Aromatherapy for Hashimoto’s
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. Millions of Americans struggle with this disease and seek various methods of treatment ranging from prescription hormone replacement drugs to surgery. It may be possible that aromatherapy can provide relief from symptoms and assist the body with returning to a functional state. First, we need to take a look at the thyroid and Hashimoto’s to gain insight on how to approach a routine.
Hashimoto’s and the Thyroid
The thyroid is considered by many to be the seat of the human endocrine system. It is a butterfly shaped gland whose sole purpose is to produce and secrete hormones that control all of the body systems. These hormones called T1, T2, T3 and T4 control metabolism, body temperature, reproductive ability, brain and central nervous system function, pancreas function, digestion and much more. The thyroid receives instruction from the pituitary gland to produce hormones via the hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). When dealing with a thyroid disorder, the main hormones that are under investigation are TSH, T3 and T4. If the TSH is elevated, this can be an indicator that all is not well with the thyroid and T3 and T4 need to be checked.
T4 needs to be converted to T3 before the organs can make use of this. This process happens in the liver, stomach and various tissues throughout the body including brain tissue. In a body that is functioning properly, T4 is converted to T3 with very little rT3 (reverse T3) conversions. RT3 is an unusable ionized molecule created during the hormone translation that interferes with the body’s ability to use T3 by blocking the receptor sites. The body is able to send T3 to cells to carry out their normal processes. Low levels of T3 can cause the organs and the metabolism to slow down. Dysfunctions to this system can include impairment of T4 conversion due to D1 enzyme being blocked or by low levels of other necessary enzymes in the liver. This can lead to hypothyroid disorder.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system creates antibodies that specifically attack thyroid cells and the TPO (thyroid peroxidase) enzyme. TPO resides in the thyroid and is responsible for creating the T hormones by using iodine. When thyroid cells are damaged, they evacuate all of the T4 stored inside, flooding the body with high amounts of the hormone. This causes symptoms of hyperthyroid disorder as the body quickly attempts to metabolize the hormone. If the liver is compromised and its function is reduced, the T4 can build up in toxic amounts in the body causing Hashitoxicosis. While the cells are repairing, TSH becomes elevated and asks the thyroid to create more Ts. Poor thyroid struggles to keep up with demand causing the afflicted to feel hypothyroid symptoms. This roller coaster will continue until external intervention in the form of medications. If worse comes to worse, nodules will develop as the thyroid turns into a goiter that may continue to grow until surgery is necessary.
Doctors believe that autoimmune diseases are genetic and require various factors for that gene expression to activate. One of the most common triggers for any disease manifestation in the body is stress, as cortisol will interfere with many important processes. Poor nutrition is another factor, with cortisol weakening the digestive system creating the reactions necessary for intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability allows foreign substances into the blood stream alerting the immune system and causing it to overreact. This process can take decades with minimal symptoms and multiple misdiagnosis much to the frustration of the patient.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s vary from hypothyroid to hyperthyroid. Hypothyroid symptoms include:
- weight gain
- brain fog
- feeling cold
- brittle hair and nails
- puffiness in face and under eyes
- pain throughout whole body
- weakness during physical activity
- irregular menses
All the way to the other side of the spectrum hyperthyroid signs include:
- feeling energetic, manic or agitated
- heart palpitations
- weight loss
- hair loss
- profuse sweating
- brain fog
- prolonged menses
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for the maintenance of health and well being of the body. Aromatherapy cannot cure Hashimoto’s or any other thyroid disorder, but it may provide relief from symptoms and stimulate the body’s ability to balance itself. The suggestions in this article are things that have personally helped me manage my symptoms and restore order in my body and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure Hashimoto’s or any other thyroid disorder. There are many steps involved with treating Hashimoto’s and essential oils can assist with those steps.
Proper digestion is important for the conversion of T4 to T3. A substantial amount of this reaction occurs in the gut due to the enzyme intestinal sulfatase. During times of digestive distress essential oils such as peppermint, ginger, dill and aniseed can provide quick relief. Mix one drop of any of these with four drops of a carrier oil and rub onto abdomen.
Up to 60% of T4 conversion happens in the liver. When the liver is not working correctly, the enzymes necessary for metabolizing substances may be reduced or not present. This can lead to a buildup of toxins in the body, including T3, T4 and rT3 which, if you remember, can lead to Hashitoxicosis. Though there are not many studies to prove that essential oils can positively impact the liver, there are some essential oils that may help the body break down and expel excess hormones. Rosemary essential oil can stimulate the production of bile, which can help the liver to create the enzymes it needs to detoxify and eliminate excessive T4 and other waste products. Rosemary, cypress, and juniper berry (juniperus communis) show antioxidant activity, which can help the liver with its cleansing process and buffer it from oxidative stress. Mix one drop of each of these oils with one teaspoon of a carrier oil and rub over upper abdomen, especially on the right side where the gallbladder resides.
Reducing stress and supporting the adrenals are extremely important when treating Hashimoto’s. Cortisol drains the adrenals and blocks D1, preventing translation of T4 into T3 and creating rT3 instead. It is important to develop strategies for stress reduction. Aromatherapy is extremely beneficial in this area. Essential oils such as neroli, Roman chamomile, lavender, vetiver, ylang ylang, bergamot, white fir and frankincense are all advantageous for reducing stress and inducing relaxation. These can be diluted and applied as an aromatherapeutic massage. The suggested ratio would be 18 total drops of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil for a 3% dilution. You can use any combination of the listed oils, or choose ones that you find relaxing. The essential oils can also be used aromatically by applying a drop or two to a linen kerchief or released into the air via a diffuser.
Decreased energy levels and brain fog are two major complaints in those with Hashimoto’s. Sadly, when the cells do not get enough T3, their processes slow down causing the whole body to slow down. One cannot forget how the adrenals are linked to energy and cognitive function. When seeking to remedy these inconvenient discomforts, Tulsi (holy basil), basil, clove, rosemary, eucalyptus, sweet orange, pink grapefruit, lemon, lime, spearmint, peppermint or hyssop (chemotype 1,8 cineole only) may be of some benefit. A topical application of rosemary can stimulate cognitive function while aromatic use can elevate mood. Dilute one drop with eight drops of a carrier and apply to the back of the neck; though avoid the citrus oils as these are phototoxic and will cause an unforgettable sunburn. Use of any of these oils or a combination of these oils aromatically is extremely helpful for increasing the ability to think clearly and form memories.
Inflammation is one of the most important symptoms to control. It causes all of the unnecessary body aches and pain, discomfort in the thyroid and brain fog. It can also create more problems in the gut and liver as well. Aromatherapy massage proved to be the most useful approach to discourage inflammation. Essential oils such as white fir, Siberian fir, larch, yarrow (in small amounts, no more than 1 drop!), eucalyptus, myrrh, patchouli, ginger, frankincense and cypress are powerful in this area. Choose any of these oils or combine two or three together and mix a total of 18 drops per one ounce of carrier oil for a 3% dilution. Ask your massage therapist to apply during your next visit, or apply them yourself over your thyroid area, neck, shoulders or any area of particular pain.
Essential oils can be safe and effective when used properly. Care must be taken and any essential oil applied to the skin must be diluted. Despite contradictory information, please never consume essential oils orally. Many injuries have been reported due to administration via this route.
Aromatherapeutic Blending: Essential Oils in Synergy by Jennifer Peace Rhind
The Essential Oils Thyroid Solution by Carrie Lawerence
Hashimoto’s Protocol by Izabella Wentz, PharmD
How to Heal Hashimoto’s: An Integrative Road Map to Remission by Marc Ryan, L.A.C.
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