Iodine and the thyroid.

From: "Sandra"
Date: Sun, 2 Mar 2003 12:06:43 -0500
Subject: [Herb] Potassium Iodide

Is anyone familiar with the use of potassium iodide as a medicinal herb for hyperthyroid? It is an old drug used in the treatment of respiratory and sinus problems.

It also has anti-infective properties and is sometimes used to treat certain skin conditions. Today it is mainly used to treat overactive thyroid and to protect from the effects of radiation from inhaled or swallowed radioactive iodine.

If it is not recommended, is there an herb that could take it's place. I've been using bugleweed, motherwort, hawthorn, and such herbs, but they are not making much difference with the cardiac symptoms.

When I learned about this potassium iodide, I thought perhaps if it goes to the thyroid and *fills it up*, it will prevent the over-excess of hormones causing the cardiac symptoms.

Also, when I tried to order it through my druggist, I was told I needed a prescription, but I can order it online. I can't understand why the difference.

From: Henriette Kress

> Is anyone familiar with the use of potassium iodide as a medicinal herb

Iodine is not a herb, it's an element. One that is necessary for the thyroid. One that's added to normal table salt, in order to do away with iodine-deficient hypothyroid. This is called "iodized salt". Try to find salt that's not iodized... note, sea salt contains native iodine.

So there IS no iodine-deficient hypothyroid these days. That again means that if you actually were to use iodine in any form as a supplemtn for some kinds of hypothyroid you're very likely to make things worse.

So tell your source to wake up and look around ... we're in the 21st century now. Not the 1950s, or the 1940s.

From: "Cyli"

> One that's added to normal table salt, in order to do away with iodine-deficient hypothyroid. This is called "iodized salt". Try to find salt that's not iodized...

Unfortunately, that's very easy to do right here in the goiter belt of the US. Somewhere along the line whoever's in charge decided that plain salt is okay now because everyone eats so many things from all over the world and so much fish from the ocean that they're getting enough iodine in their food. Wrong. Lots of rural folks grow their own of veggies and meats and they eat local fish that they or their friends or relatives catch. Their kids are getting to be awfully chunky these days. I've had to look carefully on the shelves to find iodized salt, as it's in much lesser supply than plain salt.

This in an area where thyroid problems are mostly underdiagnosed until they cause visible problems, such as large goiters or hyperthyroidism with palpitations (hypo with palpitations is generally ignored or given anti-depressants).

Looks as if the FDA got its additives-are-bad and urban yuppie scales as the normal diet thing mixed up with reality.

If I take a 10 minute walk in downtown I'm bound to see at least 3 women with rear ends over 2 or 3 feet wide and the rest to match. Not as many of the kids are obviously overweight as what I see when camping in the country, though. 8 to 12 years old kids of normal height should not be weighing 120 to 180 pounds and have trouble running because their thighs rub together.

Sorry. Hit one of my buttons. Guess what my endocrine disorder is? No sympathy needed. My doctor and I are on the same wave length and I'm pretty much correctly medicated with Armour now.

From: Veronica Honthaas

>So there IS no iodine-deficient hypothyroid these days.

My experience differs. Here in Montana we are far away from the sea. There is no iodine in the soil and good seafood is hard to come by or is very expensive. I do find many of my clients showing varying degrees of hypothyroidism. It is almost epidemic here even in cats, dogs and horses and the vets have them on Synthroid. I prefer to treat naturally with kelp and other sea vegetable herbs and that seems to do the trick. It can take about 6 months of regularly adding these wonderful sea veggies to the diet to see and improvemint........but it works.

From: "Aliceann and Scott Carlton"


As Henriette said....Potassium Iodide is not an herb but an elemental ionic bond. The only way it would have helped respiratory and sinus problems would have been in the case of someone with severe hypothyroid function who would have those symptoms chronically along with MANY other symptoms of stagnation reflecting a thyroid that is not functioning.

Now if you listen to the FEMA folks and catastrophisers, you will have your handy supply of these potassium idodide pills when the "nuclear attack" arrives in your face....should you survive the initial crisping that is.

It is prescription for good reason. You can really mess up your body by taking it when there is no need to and I can't think of anyone who does not have access to iodized salt these days. Also, if you suppress your own metabolism of any of the elements, bad things will happen because your body will no longer see a reason to perform this function, and you'll be toxic anyway.

From: "Aliceann and Scott Carlton"

Hi Cyli,

Your point is noted, however, having a big rear end and the rest to match does not mean that there is iodine deficiency. Additionally, iodine uptake is also dependent upon co-elements such as copper and zinc. What do your soil and water surveys indicate in terms of elements and contaminants? Goiters and hypothyroid conditions can be caused by an inability to absorb iodine, metabolize it etc as well as thyroid damage from pathogens. I would be wary of assuming presence or lack of iodine is the indicator.

