Can CBD Help With Hashimoto’s Disease?
- Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an inflammation of the thyroid that causes the gland to stop producing hormones(1). The condition is a common cause of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, in the United States(2).
- Levothyroxine, which replaces lost hormones, is the first-line treatment for Hashimoto’s disease. However, excessive supplementation of this drug can cause adverse side effects(3) similar to having hyperthyroidism. Nevertheless, it is an important maintenance medication.
- Cannabidiol (CBD)’s anti-inflammatory properties may help inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines(4) and suppress immune activation in the body(5).
- One study mentioned that the cannabis compound could control inflammatory response and expression via receptors in the endocannabinoid system(6).
- However, studies on cannabidiol and thyroid disorders are still non-existent. Clinical trials on patients with Hashimoto’s disease are necessary to determine its efficacy, if any, in treating the condition.
Why People Are Turning to CBD for Hashimoto’s Disease
Hashimoto’s disease, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune condition where the thyroid gland fails to function correctly(7). The disorder causes a person’s immune system to attack the thyroid (autoimmunity), damaging it to the point where it stops producing hormones.
The disease involves inflammation of the thyroid gland and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) in the United States(8).
In some cases of Hashimoto’s disease, the inflammation can cause the thyroid gland to be enlarged (goiter), causing neck discomfort. One way to diagnose the disease is through blood test results that measure thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormones (FT4 and T4).
Hashimoto’s disease occurs more often in women. However, it is seen at any age and may develop in men and children(9).
A person with the condition may not notice its symptoms at first, as the disease typically progresses slowly over the years(10).
Researchers are unsure of what causes some individuals to develop thyroid problems, like Hashimoto’s disease.
The conventional treatment for Hashimoto’s disease is a dose of levothyroxine (Synthroid)(11). This thyroid medication is a manufactured form of a specific hormone used to treat the deficiency caused by the condition – and is usually prescribed for life.
Taking an excessive amount of the drug can lead to harmful effects, such as irregular heartbeats and osteoporosis. However, you and your doctor will titrate the medicine appropriately. You should not stop taking it or adjust this medicine without talking to your doctor first.
Meanwhile, cannabidiol (CBD) may theoretically offer a supplementary solution to treating people with Hashimoto’s disease.
CBD is one of many compounds obtained from cannabis plants that do not cause mind-altering effects upon consumption. Researchers believe that cannabinoids, like CBD, have anti-inflammatory properties.
A 2010 review published by the journal Future Medicinal Chemistry found that daily cannabidiol intake inhibited disease progression in mice(12).
The authors learned that the CBD-treated subjects showed decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines or molecules that cause inflammatory reactions.
Cytokines have been implicated in the development of thyroid diseases, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Authors of a 2011 study learned that cytokines play an essential role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders of the thyroid. They also discovered that modulating cytokine responses may help treat autoimmune diseases(13).
A study in 2020 mentioned that cannabinoids, like CBD, may suppress immune activation and production of inflammatory cytokines. This action suggests that the cannabis compound may have the potential to reduce excessive inflammation in the body(14).
Another study revealed that cannabidiol is involved in controlling inflammatory response and expression through various bodily receptors. The authors of the study reported that CBD administration in an animal model could inhibit cytokine response(15).
CBD has been shown to reduce substances that cause inflammation. It may theoretically be used as a therapeutic agent to alleviate the symptoms of thyroid disorders, like Hashimoto’s disease.
However, studies on cannabidiol and thyroid health conditions are yet non-existent. No clinical trials exist to prove that CBD can effectively treat the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease and other thyroid issues.
How CBD Oil May Work to Help with Hashimoto’s Disease
A study published in 2017 mentioned that specific receptors in the human body could affect cytokine production(16). The CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are primarily used by the endocannabinoid system (ECS), are said to modulate signaling that influences cytokines.
The ECS regulates various bodily functions, one of which is inflammation(17). Researchers learned that CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors are involved in managing inflammation-causing cytokines(18).
Cannabidiol reportedly binds to these ECS structures, particularly with the CB2 receptor, which may explain its anti-inflammatory properties(19).
Besides CB1 and CB2 receptor activation, the compound may also have other actions that may reduce inflammation.
Meanwhile, researchers of a 2015 study analyzed the endocannabinoid system‘s role in thyroid tumors and found that its receptors are associated with tumor malignancy(20).
They learned that CB1 and CB2 receptors influenced thyroid tumors and hypothesized that both could be targets for future therapies.
Another study also implicated the CB1 receptors of the ECS in the control of thyroid hormone output(21).
Thyroid hormones help regulate body temperature, among many other important metabolic functions, by increasing the available energy in the body.
Since CBD is said to stimulate both CB1 and CB2 receptors, there is a possibility that the compound may be used to influence thyroid conditions through this action.
