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The thyroid is an important endocrine gland that wraps around the front of the windpipe at the base of the neck. Functionally, it secretes hormones that affect cells and organ systems throughout the body. From metabolism and cholesterol to heart, bone, and muscle function, a healthy thyroid is crucial to our well-being.
The gland also maintains communication with the brain via neural synapses, which helps it to regulate internal homeostasis. This includes things like metabolism, heart rate, body temperature, and even emotional response. Disorders with the thyroid can produce an incredibly wide range of symptoms, as well as life-threatening health complications.
Recently, some connections have been drawn between the thyroid/brain communication network and the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). It’s been suggested that the ECS (which is present in both the central nervous system and the thyroid gland itself), might play a role in facilitating hormone release. If true, this would mean products like CBD oil might be able to assist with various types of thyroid disorders.
In this article, we discuss what exactly the thyroid does, and what the implications are of an improperly functioning thyroid gland. We’ll also go over the use of CBD for thyroid disorder and take a look at academic research that’s been done on the topic.
What is the Thyroid, and What are Thyroid Disorders?
As we said, the thyroid is an endocrine gland responsible for releasing hormones that control dozens of different internal processes. Things like metabolism, growth, brain development (especially during infancy), body temperature, heart and muscle functioning, bone health, and cholesterol levels are all influenced by thyroid activity. The various collective hormones (such as thyroxine, or T4) that the gland releases are called thyroid hormones.
Thyroid glands that release either too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) hormone can be catastrophic to organ functioning. And ultimately, to your overall health and well-being. Specific disorders of the thyroid can include things like:
- Goiter (swelling of the thyroid)
- Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid due to infection or autoimmune conditions)
- Grave’s disease (which causes an overactive thyroid)
- Thyroid cancer
- Thyroid nodules (small lumps on the thyroid that may lead to excess hormone production)
- Thyroid storm (a rare form of hyperthyroidism that results in extremely high levels of hormone secretion)
Because thyroid conditions can cause so many malfunctions in the body, it can be difficult to detect a specific disorder. However, once other causes have been eliminated, there are specific tests that can be administered to check for thyroid deficiency. These can include biopsies (for nodes or masses), blood tests, and imaging scans (such as ultrasounds or iodine scans). Tests like these check for proper levels of T3, T4, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
The Prevalence of Thyroid Disorder in the U.S.
The American Thyroid Association (ATA) estimates that up to 20 million Americans are currently affected by some kind of thyroid disorder. Further, as much as 12% of the U.S. population will at some point in their lives develop a thyroid condition.
The three most common thyroid conditions are nodules, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism. Causes of thyroid disorders are largely unknown. However, it is believed that autoimmune deficiencies, stress, high cholesterol, and smoking can increase the overall risk.
Also, women are statistically five to eight times more likely to develop a thyroid problem than men. Untreated hypothyroidism in pregnant women can lead to miscarriage, preterm delivery, and growth/developmental problems.
Conventional Thyroid Disorder Treatments (Not CBD)
Depending on the specific disorder, there are a number of conventional treatment options for thyroid conditions. However, the vast majority of these treatments include pharmaceutical medications that can produce dangerous side effects. For underactive thyroid, L4 replacement medications like levothyroxine and Synthroid are common. For hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), treatments that reduce hormone secretion are necessary.
These include radioactive iodine (iodine is the primary hormone synthesizing “ingredient”), and antithyroid drugs like methimazole and propylthiouracil (PTU). While effective, these drugs can cause severe side effects in the liver and immune system. They are typically not recommended outside the most necessary of circumstances. Surgery can also be a common treatment method, especially with cancers or thyroid nodules where lumps/masses cause overactive hormone secretion.
Living with Thyroid Disorder
As we mentioned earlier, thyroid disorders can cause a massive array of physiological and emotional disruptions within the body and brain. These “disruptions” can severely affect the quality of an individual’s day to day life, and can include things like:
- Extreme weight gain or loss
- Heavy mood swings (along with anxiety and depression)
- Reproductive issues (low sex drive, irregular menstrual cycles, etc)
- Severe muscle/joint pain
- Neck swelling
- Severe fatigue/energy drain
- Hoarse or scratchy voice
- Irregular body temperature (especially the inability to tolerate cold weather)
- Cognitive issues such as brain fog, poor memory, and an inability to concentrate
Lifestyle changes can sometimes be effective in minimizing these symptomatic conditions. However, the thyroid network is a very complex web of cellular machinery. Because of this, it can be difficult to pinpoint what needs to be done in order to induce positive changes.
This is precisely why people are beginning to talk about CBD for thyroid disorder. By acting upon the endocannabinoid system, CBD can work to regulate internal homeostasis on the whole-body level. This is different compared to the isolated chemical pathways that prescription medications manipulate. And of course, products like CBD oil present far fewer side effects than most prescription-strength drugs.