In any case, the question was regarding using potassium iodine for treatment of respiratory and sinus problems which would be dangerous without knowing the current levels in the body.

I see lots of folks with underactive thyroid problems...but the thyroid problem developed from other long standing life activity components, not usually a lack of iodine.

From: "Cyli"

>I would be wary of assuming presence or lack of iodine is the indicator.

Quite. But it's an additive factor and _is_ helped by iodized salt. Which is now not too hard to find, but easy to miss at the store. On the lowest shelf to one side while the regular salt is on the next shelf up, filling the shelf.

From: "Aliceann and Scott Carlton"

Hi Veronica,

We'll check out the soil status for Montana over the next couple of days. Since there are huge deposits of the stuff here in the Eastern Montana region (look up the oil drilling reports...they look for high iodine deposits co-existing with oil deposits), the question is of accessibility not presence. Also, how many folks eat only local foods in your part of the state?

As I mentioned to Cyli, there are lots of reasons besides iodine deficiency for thyroid dysfunction...most of those lifestyle related and due to exposure to iodine depleting or uptake reducing factors. Read up on the Hanford atomic test exposure findings on Iodine 131 for more information on this. Montana suffers greatly from the destruction of element and mineral balances due to mining, agriculture, drilling etc.....what are the levels in your area of environmental factors?

This still doesn't address the issue Sandra brought up of using Potassium Iodide for sinus and respiratory problems. My vote is to drink hot water (not from Anaconda though) with black pepper for these problems and to look at environmental and lifestyle factors for causes.

As for Kelp and sea stuff, I lived along the sea for many years...the lobstermen and fisherfolk have just as high an incidence of thyroid problems. To look at an isolated element is too narrow a focus. Maybe I'm prejudiced because I dislike the taste of kelp?

Best Regards from the old sea beds of the Badlands,


From: "jim mcdonald"

The association between Iodine & the thyroid is that the thyroid uses Iodine as a raw material to make hormones. No Iodine in the diet, no raw materials, more difficult to make the hormones. Supplementing iodine supplies these raw materials, so people say "Iodine is good for throid disorders". It is... ~if~ you're deficient in Iodine.

When the body is deficient in Iodine, it will absorb it via the skin from Iodine gases that may be in the air. If you live downwind from a nuclear reactor, which releases radioactive Iodine in its gov't allowed emissions, you will absorb this and the radioactive Iodine will break down in your Thyroid.. this is not good. This is why Potassium Iodide is "recommended" in case of a nuclear disaster... if you're all "filled up" with Iodine, you won't absorb any of the radioactive iodine in the air (or less, at any rate).

While Iodized salt is prevalent on the shelves of grocery stores, most people get their salt intake from "junk foods", and the companies producing these often skip on the ~iodized~ salt to save money. Many "health conscious" people have decided salt is bad and eliminated it from their diets... so Iodine defiency is a reality nowadays.

Potassium Iodide, though, is a pure chemical and not realy what the body wants. ~IF~ you are deficient in Iodine, find a good, repuatble seaweed harvester and consume that... its bioavailable and body friendly, and you can eat it or use it as a condiment or put it in recipes to no end. A ~much better~ choice than a potentially toxic chemical. You can also buy capsules and simply take Kelp as a daily supplement, but MAKE SURE it comes from clean water. There's no good done by using Kelp harvested from polluted water to be healthy. Naturespirit Herbs and Sea Vegetables is a good source (thanks joyce!).

If your thyroid problem is NOT due to Iodine deficiency - and many, if not most, aren't - you need to look at lifestyle. Physical activity is extremely important. A good diet is extremely important. As far as herbs go, look to alteratives... they should be the base of any formula. Burdock does more good when taken ~consistently over a long period of time~ than almost any herb I know of, and is a much better way to address a hormonal imbalance than a stint on this herb or a stint on that herb

I've yet to meet a person with a thyroid disorder that doesn't have lots of stress and emotional issues as a major contributing factor. There's also an esoteric relationship between thyroid problems and self expression... the thyroid is associated with the throat chakra, and it seems lots of thyroid sufferers have things they need to express... what that is, exactly, can run the gammet (Ryan Drum says there are often grief issues), but there's a release that needs to happen for improvement to occur.

Ryan Drum has a very clinical article on the use of seaweeds for thyroid dysfunction at

From: "Sandra"

Thank you for all the responses to my question, but I'm sorry that I don't think I explained it very well.

I am producing too much thyroxin, and was going to use this potassium iodide to absorb the extra hormone in the thyroid, as I understood that too much thyroxin was the cause of the hyper-ness, and the fast metabolism causing the heartpounding, not just palpitations.

When I learned about this potassium iodide, I thought perhaps if it goes to the thyroid and *fills it up*, it will prevent the over-excess of hormones that are causing the cardiac symptoms, to be absorbed.

