Herbs For Graves Disease: Can Echinacea Help?

Published May 23 2012

Echinacea is a well know herb, as it is used by many people to help improve the health of their immune system.  You can find this herb in just about any health food store, and can probably find it in places like Walmart, Target, and even pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS.  Many people will take Echinacea when they have a cold, although it really is more effective to prevent the onset of a cold.  In fact, during the winter months I usually take an herbal complex which consists of a combination of Echinacea and Andrographis, which does a great job of preventing the development of the cold or flu.

But getting back to Echinacea, can this herb help someone who has Graves’ Disease?  When I was first diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, I consulted with a holistic doctor who advised me to take numerous supplements and herbs, including Echinacea.  I was somewhat hesitant to take this at first, as I had read some sources which claimed that Echinacea boosted the immune system, and therefore I was concerned that it would potentially worsen my autoimmune thyroid condition.

Does Echinacea Worsen The Autoimmune Response?

To make a long story short, I took Echinacea for many months without a problem after initially being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, which brings up another “myth” which states that people shouldn’t take Echinacea for longer than two months.  Some sources state that one shouldn’t take it too long because it can cause side effects, while others state that it loses its effectiveness after two months.   Don’t get me wrong, as I don’t recommend for my patients to take Echinacea on a permanent basis, but when I do recommend for them to take this herb it frequently is longer than two months.

Kerry Bone, who is a well known herbalist with over 20 years of experience, uses Echinacea on many of his patients with autoimmune conditions.  Besides taking this herb when I was initially diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid condition, I also frequently recommend it to my patients with Graves’ Disease, and usually don’t encounter any problems.  Every now and then there will be someone who takes Echinacea and doesn’t feel right, but this is rare, and can apply to other supplements and herbs, as some people do have sensitivities to certain herbs.  Of course the same can be said with medication for hyperthyroidism as well, as I’ve consulted with numerous patients who didn’t do well when taking Methimazole, PTU, or Propranolol.

Does Echinacea boost the immune system?  Echinacea is immune modulating, and it does enhance the immune system.  But this doesn’t mean that this herb exacerbates the autoimmune response.  Some may argue with this, but there are no scientific studies which prove that Echinacea is harmful for autoimmune conditions.  I realize there are sources which state that Echinacea stimulates the TH-1 Pathway, which can cause problems with someone who is TH-1 dominant.  And since most people are supposedly TH-1 dominant, this would mean that most people wouldn’t do well when taking Echinacea.  But once again, most people with Graves’ Disease seem to do fine when taking Echinacea, and of course if someone isn’t responding well to it they can always stop taking it.

Be Careful About the Quality Of The Herb

With any herb, the quality is very important, and this of course applies to Echinacea as well.  When I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease I took a combination of Echinacea Purpurea and Echinacea Angustifolia.  The root is more effective than the leaf, which most people don’t realize.  The dosage of course will depend on the person taking it, as well as the form you take, as it can be taken as a liquid, capsule, or tablet.  I started with the liquid, and then due to convenience switched over to the tablets.

So hopefully you realize that Echinacea can be useful for people with Graves’ Disease.  This doesn’t mean that everyone with this condition needs to take this herb, and there of course are other supplements and herbs they might need to take, along with eating well, managing their stress, etc.  But while Echinacea is looked at by many as an herb that can help with the common cold, it can also play an important role in autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease.