Category Archives: Endocrine

Understanding the endocrine System

How important is it?

The endocrine system is a network of glands that help control the following processes and systems:
Growth and development
Homeostasis (the internal balance of body systems)
Metabolism (body energy levels)
Response to stimuli (stress and/or injury)

The endocrine system performs these functions through glands, which are small but highly important organs that produce, store, and secrete hormones into the bloodstream.

The glands of the endocrine system are:
Pineal Gland
Pituitary Gland

Mostly in clinic, I assist in treatment of HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary Adrenal -Axis) and HPTA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary Thyroid and Adrenal Axis).

Pancreas -insulin &  glucagon in the regulation of blood glucose

Thyroid -metabolism, which is your body’s ability to break down food and convert it to energy.

Adrenal the adrenal glands are two glands that sit on top of your kidneys that are made up of two distinct parts.

The adrenal cortex—the outer part of the gland—produces hormones that are vital to life, such as cortisol (which helps regulate metabolism and helps your body respond to stress) and aldosterone (which helps control blood pressure).
The adrenal medulla—the inner part of the gland—produces nonessential (that is, you don’t need them to live) hormones, such as adrenaline (which helps your body react to stress).

A’ Tishoo A’ Tishoo we all fall down! The Effect of Stress on Health & Immunity – A different approach

Both from a clinical and social perspective, people develop infections from exhaustion and nervous depletion. We become susceptible to illness when dealing with chronic stress and work. Sayings such as ‘run down’ ‘too much on my plate’ & ‘stressed out’, all mean, lowered immunity due to high levels of stress. Scientific lingo Psycho-Neuro-Endocrino-Immunology (PNEI) is the study of effects of chronic stress on human immune tissue. Research has shown remarkable instances of tissue damage and immune deficiency with continued stress. Studies in Molecular Psychiatry and Immunology have shown, chronic excess levels of cortisol production, weakens activity of immune function opening the way to inflammation and infections. Neuroendocrine-immune interactions are regulated by corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) indirectly, through activation of stress directly and through pro-inflammatory actions on peripheral immune functions. The indirect effects of stress on immune/inflammatory responses occur via the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic/adreno-medullary system. Glucocorticoids and catecholamines affect Th1 and 2 immune cells and mediators. Stress influences the development, course and pathology of acute and chronic health conditions such as infections, allergies, autoimmune, and inflammation. The psychological and behavioral consequences of stress have additional effects by increasing health-impairing behaviours e.g. poor diet, sleep, lack of exercise, substance abuse and mood disorders.

Medical herbalism offers a different approach, with the cooler changes ahead. Know your body and recognize the signs of exhaustion and stress. Enjoy rest, recreation, gentle exercise, sunlight (Vit D), healthy protein, Vitamins (A, B’s & C) and minerals (Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium).

Allow immune tissue to naturally respond to colds and flu, by utilising the wonderful benefits of pharmaceutical grade herbal medicines. Treatment is safe, effective and prescribed professionally.

Neuro-protective and Immune-modulating are terms used in this area of herbalism to describe Holy Basil, Withania, Siberian ginseng, Reishi and Rhodiola. These help the body adapt to stress and prevent infections and serious illness.

Immune-stimulating- modulating, Anti-inflammatory and Anti-microbial herbs include; Echinacea spp., Thyme, Boneset, Manuka, Andrographis, Cats Claw and Golden Seal.

Tonic and recovery effects are assisted with Codonopsis, Astragalus, Oats and Licorice Root. Respiratory and lung herbs effectively treat chest infections and severe coughs. These include; Inula, Ribwort, Licorice, Mullein, Pleurisy root, Hyssop and Wild Cherry bark.

General resistance herbs include; Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Olive leaf, Fenugreek and Turmeric to maintain health. Herbal medicine has clinical and scientific efficacy helping to strengthen and nourish body tissue, invaluable in preventing infections. Treatment may be before, during or after illness.


Rhodiola rosea

Common names: Golden root, rose root, arctic root.