CBD for Thyroid Disorders: What the studies are showing
Most people who use CBD for thyroid disorder use a single product — typically a high-quality CBD oil. CBD oil has been consumed for a variety of thyroid malfunctions, including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, thyroiditis, and thyroid storm. Of course the question is – how well does it work?
If you search online, you’ll find plenty of folks saying CBD oil for thyroid disease can produce positive results. More importantly, there have been scientific studies showcasing CBD’s regulatory effects on the endocrine gland.
For example, a 2002 study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology proposed evidence of functional cannabinoid receptors in rat thyroids. These receptors appeared to be able to influence both T3 and T4 hormone release. In the study, a molecular “detection” technique called immunohistochemical localization was utilized, which showed the intracellular presence of cannabinoid receptors. Overall, a 30% decrease in hormone release was observed within four hours of administration of the active cannabinoid. In other words, 30% less thyroid hormone was observed in rats that were given cannabinoid treatment.
Likewise, a 2009 publication in Endocrinology suggested the potential for CBD to activate cells that synthesize thyroid hormone. More specifically, it showed the activation of thyrotropin-releasing axons between the thyroid gland and the central nervous system.
If studies like these were to be supplemented with clinical trials, we could learn that CBD may both suppress thyroid overactivity and stimulate underactive thyroids. Considering the nature of the endocannabinoid system and its network of receptors (which have been found in virtually every single cell and tissue type), this would not beyond the realm of possibility.
Additionally, the general physiological properties of CBD may be able to help with the effects of thyroid disorders. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and we know that thyroid inflammation is the cause of most thyroid-related disorders. Dozens of studies have been published documenting the role of cannabinoids in reducing organ and tissue inflammation.
Of course, we need clinical trials in order to confidently say CBD can be used for thyroid disorders. The burgeoning understanding of CBD’s relationship with hormone activity has been impressive, but it is not yet enough to claim the compound as an effective treatment. CBD receptors may very well play a role in thyroid regulation, but we need more research in order to come to this conclusion.
Why CBD for Thyroid – What About ‘Regular’ Marijuana?
If you’re wondering why so many folks are talking about CBD for thyroid disorders and not THC, you’re not alone. Simply put, the overwhelming interest stems from the fact that CBD is non-psychoactive. In other words, it won’t get you high. Most folks looking to use cannabis as a thyroid treatment have little interest in mind-altering effects. They want to be treated naturally, but they don’t want to be under the influence.
This is precisely why most CBD products come from industrial hemp – a cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC. When cannabis contains a THC content higher than 0.3%, it is referred to as “marijuana.” This can be confusing, especially considering both hemp and marijuana are classified as ‘cannabis.’
Millions of people worldwide smoke “normal” marijuana for its therapeutic benefit. This is the basis of the medical marijuana market. If you want the benefits of cannabis without the high, however, then hemp-based CBD products are surely your best bet.
The Bottom Line on CBD for Thyroid Disorders
Doctors, scientists, and medical researchers have all begun to examine the use of CBD for thyroid disorder. As we said earlier, however, more research needs to be done in order to come to any definitive medical conclusions. That said, thousands are already “self-treating” with low-THC CBD oils. And many are experienced positive results.
Due to its nationwide availability across the U.S., most are choosing to go with high-quality CBD oil as a daily supplement. Oils are molecular carriers, so they are able to “hold” more cannabidiol molecules by volume than other forms of CBD (i.e. gummies or capsules).
CBD oils are also easily ingested, and are efficiently absorbed into the body when placed under the tongue and held for 90 seconds. Determining the proper dosing can be a trial and error process, but in general, most people consume between 30 and 50 mg per day. A single milliliter of a potent oil can contain 50 mg (or more) of CBD. Make sure you always read the label on your product, and understand how much you’re consuming.
Lastly, it is important to take into consideration the quality of CBD oil you’re using. If you do decide to use CBD oil for a thyroid disorder, understand that not all products are created the same. In the past several years, in fact, the FDA has been trying to crack down on companies falsely labeling products. To help guide you along in choosing a reputable U.S.-based product, we’ve listed a few well-reviewed manufacturers below.
- Full-spectrum Hemp extract
- No pesticides, solvents or chemical fertilizers
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Price Range ($48.00 – $139.00)
- Maximum potency and purity
- Compounded by a licensed pharmacist
- Highly concentrated extraction process
- Price Range ($26-$169)
- Full-Spectrum Extract (Made in USA)
- 100% Natural and Organic
- Contain no artificial flavors or preservatives
- Prices range ($48-$125)
- CBDPure uses a chemical-free CO2 extraction process
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Certified hemp grown in Colorado
- Price Range ($29.99 – $79.99)
- Over 5 Years Experience
- 3rd party laboratory tested
- Organic hemp CO2 extract tincture
- Price Range ($62.00 – $204.00)