The thyroid is an important endocrine gland that wraps around the front of the trachea at the base of the neck. It secretes a variety of hormones that regulate systems throughout the body. A healthy thyroid gland ensures good heart, bone, and muscle function.
The gland maintains communication with the brain, which helps it to modulate internal homeostasis. The thyroid also affects processes like metabolism, heart rate, body temperature, and even emotional responses. Thyroid disorders can produce a wide range of symptoms, as well as life-threatening health complications.
Researchers have uncovered some connections between the thyroid/brain communication network and the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). 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 impact various types of thyroid disorders.
In this article, we discuss what the thyroid does and the symptoms of a dysfunctional thyroid gland. We’ll also go over the use of CBD for thyroid disorders and take a look at academic research on the topic.
What Is the Thyroid, and What Are Thyroid Disorders?
The thyroid is an endocrine gland that releases hormones to control dozens of different internal processes. Thyroid activity influences metabolism, growth, brain development (especially during infancy), body temperature, heart and muscle functioning, and a variety of other processes. The gland releases various collective hormones (such as thyroxine, or T4) called thyroid hormones.
Thyroid glands that release either too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) hormone can be catastrophic to organ functioning and to your 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)
- Graves’ disease (which causes an overactive thyroid)
- Thyroid cancer
- Small lumps on the thyroid that may lead to excess hormone production, aka thyroid nodules
- Thyroid storm (a rare form of hyperthyroidism that results in 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. There are certain tests to check for thyroid imbalances. These tests include biopsies, imaging scans (such as ultrasounds or iodine scans), and blood tests that 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 thyroid disorders currently affect up to 20 million Americans. Furthermore, 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. The causes of thyroid disorders are largely unknown. Researchers believe that autoimmune conditions, stress, high cholesterol, and smoking can be factors.
The causes of thyroid disorders are largely unknown; however, stress and smoking may play a part.
Plus, women are statistically five to eight times more likely to develop a thyroid problem than men.
Untreated hypothyroidism in pregnant women can lead to a litany of issues. These issues include miscarriage, preterm delivery, and growth/developmental problems.
Conventional Thyroid Disorder Treatments (Not CBD)
There are many conventional treatment options for thyroid conditions. These treatments often include pharmaceutical medications.
For underactive thyroid, T4 replacement medications like levothyroxine and Synthroid are common. For hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), treatments that reduce hormone secretion are necessary.
These treatments include radioactive iodine 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 not recommended outside the most necessary of circumstances. Surgery can also be a common treatment method. Surgery may address lumps and masses that occur due to cancers or thyroid nodules.
Living with Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid disorders can cause many different problems within the body and brain. These problems can impact 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. Yet, the thyroid network is a very complex web of cellular machinery. Because of this, it can be difficult to pinpoint how to induce positive changes.
This is why people are beginning to talk about CBD for thyroid disorders. 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 products like CBD oil present far fewer side effects than most prescription-strength drugs.
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CBD for Thyroid Disorders: What the Studies Are Showing
Most people who use CBD for thyroid disorders often use a single high-quality CBD oil. CBD oil may address a variety of thyroid malfunctions. These malfunctions include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, thyroiditis, and thyroid storm. Of course, the question is – how well does it work?
Many people have indicated that their use of CBD oil has produced positive results. There have also been scientific studies suggesting 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. The study also utilized a molecular detection technique called immunohistochemical localization.
The results showed the intracellular presence of cannabinoid receptors. Experts recorded a 30% decrease in hormone release within hours of administration of the synthetic CB1 receptor agonist. CBD is an indirect antagonist of the CB1 receptor. This suggests that it could lead to the reverse outcome.
Also, the general properties of CBD may be able to help with the effects of thyroid disorders. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Dozens of studies state the role of cannabinoids in reducing organ and tissue inflammation.
More clinical trials can determine how effective CBD is for thyroid disorders. Thus far, research of CBD’s relationship with hormone activity is promising.
Yet, it is not enough to claim the compound as an effective treatment. CBD receptors may play a role in thyroid regulation. However, we need more research 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. Individuals often use cannabis due to its lack of mind-altering effects. They want a natural treatment, but they don’t want to be under the influence.
This is 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 determined to be “marijuana.” This can be confusing as many people use the terms hemp and marijuana interchangeably.
Millions of people worldwide smoke marijuana for its therapeutic benefit. This is the basis of the medical marijuana market. Hemp-based products often boast the benefits of cannabis without the high.
The Bottom Line on CBD for Thyroid Disorders
Doctors, scientists, and medical researchers are looking into CBD as an alternative treatment. More research is necessary to come to any definitive medical conclusions.
Most are choosing to go with high-quality CBD oil as a daily supplement. Oils act as molecular carriers. 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. It’s important to 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 equal. It’s important to look for companies with thorough lab-testing, transparent ingredient lists, and helpful customer service.
In the past several years, the FDA has been trying to crack down on disreputable companies. To help guide you along, we’ve listed a few well-reviewed manufacturers below.