroid levels. Even at low doses, Coleus forskohlii was shown to reverse hypothyroidism (Hameed 2019).

As a plant, Coleus forskohlii is endangered due to overharvesting. Its use should be reserved as a second line treatment and it should only be acquired from reputable companies that either farm the herb directly or are harvesting the herb sustainably.

Galangal (Alpinia galanga)

Galangal Root

As an herb, galangal is in the same family as ginger with a similar knobby appearance. Like the other herbs already covered, galangal also appears to have some positive effects on low thyroid function, although human trials are still needed. In rats with chemically induced hypothyroidism, galangal extract was shown to improve thyroid function while reversing thyroid damage (Ritu 2022). 

In farm chickens (broiler chicks), galangal added to standard feed improved the health and growth performance of the chickens and increased normal levels of thyroid hormones (Elghalid 2022).  


A number of herbs appear to have the potential to increase thyroid hormone levels, including ashwagandha, black seed, Coleus froskohlii and galangal. While more research is needed, these herbs may be helpful for patients with mild cases of hypothyroidism. Keep in mind, however, that any thyroid treatment should be monitored by a health-care provider. If thyroid function does not improve, thyroid hormone replacement may still be indicated.   

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