From: Ann Gerstenberger

Dear Sandra,

Just to review, the thyroid uses iodide to make thyroid hormones. The theory is that ingesting potassium iodide will "use up" receptors in the thyroid so that other circulating (radioactive per recent post) iodine will not be absorbed, but rather excreted, is flawed in a few ways.

In case of nuclear explosion, we'd end up with radioactive iodine in our blood vessels, liver and kidneys anyway, is that better?

The thyroid readily alters the number of receptors to absorb as much iodine as it wants, to make as much hormone as is being demanded by body system sensors.

The amount of iodine you consume may increase the amount of hormone you make, if you were iodine deficient (sounds like you are not), it is not clear whether reducing iodine consumption will limit hormone production, or simply cause the thyroid to enlarge to get what it needs.

High iodine foods include black tea, sea vegetables, shell fish, and also soy products, turnips, some fortified breads, and iodized salt. Rather than say "no more tea or seaweed" I would suggest regulating your iodine intake for a while, read labels, and using the U.S. RDA (150 ug(micrograms)/day) and the Tolerable Upper Level (1100 ug/day, any more has possible adverse effects) as a guideline. You choose the foods, but get the RDA, and not much more, in your diet, stick to it for at least 6 weeks, and see if it makes a difference.

Iodine consumption does not directly affect the absorption or effects of circulating thyroid hormones on target systems in the body, which regulate just about everything (metabolic rate and blood pressure, nutrient metabolism and absorption, GI motility and tone, nervous system function, muscle development, joint and skeletal health, reproductive ability and lactation, tone and moistness of the skin).

Are you already on an antithyroid prescription drug? If so, be careful, herbs aimed at the heart/circulatory system could exaggerate or inhibit their effects.

With more information, for hyperthyroid condition, among the things I might try include:

  • a nervous system tonic - Skullcap, Oats, Valerian, or Vervain are possibilities
  • Nettles for trace nutrients, nervous system support
  • Burdock or perhaps Yarrow for the liver, or let the Vervain do double duty
  • David Hoffmann says Lycopus virginica (Bugleweed) is specific for hyperthyroid, in The New Holistic Herbal.
  • Finley Ellingwood (1919) named it specific for irregular heartbeat, a cardiac tonic, peripheral vasoconstrictor, at the same time slowing the velocity of the pulse, and curiously enough goiter (we could think this through, but I've gone on long enough).
  • Stress factors? Find a way to have calm time everyday, walk, yoga, meditation, prayer, bath
  • I'm not a Bach Flower practitioner, but you may look to the remedies to address associated emotional issues.
  • Singing, chanting or intoning is another lovely way to direct healing emotional energy through the throat chakra.
    • Good luck with it,
      Ann G.

      From: "Sandra"

      >Sandra has also clarified her point indicating she's actually dealing with hyperthyroid rather than hypothyroid if I read her last message correctly?

      Yes, Aliceanne, I'm hyp_er_thyroid, Graves disease, and what I'm confused about is, if I'm producing too much thyroxine now, wouldn't I need to avoid anything with iodine in it so that I don't produce more, that's if the overabundance of thyroxine is the cause of the hyperactivity of the heartbeat?


      hi sandra,

      my experience and understanding is that when your thyroid is imbalanced, either hyper or hypo, you should stay away from iodides, etc. as they often just add to the imbalance. iodides are good for tonifying the thyroid when it's running fine, but again, my understanding and experience has been that once the thyroid is off, you should leave it be and address the issues that are leading to the imbalance (the thyroid's operation is connected to its interaction with many organs -- liver, pituitary, adrenals, reproductive organs, etc.). perhaps the best thing to do at this point is to take measures to address the systems that are getting run down by your high thyroid, and the systems that are leading to the hyper-ness -- unfortunately, the latter may require clinical attention.

      good luck!

      From: "Aliceann and Scott Carlton"

      > Yes, Aliceanne, I'm hyp_er_thyroid, Graves disease,

      Hi Sandra and all,

      I recently had a patient with Graves who had her thyroid irradiated to treat the condition...thus destroying it so she is now on replacement thyroxin for life and has all the hypothyroid problems associated. However, the real reason behind the condition is autoimmune attack and her thyroid is not the only organ askew.....reproductive system has been polycystic for many year preceding....hard to know if she has Stein-leventhal Syndrome as she never was referred to a specialist or endocrinologist.

      I would not try to "treat" this condition except through MD care...preferably a specialist. it can be very high risk. Obviously you want to avoid stimulants at this time until the thyroid dysfuinction is under control and probably for a long time to come. There will also be depletion problems due to the exhaustion of the thyroid high gear. That can be treated nutritionally and herbally once the acute problem is "under wraps" so to speak. Please listen to your doctor's advice about this as it doesn't just fix itself. You must decide what is the best choice, but a hypothyroid condition is easier to manage than hyper in terms of acute risk in my book.