However, more clinical data on human subjects is needed to confirm CBD‘s efficacy for thyroid disorders.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Hashimoto’s Disease
- Using CBD may theoretically help people with Hashimoto’s disease. Studies revealed that CBD might have anti-inflammatory properties, which the compound expresses through its interaction with receptors in the body.
- Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound of cannabis, CBD does not cause mind-altering effects upon consumption.
- Individuals can purchase and use CBD in most areas in the United States. In places where CBD is sold legally, users can buy CBD products even if they do not have a prescription from a doctor.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes the potential health benefits of cannabis constituents, such as CBD(22).
- The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that CBD is well-tolerated in humans, according to several controlled and open-label trials(23). Subjects were reported to have not developed substance dependence with the use of CBD.
- There is a significant lack of human studies on CBD‘s efficacy for Hashimoto’s disease, making it difficult to determine its effectiveness, if any, in treating the condition.
- Epidiolex, a drug used to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, is the only CBD product approved by the FDA. The agency has not yet allowed any other CBD marketing application for the treatment of a specific disease or condition(24).
- A review in 2017 assessed the safety and possible side effects of CBD use. Although it has a favorable safety profile, CBD can still cause interactions with other prescription medications that can lead to adverse reactions(25).
- Many CBD products, particularly items sold online and in some physical dispensaries, are prone to mislabeling(26). Users who buy CBD from these channels are at risk of consuming more or less of the compound than expected.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Hashimoto’s Disease
Multi-disciplinary diets may help improve the quality of life and thyroid function of patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis(27).
According to a study that evaluated the various diets for the condition, consuming vegetables, fruits, and animal foods rich in zinc are recommended by experts(28).
Eating vegetables several times a day is advised because they contain phytosterols, which are compounds present in plants that have shown anti-inflammatory activity.
However, raw cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, should only be eaten once a week as these can interfere with thyroid hormone production.
The consumption of fruits at least once a day is also suggested as these are abundant in polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties(29).
Eating animal-based foods that are high in zinc, such as meats and eggs, are recommended several times a week. According to a report, zinc deficiency could be linked to hypothyroid(30).
Meanwhile, iodine supplements are not advised for patients with Hashimoto’s disease. People with abnormal thyroid glands risk exacerbating their condition if they take too much iodine(31).
Cannabidiol is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that could contribute to alleviating thyroid disorder symptoms. CBD products are often promoted as an alternative to combat inflammation.
Meanwhile, CBD capsules containing zinc are sold by some brands. These CBD products are often advertised as useful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
How to Choose the Right CBD for Hashimoto’s Disease
There are currently three types of CBD sold today: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.
The most popular of the three is the full-spectrum CBD. This variant contains all of the phytocannabinoids present in Cannabis sativa plants.
CBD oil labeled as full-spectrum has flavonoids, terpenes, THC, and other minerals. The ideal full-spectrum CBD oil has high amounts of cannabidiol while containing small amounts of other compounds.
Broad-spectrum CBD is the next type of cannabidiol product. This variant has the same compounds as that of full-spectrum except for the THC content.
Since THC is psychoactive and often associated with medical marijuana, some individuals prefer to buy broad-spectrum CBD because it does not have the psychoactive compound.
The third variety of CBD is called isolates. CBD isolates are usually sold in crystalline or powdered form.
People looking to purchase pure CBD often decide to get CBD isolates. CBD products containing only pure cannabidiol do not have a distinct smell or taste.
Whichever type of CBD a person chooses, it is vital to select the best quality product available to maximize its health benefits.
Follow these tips to choose only the best CBD oil for Hashimoto’s disease:
- Get a certificate of analysis (COA) or the laboratory report of the CBD product chosen. This document is essential since it indicates that the product has undergone proper testing and contains exactly the specifications mentioned on the label.
- Read product and shop reviews if purchasing from an online CBD store. If deciding to buy from a physical dispensary, check if the establishment has the proper authorization to sell cannabidiol products.
- Buy organic CBD obtained from hemp plants. Industrial hemp is the most dependable source for high-quality cannabidiol.
- Ensure that the legalities involving CBD are followed in the state where one plans to buy and use it.
- Talk to a health care expert, preferably someone experienced in using medical cannabis, before buying any CBD product.
CBD Dosage for Hashimoto’s Disease
The FDA has not approved a CBD product for treating patients with Hashimoto’s disease. Therefore, no official guidelines are available on the proper dosage of CBD for the condition.
However, some users believe that a few factors need to be considered in determining the right dose of CBD.
A person’s body weight and the amount of CBD content in each product are two of the most commonly cited factors.
How to Take CBD Oil for Hashimoto’s Disease
Taking CBD oil in the form of edibles or capsules is the most straightforward way of consuming CBD. For beginners, CBD gummies, brownies, and tablets are recommended.
CBD tinctures that allow users to apply CBD oil under the tongue is suitable for those who want to control the amount of CBD they take.
Meanwhile, CBD, in the form of topicals, like balms, creams, and salves, may be used in massage therapies for relaxation and well-being.
