Acupuncture for Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease

HyperthyroidismHyperthyroidism is confirmed by blood tests where the T4 and T3 levels are elevated and thyroid stimulating hormone is low. Graves’ disease leads to hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease is hereditary and effects more women than men and is characterised by protusion of the eyeballs, enlarged thyroid gland, excitability and nervousness and rapid heart beat. It is an auto immune disease and blood analysis can show that there are antibodies against the thyroid TSH receptors.

Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include anxiety, weight loss, intolerance to heat, sweating and irritability. Palpitation and a fluttering heart sensation can be common as well.

One western medical treatment for Graves’ disease is radioactive iodine which causes hypothyroidism in more than 25% of patients.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used for hundreds of years to treat hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease.

In ancient China, symptoms of hyperthyroidism were called

“gu yan ning jing” which translates as “dove-like fixed eye”.

Ancient Chinese physicians in fact knew that goitres were more prominent in certain remote mountainous areas where the soil was deficient in certain substances and that sea weed could treat the problem. About 1000 years later, modern medical physicians worked out that iodine deficiency can cause goitre.

Chinese medical diagnosis looks at the cause of hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease also from a hereditary point of view where treatment is focused on improving the “essence” or constitutional factors of the patient. In western medical terms, stress can also affect the thyroid and Chinese medicine looks at the liver to address the stress causing the imbalance.

The liver in Chinese medical thought can become imbalanced in a number of ways. One is that it can become blocked and then affect free flow of energy to all the meridians. This then causes fluids, including phlegm, to accumulate and block the throat region and cause goitre.

The liver can easily become too hot from excess anger or spicy food and as we all know, heat rises. As the heat rises, the symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism such as sweating, palpitations and heat intolerance come about.

Ancient physicians realised that there was a connection between the eyes and liver and this is one of the reasons why patients with hyperthyroidism get the symptom presentation of bulging eyes.

Many of the Chinese herbs that have been traditionally used to treat this problem have been researched from a modern biomedical perspective. For instance, huang qi (Radix Astragali Membranacei) when used at high doses in formulations can lower T3 and T4, and effectively therefore treat hyperthyroidism.

Chinese herb formula

Chinese herb formulation

Acupuncture for hyperthyroidism is best combined with Chinese herbs for optimum effect. Dr He of the Jiang Su Provincial Hospital in Nanjing has found that with his research, the “acupuncture only group” had a 40% higher rate of remaining symptom free as compared to the control group that received acupuncture plus western medicine. He also found that many patients who received western medicine only were able to control the hyperthyroidism but the symptoms of bulging eyes and dry throat remained.

About Heiko Lade

Hi, I'm Heiko Lade - qualified acupuncturist at The Acupuncture Clinic in Napier, New Zealand. If you would like to make an appointment for a consultation and treatment, please contact me.


  1. I have been diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. I know this can be treated with Acupuncture so I went to see an Acupuncturist. She’s been needling just the abdomen area only to address this problem. There seems to be no signs of progress even after 10 weeks. In fact, I am feeling more sick, tired and losing severe weight. But my acupuncturist keeps saying that she is administering the right treatment. Could you please advise if I am getting the right acupuncture treatment for Hyperthyroidism? I am actually based in Australia.

    • Sorry I couldn’t advise you as I have not seen you. Perhaps you could consider another acupuncturist for a second opinion.

    • I have graves disease and hyperthyroidism as well. I was thinking of going to one to treat it because I hated the side effects of my pills. I would get another opinion. I am wondering why in the stomach and not the neck throat area? It would seem they should be placed in all areas of the body. I used to get this done for pain and it worked. In less then 8 visits I was feeling great, this is why I would recommend this treatment. Get your BP checked once a month because if you get hypertension as well it will make you very ill and tired. This can kill you so be aware of the signs.

  2. Hi
    I am due to get my first taste of acupuncture on Monday to help with Graves Disease.
    Are there any tips you can give me.
    Im terrified of needles.
    Thank you.

    • im based UK.

    • Its nothing like what you think it is, so relax … cheers Heiko

      • First you need a diagnosis. Overactive thiryod is not a diagnosis. It is only a symptom. You need a TSI test to see if the diagnosis is Grave’s disease. (Grave’s disease is the number one most common cause of overactive thiryod.) If the diagnosis is Grave’s disease, then the treatment is methimizole. Methimizole is a simple, cheap, generic prescription drug.

  3. Hi
    can acupuncture cure Bluging eyes which have been there for 10 years now. what are the chances to get treated fully. can you please advice.

    • It would be difficult to say without seeing you and getting a full history. Many factors such as if you have been taking medication all these years etc would be taken into account. But it wouldn’t be a quick and dramatic change.

  4. Great easy to read article. Brilliant reference for patients. Keep them coming.

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