by Svetla Bankova
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder and one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism. Today only a few methods, mostly medical, are available for treating this thyroid disorder: thyroidectomy (partial or total), medication (Methimazole, PTU and similar), Radioactive Iodine Treatment (radiation of the thyroid gland) and block and replace therapy.
All of the above methods have certain side effects, temporary or permanent, including the anti-thyroid drug therapy. Many people are forced to undergo thyroidectomy or RAI because of the adverse effects of the anti- thyroid medications they experience, or because they are simply allergic and cannot be treated with them. The scientific research on herbal remedies and natural cures for Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism is very limited or missing at all. Most of the herbal remedies are known as a “word of mouth” and practically, there is no scientific research to prove if they are really effective or not or to what extent.
However, a team of scientists from the Oriental Medical Hospital at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea decided to conduct a research on 22 patients diagnosed with Graves’ Disease in the period between February 2004 and June 2006. The purpose of the study was to establish whether or not certain oriental herbs/mixture can influence or improve the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), FT3, T4 (thyroxine) and thyroid antibody levels (TSO) of the above mentioned hyperthyroid patients (Lee, Kang, Ahn, Doo, Ahn (2008). The study consisted of two parts, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll concentrate just on the first part of it. The complete study though can be accessed from the bottom link at the end of this post.
The herbal remedy for Graves disease in question was AJBHT (ahnjeonbaekho-tang) extract powder, which is a dried mixture of the following raw materials: kudzu (Pueraria thunbergiana), Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), gypsum, platycodon (Platycodon grandiflorum), Angelica tenuissima, Chinese cimicifuga (Actaea cimicifuga syn. Cimicifuga foetida), fragrant angelica (Angelica dahurica), and Chinese licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) in a ratio of 5:2:1:1:1:1:1:1. The herbal materials used in this mixture are air-dried by special equipment to preserve their properties, crushed and added to distilled water.
The diagnosis of the 22 Graves’ disease patients was based on clinical symptoms and laboratory tests, including suppressed thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, high serum thyroid hormone levels, and the presence of TSH receptor autoantibodies (TRAb). The Graves’ Disease patients were not on any antithyroid drugs at the time of the clinical trial, never underwent RAI treatment or thyroidectomy and they all previously experienced adverse side effects from the antithyroid drugs (methimazole and prophylthiouracil). The patients were treated with AJBHT (aqueous extracts 6 g) three times a day for 3 months. Serum levels of free thyroxine (FT4), triiodothyronine (T3), TSH, and TRAb were measured in daily in the morning and after the administration of AJBHT. There were no side effects from the application of the herbal powder.
The herbal remedy for Graves Disease: medicinal powder mixture
Ahnjeonbaekho-tang (AJBHT) is made of eight medicinal herbs: Pueraria thunbergiana, Scutellaria baicalensis, Gypsum, Platycodon grandiﬂorum, Angelica tenuissima, Cimicifuga foetida, Angelica dahurica and Glycyrrhiza uralensis. Pueraria thunbergiana and Scutellaria baicalensis are known to regulate thyroid hormone, and the others are known contribute to relieving the clinical symptoms of hyperthyroidism. It is also believed that daidzein from Pueraria thunbergiana may inhibit the thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO). While these herbs are practically unknown in Western culture, they have been used for centuries by the Eastern one for various purposes.
Results of the study
From the 22 patients enrolled in the study, 4 dropped out for various reasons. The remaining 18 (7 men and 11 women) were followed for 3 months. The results of the study indicated that the AJBHT mixture improved thyroid hormone based on T3 measurements in 17 patients (94.4%); FT4 levels in 15 patients (83.3%); and TSH in 14 patients (77.8%). No significant changes were seen though in TRAb levels (thyroid antibodies), which is no surprise to me because thyroid antibodies in general are the last to improve and it takes much more than 3 months to see results. My experience also shows that the path of progress for treating Graves’ Disease (with anti-thyroid drugs) generally starts with T3, T4 improvement and then the next to improve is TSH, followed by thyroid antibodies, which is also in concurrence with the present study findings.
The study has some limitations that have to be mentioned here: the sample size is too small (18 people) to draw general conclusions, valid for all Graves’ disease patients. The clinical trial was also too short in duration (3 months) to register any permanent effects in the TRAb levels, which are, in fact, the real indicator for clinical euthyroidism. Another disadvantage is that the herbs are not easily accessible by the public, require specific way of preparation and thus, should be prepared by a certified oriental herbalist who specializes in Chinese/oriental herbal medicine. However, regardless of all limitations, the results of the study undoubtedly indicate that these specific herbs and herbal mixture can positively influence Graves’ disease in patients who are allergic to anti-thyroid medication or do not want to use more invasive methods like RAI treatment of thyroidectomy, which have permanent negative effects and consequences.
Conclusion: While I am not recommending just to google the herbs one by one and try to make your own herbal mixture, I can suggest that you search for an oriental herbalists in your area and explore further your treatment options for Graves’ Disease and hyperthyroidism. I do believe that this will be worth the efforts.
Lee B-C, Kang S-I, Ahn Y-M, Doo H-K, Ahn S-Y (2008). An alternative therapy for Graves’ disease: clinical effects and mechanisms of an herbal remedy. Biol Pharm Bull. April 2008;31(4): 5883-587. Retrieved on 05/18/2013 from: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb/31/4/31_4_583/_pdf
Share and Enjoy