Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most doctors recommend levothyroxine, the synthetic form of thyroxine (T-4). However, natural extracts are available that contain thyroid hormone derived from the thyroid glands of pigs. These products — Armour Thyroid, for example — contain both levothyroxine and triiodothyronine.

Doctors have a number of concerns about natural thyroid hormone extracts such as Armour Thyroid, including:

  • The balance of T-4 and T-3 in animals isn't the same as in humans.
  • The exact amount of T-4 and T-3 in each batch of a natural extract product can vary, leading to unpredictable levels of these hormones in your blood.
  • T-3 is more potent than T-4, so even a mild excess could cause problems.

Still, researchers have investigated whether adjusting standard hypothyroidism treatment to replace some T-4 with T-3 may offer benefit. The majority of studies have determined that the addition of T-3 does not offer any advantage over treatment with T-4 alone.

However, there is some evidence that T-3 may offer benefit to certain subsets of people, such as people who have had their thyroid surgically removed (thyroidectomy). Research is ongoing.

Jan. 02, 2014