Botanical Family: Crassulaceae. Part used: Root

As part of my series on Nervines or herbs exerting a positive action on the nervous system, I would like to introduce Rhodiola. This is fast becoming one of my favourite herbs due to its unique actions and its ‘super-herb’ abilities.

Russian scientists and Western researchers have accumulated an impressive amount of scientific research to validate its abilities as neuro and cardio-protective, ie protecting brain, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Also it has tonic, immune-modulatory, adaptagenic and antioxidant properties. In other words in enhances physical, emotional and mental performance, particularly in times of severe stress. The saying of adaptagens in herbal medicine is ‘by taking these herbs particularly through stressful periods allows one to handle more crap for longer ‘ and not pay the price as often happens due to adrenal exhaustion.

Rhodiola boosts immune function, increases concentration, memory and energy.

It increases resistance to altitude sickness, assists with depression, anxiety and nervous system disorders. Interestingly, it assists with sexual dysfunction, anaemia, and chronic infections including post-viral syndromes, fibromyalgia and aspects of thyroid dysfunction.

Mode of Action

  1. Rhodiola has a balancing effect on the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal) axis and has been shown to favorably impact cortisol levels and modulate the stress response.
  2. It also modulates the levels and activity of monoamines and opioid peptides such as beta-endorphins.
  3. The potent antioxidant activities of Rhodiola contributes to its adaptogenic effects.
  4. It modulates the immune system and improves physical stamina by increasing the production of ATP and has been shown to improve mental capacity under stressful circumstances.

Clinical Trials

A recent systematic review of randomized clinical trials found Rhodiola to be safe with beneficial effects on physical performance, mental performance and in certain mental health conditions related to stress.

As a tonic, I mix it with Withania, Bacopa, Astragalus, Rhemania, Schisandra and St Johns Wort, Magnolia or Passionflower and Skullcap, to assist clients; immune function, exhaustion, nervous debility, depression, anxiety and mental fatigue.


Chen, T.,S.,Liou, S.,Y., & Chang, Y., L.,(2008),Antioxidant evaluation of three adaptogen extracts, The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 36(6), 1209-1217.

Hung, S.,K., Perry, R., & Ernst, E., (2011), The effectiveness an efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine, 18(4), 235-244.

Panossian, A.,G., (2013), Adaptogens in mental and behavioral disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North American, 36(1), 49-64.

Panossian, A.,G.,wikman, G., & Sarris, J.(2010),Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): Traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine, 17(7), 481-493.

Ross, S., M., (2014), Rhodiola rosea (SHR-5), part 1 Holistic Nursing Practice, 28(2), 149-154.

Stress, Exhaustion and Depletion; the Dance of our Hormones

Stress, Exhaustion and Depletion – The Dance of our Hormones 

Stress, exhaustion, weight issues, gut/immune and mood disorders are common presentations in clinic, existing as single presentations or as very complex problems. Generally clients have gone through extreme stress or have ongoing stress or trauma; they also have a feeling of ‘burn out’ or profound apathy.

Stress factors can be; physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Issues such as; loss, grief, accidents, illness, toxicity, overtraining, dieting, injury, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, separation, financial, family problems, housing, intimidation or abuse to name a few.

The three stages of stress or General Adaption Syndrome (GAS) include:

Alarm response – flight or fight phase

Adaption phase – characterized by adaption (resilience), coping with the threat (stressor)

Exhaustion phase -when capacity for adaption becomes overwhelmed. Therefore, the more stress we endure the more we deplete our glands and hormones, so they are unable to function for normal biological processes.

The dance of the human hormones begins when people adapt to their stressful lives and stress is ongoing. If left unresolved or when chronic stress perpetuates, the adrenal and thyroid glands become chronically depleted. If the thyroid gland only is treated and the adrenals are not supported, clients can ‘burn out’ or ‘become chronically fatigued’.

