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Each week, I like to introduce medicinal plants that can be grown in your gardens or may already be lurking there. I don’t typically go too far into the nitty gritty about any plant’s specific herbal use beyond an introduction into its history and a few tidbits about how it can be or has been used, but after I wrote about bugleweed a few weeks ago, I received a great question from a reader looking for more in-depth information about how to use it. I am excited to hear from you when you want to learn more about any particular plant!
Bugleweed is the common name for three different common species we have here in the U.S. According to herbalist Matthew Wood, Lycopus virginicus, L. americanus and L. europaeus can all be used interchangeably for their medicinal properties. There are, however, 10 different species of the plant found throughout the United States. They all tend to grow in low, wet, marshy areas, differing only in their region, soil preference and frost tolerance. The leaves of bugleweed are pretty distinct, having a fairly even-tooth pattern and tapering to a point at the end. They all bloom with a white colored flower that is shaped like a bell or bugle, thus its common name.
Many people confuse bugleweed with another plant that holds a similar common name. The Ajuga species is also called bugleweed and can cause some consternation if you try to do any kind of research on medicinal properties. Be sure you are looking for a Lycopus species specifically.
Traditionally, bugleweed was used in consumptive situations involving the heart and lungs. It’s a strong, bitter sedative with specific actions on the cardiovascular system. It is now being used with great success with people struggling with an overactive thyroid and those who have been diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, an immune disorder resulting in an overactive thyroid. The plant is most effective for those whose hyperactive thyroid drives their heart to palpitate and their nervous system to tighten into anxiety attacks and shallow breathing. While its medicinal effects aren’t as strong as prescription medication, it’s been sufficient in many cases to keep the thyroid antibodies at bay.
I have a good friend who is using bugleweed in her treatment plan for Graves’. Like many others following this protocol, she often introduces lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) from time to time, as well. Anyone wishing to try to use bugleweed should consult with both their doctor and a holistic practitioner if they can’t find a professional that can qualify as both. The body’s levels of thyroid hormone must be monitored and the immune system needs to be observed to prevent unnecessary damage to the thyroid itself.
Herbal Help For Thyroid Health
Any time you choose to follow an herbal protocol such as this, there are many factors to consider. Of course there is the practical matter of how much, how often that simply must be determined by an experienced practitioner keyed into your overall size, shape, constitution and history. Beyond the use of the plant, there’s a lot more to using a botanical solution for a serious health issue like this. In all cases, and most especially in the case of the thyroid, thought life and emotional well being needs to be addressed.
The thyroid is intimately tied to how we handle stressful events in our lives, what we tell ourselves about our ability to cope, and how we hang onto negative emotions. Unless and until the thought patterns that can set off the condition of thyroid imbalance or Graves’ Disease are altered, it can be very difficult to successfully reverse the situation regardless of your choice of treatments. Diet must also be changed, as well as activity levels. Often those who struggle with thyroid issues have had a major change in their lives that set them spinning and started a cycle of stress. Others simply have lived in an area where the nutrition needed by the thyroid is not present in the soil or groundwater, and they’ve done nothing by way of supplements or food choices to correct the situation.
Making Bugleweed Medicine
Bugleweed can be grown very easily to support an overactive thyroid or Graves’ Disease. I strongly believe that growing our own medicine creates a deeper relationship to our healing process. The plant is harvested just before its small flower buds open. Everything above ground is dried and can then be made into teas, tinctures, or pills and capsules.
How much of each you take is determined by the individual and the method of delivery. This is where it’s important to consult the guidance of a professional. The amount you determine to be right for you should be taken three times a day to address a chronic issue. It is very important that before using bugleweed one know for sure that they are suffering from an overactive thyroid. It is not recommended for those with underactivity in this gland.