That being said, I’m no doctor, so if you have been diagnosed with Graves’ disease, please seek the help of a licensed endocrinologist & ask if the herb Lycopus americanus (Bugleweed) might be right for you.
In 1991, I began having symptoms which were mysterious & very disturbing. I would suddenly begin crying for no reason or fall into a fit of terrifying rage, & I was dropping a lot of weight without trying. Sometimes I would have the feeling that I was a spectator, witnessing my rage from the sidelines; I felt like a prisoner, unable to control myself, & it was starting to cause serious problems in my personal life.
Some of the things I would witness myself saying & doing were pretty bizarre. I remember one time in particular when I scared my cats into hiding for 2 days.
I had viciously accused my boyfriend of being a freak because he did not want to take a bath in the same water I had just bathed in, because “All I did was soak in it!” I recall screaming at him at the top of my lungs “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?”
Later, upon reflection, I thought maybe the explanation was obvious:I was simply going insane!
A couple weeks later during a physical exam, a nurse noticed that the front of my throat seemed a little swollen. She ran some tests and discovered that my TSH levels were high. I was quickly diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease). I learned that this disease, unlike the more common Hypothyroidism, is life-threatening. The exact cause of the disease isn’t known, though I learned later that there have been studies showing a link between Graves’ and
high stress levels
exposure to extreme pollution
Perfect… I had been working in a sweat shop in the years leading up to the illness, which was a highly toxic environment: physically, emotionally, as well as psychologically.
This is a whole blog entry unto itself, so I won’t go into the details, but after a few years of feeling stuck in a job I hated, surrounded by toxic fumes and feeling dumped on by my boss, I found myself sitting in an Endocrinologist’s office being told that I was at a crossroads.
She was telling me I needed to make the choice to either have my thyroid removed or take a radioactive pill.
Well, I don’t know about you, but the word “radioactive” causes visions of skeletons dance above my head and my eyes bugged out like old Scooby here… SO, I explained that I wasn’t really that interested in surgery, and that the latter sounded, well, a little dangerous.
She pointed to an orange box on the wall, (you know, the one with the skull and crossbones on it) and said, dismissively, “No, it’s perfectly safe, you just need to keep your eating utensils separate from other people for a few days and sanitize them in a dishwasher because you’ll be radioactive, but, don’t worry, it’s only for a few days.” (Blink, blink, blink…) “Oh, and you’ll also have to sanitize the toilet every time you use it as well. But, don’t let that scare you, it’s really perfectly safe.” (Big smile.)
She smiles, reassuringly, obviously expecting a relieved patient looking back at her. (Blink, blink…..Blink, blink…) I thought: “Is that all? Just bleach my toilet every time I use it? Do I look that naive? Do most people fall for this line of crap?” Then I wondered if she herself even believed it. At the time I had absolutely no experience or knowledge in alternative healing, or even healthy lifestyle practices, let alone how to deal with being “handled” by a professional, but I did know one thing, I didn’t want anything to do with the whole friendly skull and crossbones routine.
OR getting my throat cut. Ahem.
But, true to the polite young lady that I was, I thanked her for taking the time to explain it all to me, and then I asked her if she knew of any other way of treating the disease. She frowned, clearly not pleased, and obviously getting a little impatient now. “Well, you could always start using Iodine supplements.” “Um….and, oh, right, there’s the, uh, adding more shrimp to your diet…“
So…it’s surgery or shrimp?
“But, you need to understand, this is a serious disease, dear, (did she just call me dear?) and time is of the essence for you.”
(Time is of the essence?)
“So I strongly suggest you make a decision about either of the 2 methods I described earlier before you leave here today and it slips your mind and gets out of hand…” (Slips my mind?) “M’kay?” she says, smiling brightly, as if the timer has just gone off and class was dismissed. “If you see my receptionist on your way out, she can make an appointment for whichever you decide on. We’ll see you again soon. Okay, bye-bye now!”
At this point she actually gets up and leaves me standing there wondering how much shrimp it would take to get me out of this mess, & if it would cure me before I got cancer from eating so many bottom-feeders. I walked out the door as the receptionist was calling my name.
Over the next few weeks, her words echoed through my head, bouncing off the sides, like a horror flick, complete with reverb & echo chamber. At one point I got so panicky I almost gave into the fear of dying & opted to sign up for the surgery. Then, a very strange thing happened, I got pregnant. It wasn’t a planned pregnancy, and it gave me 9 months of respite, since the Hyperthyroidism disappeared during that time. (I have since found out that Graves’ disease is linked to complications in pregnancy, though I didn’t know that then. I did lose my son during childbirth, but that is another story for another time.)
However, the elevated TSH levels returned postpartum, and I was faced with the decision of what to do once again. This time I had different options, since I had since moved out to the Driftless region of Wisconsin (the middle of nowhere) & was learning about herbs, tinctures, yoga, organic foods, and otherwise leading a more healthy & much less stress-free life. I researched until my eyes were little slits, devouring plant books (pre google era!) and found a plant called Lycopus europeus had been used to restore normal thyroxine levels. I did even more research and discovered that Lycopus americanus was similar, and could be found growing near rivers and streams in southwest Wisconsin!
Plants! Go figure!
It felt too good to be true, I just couldn’t believe how incredible it was, and couldn’t help but wonder why the highly educated Endocrinologist, did not offer this option over the ever-popular options of consuming large quantities of crustaceans, or glowing in the dark.
My new friend Liz and I studied the photograph in a plant identification book, and, incredibly, within one week she had spotted it.
(Well, actually, a giant white flower led her there.) It turns out, there was a very tall white orchid swaying in the breeze next to a beaver dam near where she was walking. So, being the curious soul she was, (she has since passed, which is another story for another time,) she went out to investigate.
She was standing there admiring it, looking around for other “volunteers” growing nearby. There weren’t any, but she did find a very large patch of Lycopus americanus (Bugleweed) growing there instead! She raced home to tell me, (pre cell phone era,) giddy, jumping up and down, beaming ear to ear, she told me “You’ll never guess what I found while I was out walking today.” I did guess. So, we piled into her van with scissors and baskets in hand, and wound up harvesting about 3/4 of the plants we found, leaving enough to ensure it would re-seed itself. When we got back home, she showed me how to make tincture out of it, and within 3 months of taking that tincture, my TSH levels were normal, and I was able to get off the pills altogether. My TSH levels have remained normal ever since. Even now the memory brings tears to my eyes.
Now, you may say it was just a coincidence, and that may be true, of course, though statistics would beg to differ with you. It is also possible that the reduction of stress, and toxins, coupled with the introduction of a healthier lifestyle, including eating mostly organic & home-grown food was the reason. This may also be true. Personally, I suspect it is all of the above. All I know is, I didn’t have to get my throat cut or glow in the dark, and I have to admit I’m pretty happy about that. I just wanted to share my story so that people will know that maybe there is hope for the otherwise hopelessly hyperthyroid.