Thyroid Diseases and Traditional Chinese Medicine

The most common thyroid condition in the United States is hypothyroidism. This is a disease in which the thyroid gland functions poorly and is unable to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone. Western medical doctors address this by recommending surgery, radiation therapy or by prescribing thyroid medications such as Synthroid.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition causing the immune system to attack the thyroid gland destroying thyroid cells and weakening or stopping their capacity to produce thyroid hormone. Excessive menstrual bleeding, high cholesterol, low sex drive, edema (water retention) in the feet and hands, puffy face, itchy and dry skin, hair loss, brittle nails and hair, concentration difficulty, heightened sensitivity to cold, joint pain, muscle soreness or weakness, forgetfulness, drowsiness, fatigue, and weight gain are some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Another less common type of thyroid problem is hyperthyroidism. This is a condition in which the thyroid gland functions hyperactively creating excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease is the most common reason for hyperthyroidism. Light menses, diarrhea, muscle weakness, excessive sweating, trembling in the fingers and hands, insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, eye irritation, bulging eyes, palpitation, irregular or rapid heartbeat, increased appetite, and weight loss are some of the tell tale indications of hyperthyroidism.

Goiters – Goiters is a condition that is characterized by the enlargement or swelling of the thyroid gland. if you have goiter, it may be a manifestation of Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease.

Nodules – People with nodules usually do not exhibit any symptoms apart from the enlargement in one side of their thyroid gland. Women over the age of 50 are susceptible to this disease.

Tests for Thyroid Disease

Free T3 and Free T4-Two Active Thyroid Hormone In The Bloodstream. The normal range of T4 and T3 is around 240 – 250/deciliter. If the level of T3 and T4 is low, the person is deemed to possess low amounts of thyroid hormone. But even if the person’s thyroid hormone level is within the normal range, he/she may still be deficient in thyroid hormone since a high amount of TSH stimulation can cause the Free T4 and Free T3 levels to stay within “normal range” for several years.

Hyperthyroidism- T4 levels are normal if they are within 0.9 and 1.8 nanogram/deciliter. Your thyroid gland is considered overactive if your T4 or T3 level goes beyond this range.

Hypothyroidism – The best indication of hypothyroidism is a raised TSH level in the blood. TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is manufactured by the pituitary gland that is located behind the nose in the center of the head. The TSH will elevate dramatically when the thyroid gland functions sluggishly. According to the American Academy of Clinical Endocrinologists, the normal TSH level ranges between 0.3 – 3, although some physicians consider that a TSH level higher than 2 is already a sign of hypothyroidism.

Body Temperature Test

Upon waking up, you can take your temperature to see if your thyroid gland is functioning normally. If the temp goes below 97.6 degrees for five days straight, you may want to consult with an endocrinologist or a GP to have your thyroid gland carefully evaluated.

Thyroid Disease Medications

Hyperthyroidism – Tapazole (Methimazole), Propylthiouracil
Hypothyroidism – Unithroid, Levothroid, Synthroid, and Levoxyl

Thyroid Disease Treatment Using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Modalities


TCM considers hyperthyroidism to be a result of liver Qi depression. This causes an excess in liver fire that in turn, results in the extreme rise in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. The fire increases the desire to eat a lot but also causes rapid weight loss.

A TCM practitioner will recommend the use of conventional drugs that have been prescribed y by doctors/ endocrinologists to patients who have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. But apart from these medications, the practitioner will also prescribe Chinese herbs and recommend acupuncture as part of the treatment. Chinese herbs and acupuncture will aid in reducing the fire, detoxifying the liver, and supporting and balancing the body as well as relieving the side effects of the conventional medications (including immune system and liver damage). A combination of Chinese and Western medicine is probably the safest and best way of treating hyperthyroidism.

TCM practitioners will never recommend radiation therapy for their hyperthyroid patients. The reason is that this “treatment” is designed to destroy the thyroid gland and once it is destroyed there will be no use for the thyroid gland ever. More often than not, the practitioner will advise the patient to talk with an endocrinologist on how best to treat hyperthyroidism without the need for radiation therapy or surgery.


The thyroid gland can be affected when the person is in severe or prolonged physical or mental stress. A high level of stress increases the production of cortisol in the body which may cause the gland to slow down its production of thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is a component of the endocrine system which begins from the pituitary gland in the brain to the adrenal glands located on the kidney.

TCM practitioners believe that the liver is the organ responsible for stress. The liver is the organ most affected by too much environmental, physical, or mental stress in the body or if the medications the person uses causes certain health problems. The liver is also the organ that helps in the detoxification of the body and when the liver Qi is depressed, this leads to the accumulation of heat toxins in the body. The immune system can erroneously perceive the thyroid cells as foreign elements if the toxins are not properly removed. The immune system manufactures the antibodies that can kill the thyroid cells resulting in hypothyroidism.

Acupuncturists can provide help for people suffering from hypothyroidism. One of the signs of this condition is a pale swollen purplish tongue with greasy and thick coating. Also the pulse of the patient feels taut and deep with a weakened kidney pulse. These are all indications of a kidney, spleen, and liver disorder. The objectives of the treatment are to strengthen the spleen and kidney and detoxify the liver.

For hypothyroid patients, acupuncture can produce significant and amazing results. A lot of patients who have tried acupuncture have responded quickly and very well to Chinese herbal therapy and acupuncture with significant improvements that can be seen within two to four months of treatment. A continuation of the treatment may lead to the decrease in the use of thyroid medications until normal thyroid function is restored leading to a much better quality of life.

For hypothyroid sufferers who have no desire of taking synthetic medications for the rest of their life, their best alternative can be Chinese medicine. Optimal results can be seen within a few months or a year after depending on how well the patient responds to the treatment.