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Table of Contents > Conditions > Hyperthyroidism
Also Listed As:  Thyroid, Overactive
Signs and Symptoms
What Causes It?
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Treatment Options
Drug Therapies
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Special Considerations
Supporting Research

Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland, located at the front of your neck, produces too much thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism has three forms that share several symptoms. Hyperthyroidism usually happens between the ages of 20 and 40. It often starts after times of extreme stress or during pregnancy.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Fast heart rate and palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling at the base of the neck
  • Moist skin and increased perspiration
  • Shakiness and tremor
  • Nervousness and confusion
  • Increased appetite accompanied by weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Swollen, reddened, and bulging eyes
  • Constant stare (infrequent blinking, lid lag)
  • Sensitivity of eyes to light
  • Occasionally, raised, thickened skin over the shins, back of feet, back, hands, or even face
  • In crisis: fever, very rapid pulse, agitation, and possibly delirium
  • Changes in menstrual periods

What Causes It?

Researchers suspect that Graves' disease (one form of hyperthyroidism) stems from an antibody that mistakenly stimulates the thyroid to produce too much hormone. Toxic nodular goiter is caused by a noncancerous tumor in nodules that make up the thyroid gland. Secondary hyperthyroidism results when a gland called the pituitary overrides the thyroid's normal instructions, and orders it to make too much thyroid hormone.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider will ask you to extend your fingers to see if you have a telltale tremor. Your provider will also examine your thyroid gland while you swallow. You will have blood drawn and may need X rays.

Treatment Options
Drug Therapies

Your health care provider will most likely prescribe a single dose of liquid radioactive iodine, which calms down your thyroid gland. Alternatively, your provider may give you thyroid-depressive medication. You may also be prescribed beta-blockers. If drug treatment fails, you may need surgery to remove part of your thyroid.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies may be effective at minimizing symptoms of mild thyroid dysfunction.


Foods that depress the thyroid include broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, turnips, soy, beans, and mustard greens. Avoid refined foods, dairy products, wheat, caffeine, and alcohol.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and help your immune system function properly.
  • Bromelain (250 to 500 mg three times per day between meals) reduces swelling.
  • Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg twice a day) supports immune function and decreases inflammation.
  • Calcium (1,000 mg per day) and magnesium (200 to 600 mg per day) are cofactors for many metabolic processes.
  • Vitamin E (400 IU twice a day) can help protect the heart.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (50 mg twice a day) can help protect the heart.


Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. For best results, these herbs should be used under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

  • Bugleweed (Lycopus virginica) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) help to normalize the overactive thyroid. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) may relieve heart palpitations and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) reduces anxiety. Combine two parts of bugleweed with one part each of lemon balm, motherwort, and passionflower and take in tincture form, 30 to 60 drops three to four times per day.
  • Quercetin (250 to 500 mg three times per day) is an anti-inflammatory.
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa) makes the effects of bromelain stronger and should be taken between meals, 500 mg three times per day.
  • Milk thistle (Silibum marianum) helps the liver provide proper binding proteins, 300 to 600 mg three times a day.
  • Hawthorn berry (Crataegus laevigata) helps protect the heart. Take tsp. of the solid extract, or 1,000 mg of the herb, three times a day.
  • Lemon balm inhibits the binding of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) receptors.
  • Immune-suppressing herbs such as Stephania root (Stephania tetranda) and Indian sarsaprilla (Hemidesmus indicus) help break the circle of cellular damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs such as licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Chinese foxglove (Rehmania glutinosa) support the adrenals as well.


There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend treatments for hyperthyroidism based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.

Physical Medicine

Ice packs to the throat will help decrease inflammation. Castor oil packs to the throat will also reduce inflammation. Apply oil directly to skin, cover with a clean soft cloth and plastic wrap. Place a heat source over the pack and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes. For best results, use for three consecutive days.


Acupuncture may be helpful in correcting hormonal imbalances.


Therapeutic massage may be useful in relieving stress.

Special Considerations

Thyroid problems during pregnancy can cause serious complications.

Supporting Research

Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace Publishers; 1995:422.

Berkow R. Merck Manual. 16th ed. Whitehorse Station, NJ: The Merck Publishing Group; 1992.

Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:432.

Carr AC, Frei B. Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(6):1086-1107.

Hoffman D. The New Holistic Herbal. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books; 1995:95.

JAMA Patient Page. How much vitamin C do you need? JAMA. 1999;281(15):1460.

Johnston CS. Recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;282(22):2118-2119.

Levine M, Rumsey SC, Daruwala R, Park JB, Wang Y. Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;281(15):1415-1453.

Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Shiva Barton, ND, Wellspace, Cambridge, MA; Sherif H. Osman, MD, President, Medical Staff Harford Memorial Hospital, Falston General Hospital, Bel Air, MD; David Perlmutter, MD, Perlmutter Health Center, Commons Medical and Surgical Centre, Naples, FL; Eric Wellons, MD, Department of Surgery, Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, MD; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG, Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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