Other Types of Thyroid Disorders
The following are the other common disorders associated with inflammation of the thyroid.
People with hyperthyroidism experience an overactive thyroid wherein the gland produces hormones in excess.
Grave’s disease is a common cause of this disorder. Excessive thyroid hormone levels can lead to symptoms, such as nervousness, irritability, fast heart rate, muscle weakness, and weight loss.
Grave’s disease is another endocrine system disorder that happens when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland by mistake. As a result, a body part produces excess thyroid antibodies.
Patients with Grave’s disease often have enlarged thyroid glands, high blood pressure, and increased metabolism.
CBD has yet to be shown as a potential therapeutic agent in reducing inflammation prevalent in Hashimoto’s disease. There is some evidence, however, related to CBD and general inflammation which may or may not apply to the auto-immune process involved in Hashimoto’s disease.
Several studies have revealed that cannabidiol might suppress immune activation and the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.
Researchers believe that CBD activates certain cannabinoid receptors in the body to exert its anti-inflammatory effects. The CB2 receptor of the endocannabinoid system was especially mentioned.
Although CBD is said to have a favorable safety profile, there is a significant lack of clinical trials on CBD and its efficacy in treating Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Users should consult a doctor, particularly one who is experienced in cannabis products, before purchasing any CBD product for their condition.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hashimoto’s Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease.
- American Thyroid Association. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Lymphocytic Thyroiditis). Retrieved from: https://www.thyroid.org/hashimotos-thyroiditis/.
- Mincer DL, Jialal I. Hashimoto Thyroiditis. [Updated 2020 Feb 23]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459262/
- Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333-1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93
- Costiniuk CT, Jenabian MA. Acute inflammation and pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 infection: Cannabidiol as a potential anti-inflammatory treatment?. Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. 2020;53:63-65. doi:10.1016/j.cytogfr.2020.05.008
- Vuolo F, Petronilho F, Sonai B, et al. Evaluation of Serum Cytokines Levels and the Role of Cannabidiol Treatment in Animal Model of Asthma. Mediators Inflamm. 2015;2015:538670. doi:10.1155/2015/538670
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. op. cit.
- American Thyroid Association. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Lymphocytic Thyroiditis). op. cit.
- Mayo Clinic. Hashimoto’s disease. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hashimotos-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20351855.
- Mincer DL, Jialal I. Hashimoto Thyroiditis. op. cit.
- Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. op. cit.
- Ganesh BB, Bhattacharya P, Gopisetty A, Prabhakar BS. Role of cytokines in the pathogenesis and suppression of thyroid autoimmunity. J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2011;31(10):721-731. doi:10.1089/jir.2011.0049
- Costiniuk CT, Jenabian MA. op. cit.
- Vuolo F, Petronilho F, Sonai B, et al. op. cit.
- Barrie N, Manolios N. The endocannabinoid system in pain and inflammation: Its relevance to rheumatic disease. Eur J Rheumatol. 2017;4(3):210-218. doi:10.5152/eurjrheum.2017.17025
- Donvito G, Nass SR, Wilkerson JL, et al. The Endogenous Cannabinoid System: A Budding Source of Targets for Treating Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018;43(1):52-79. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.204
- Pertwee RG. The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. Br J Pharmacol. 2008;153(2):199-215. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707442
- Lakiotaki E, Giaginis C, Tolia M, Alexandrou P, Delladetsima I, Giannopoulou I, Kyrgias G, Patsouris E, Theocharis S. Clinical Significance of Cannabinoid Receptors CB1 and CB2 Expression in Human Malignant and Benign Thyroid Lesions. First Department of Pathology, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/839403
- Porcella A, Marchese G, Casu MA, et al. Evidence for functional CB1 cannabinoid receptor expressed in the rat thyroid [published correction appears in Eur J Endocrinol 2002 Sep;147(3):434]. Eur J Endocrinol. 2002;147(2):255-261. doi:10.1530/eje.0.1470255
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol–cbd.
- World Health Organization (2018 June). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, March 11). op. cit.
- Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139-154. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
- Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
- Abbott RD, Sadowski A, Alt AG. Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet as Part of a Multi-disciplinary, Supported Lifestyle Intervention for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Cureus. 2019;11(4):e4556. Published 2019 Apr 27. doi:10.7759/cureus.4556
- Wojtas N, Wadolowska L, Bandurska-Stankiewicz E. Evaluation of Qualitative Dietary Protocol (Diet4Hashi) Application in Dietary Counseling in Hashimoto Thyroiditis: Study Protocol of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(23):4841. Published 2019 Dec 2. doi:10.3390/ijerph16234841
- Betsy A, Binitha M, Sarita S. Zinc deficiency associated with hypothyroidism: an overlooked cause of severe alopecia. Int J Trichology. 2013;5(1):40-42. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.114714
- Mayo Clinic. Hypothyroidism: Should I take iodine supplements? Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/expert-answers/hypothyroidism-iodine/faq-20057929.