The body is resilient: When prolonged stress occurs, the Hypothalamus (brain), Pituitary, (governing gland) Thyroid and Adrenals (response glands) will function constantly, performing numerous tasks that include feedback loops to keep us going. While the thyroid sets our ‘idle’ levels or baseline, the adrenals act as an energy ‘accelerator’, when requirements are greater. Prolonged elevations of cortisol -secreted by the adrenal glands during stress can affect the thyroid gland by:

  1. Inhibiting thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and conversion of the thyroid hormones, Thyroxine (T4) into triiodothyronine (T3) which mostly takes place in the liver.
  2. Decrease the liver’s ability to clear other hormones such as excess oestrogen’s (add in the Pill and HRT) from the blood.
  3. Increase of Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG). TBG’s are proteins that thyroid hormones attach to as they are transported through the blood and to the tissues. If TBG levels are high, they will bind more thyroid hormones, decreasing the free hormones available in the body, thereby leading to thyroid symptoms.
  4. Sending TSH levels up higher where eventually the receptivity capacity of the thyroid gland is reduced causing thyroid hormone resistance, particularly if there is inflammation through the gland such as Thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s Disease. Inflammatory mediators have been shown to suppress thyroid receptor site sensitivity.1 Thyroid hormone is knocking on the cell’s door, but the cells don’t answer. Iodine, vitamins /minerals or thyroid hormones help but cannot counteract this condition.
  5. General pathology tests (only TSH) and the reliance of medicating with thyroid replacement hormone (T4) or medications to suppress the thyroid, are both unreliable and confusing when it comes to understanding and treating the complexities of thyroid and adrenal problems.
  6. It is necessary to manage and deal with the stressors and assist the adrenals so the body doesn’t fall into this chronic depletion.

We all experience stress in our lives but ongoing, unresolved chronic stress can lead to:

Low thyroid symptoms: decreased body temperature, joint /muscle pain, fatigue, nodule or goiter growth, dry skin/hair loss, moodiness and weight gain.

High thyroid symptoms; racing heart, anxiety, weight loss, nodule growth, tiredness or feeling ‘wired’.

Adrenal fatigue; fatigue, moodiness/depression/anxiety, sleep disorders, craving salt and stimulants, apathy, reduced libido.

The Answer

The adaptagenic herbs are a favourite of most naturopaths when it comes to adrenal fatigue and stress. These include:

Rhodiola, Rhemannia,Siberian ginseng, (Indian Ginseng) -Withania, American ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Holy Basil and Schisandra.







Do you have Undiagnosed Thyroid Problems?

An increase of (mostly) women are presenting with undiagnosed or ‘subclinical’ thyroid problems. Their symptoms can be subtle or obvious; they present with one or more symptoms; their thyroid gland maybe over or under- active or fluctuate between. They are generally tired, moody and carrying extra weight, or thinner with heart racing, trembling and anxious.

When clients present to the Doctor, often pathology tests come back ‘within the normal limits’. TSH -thyroid stimulating hormone has to over 3.5 or under 0.3mU/L to be considered a problem-a very wide range. T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) the main thyroid hormones are not tested initially. When TSH is over 3.5 mU/L, (hypothyroidism) the medical treatment is T4, which helps initially but is just substituting a hormone, not dealing with the ongoing problem. If TSH is under 3.5 and not a ‘medical condition’, the symptoms still exist and become increasingly frustrating, as the thyroid gland regulates heat production in the body and the whole body’s metabolism slows down.

This is a complex situation as thyroid hormones are regulated and constantly adjusting to a very sensitive feedback loop involving the hypothalamus (brain), pituitary and adrenal glands. Big contributors to this common condition include; stress, worry, pregnancy, trauma, tap water (fluoride and chlorine), soya, but seems mostly due to inadequate dietary intake of iodine and selenium.

If you have 1 or more symptoms contact Vanessa for a Thyroid check or treatment options.

  • Fatigue, depression, anxiety, mood swings
  • Cold or heat intolerance
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Tremor and/or heart racing
  • Memory loss or poor concentration
  • Hair loss or thinning, dry skin, sore eyes
  • Infertility or menstrual disorders, low sex drive
  • Muscle / joint pain/carpel tunnel
  • Slow or fast metabolism, digestion problems
  • Goitre/swollen throat region/ nodules/enlarged thyroid gland