In every issue of Herbs for Health, professionals from a variety of health-care fields answer your questions about using medicinal herbs. Medical doctor Robert Rountree and herbalist Daniel Gagnon responded for this issue.
I would like to know if there are herbs to take for hypothyroidism, hypertension, and loss of cartilage.
If your hypothyroidism is caused by an iodine deficiency, this could be corrected by taking seaweeds such as kelp. Otherwise, I haven’t found any herbs that correct this problem.
For mild to moderate hypertension, you could try an extract of hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha), forskolin (Coleus forskohlii), and maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa). Raw garlic (1 to 3 cloves daily) and high doses of magnesium (500 to 1,000 mg daily) also can be helpful. However, if your blood pressure is higher than 150/100, I recommend that you receive medical supervision.
While conventional medicine holds that cartilage cannot be regenerated, several studies suggest that 1,500 mg daily of glucosamine sulfate, a naturally occurring sugarlike substance, can actually repair damaged joints. I usually prescribe it in combination with curcumin—an extract of turmeric (Curcuma longa) —which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Hypothyroidism can be helped by taking two types of seaweeds; kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) and bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus). If the thyroid is underfunctioning as a result of a lack of iodine, these seaweeds will activate the thyroid gland and metabolism will increase within a couple of weeks.
There are many herbs that can be useful for hypertension. Dandelion leaves (Taraxacum officinale) increase elimination of excess water from the blood. This is helpful in lowering blood pressure because water retention in the blood (due to high sodium levels) causes high blood pressure. Dandelion does not deplete potassium, which is one of the advantages it has over drugs such as Lasix. Olive leaves (Olea europaea) also are particularly useful because their ability to lower blood pressure persists over prolonged periods of time. Research has shown that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure are lowered by olive leaves because they act as peripheral vasodilators, opening up the little blood vessels on the surface and outer parts of the body. Olive leaves can be taken for an extended period of time for hypertension, atherosclerosis, and angina. In addition, hawthorn supports the heart. Taken in tandem with olive leaves, it enhances the vasodilation effects of olive leaves.
Regarding loss of cartilage, devil’s-claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) prevents inflammation of cartilage and stimulates its regeneration. Herbs such as horsetail (Equisetum arvense), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and yucca (Yucca baccata) act as anti-inflammatory agents, help provide nutrients essential for good cartilage health, and increase blood flow to the cartilage.
Robert Rountree, M.D., is a physician at the Helios Health Center, co-author of Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child, and an advisory board member for the Herb Research Foundation.
Daniel Gagnon is a medical herbalist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, vice-chairman of the American Herbal Products Association, and owner of an herbal retail store in Santa Fe.
The information offered in “Q & A” is not intended to be a substitute for advice from your health-care provider.