The herbal traditions lack an abundance of suggestions for treating endocrine glands. This is only to be expected when it is realized that an understanding of the functions of the endocrine is very recent. A major contribution can be made by the skilled use of herbs in the context of appropriate holistic therapy, but it is not always possible to achieve results with herbs that would adequately replace drug treatment.
A comprehensive review of phytotherapy for the endocrine glands has yet to written, and what follows is based on the authors limited clinical experience in this field.
The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck, just above the collar bone. The main function of this gland is to produce the iodine containing hormone thyroxine. Thyroxine acts to control the rate and intensity of most physiologic functions of the body. Heart rate, sweating, digestive action, body temperature, calorie consumption and many other activities depend in part on this hormone for regulation.
The thyroid itself depends on the pituitary gland at the base of the front of the brain for control. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary is necessary for the thyroid gland to produce thyroxine. Pituitary TSH production is in turn dependent upon thyrotropin releasing hormone from the hypothalamus higher in the brain for its production. Thus there is a complex set of delicate interactions which oversee the thyroid’s function, and many physical and emotional factors can play a role.