Desiccated Thyroid Medicine vs. Synthetic T4 only (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothyroxine)

Its easy to think all medicine is the same but when it comes to thyroid treatment, there is controversy about the effectiveness of the synthetic medicines like Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothyroxine, Oroxine, and Norton. If you are taking a synthetic prescription like these keep reading, its possible the treatment is only doing part of the job, and possibly more harm than good.

The Basics about Thyroid Hormones

When it comes to treating Hypothyroidism, its important to understand the relationship between two important thyroid hormones; T3 and T4. According to Stop the Thyroid Madness (STTM), T3 is the active thyroid hormone which gives your body overall health, stamina and energy.  While, T4 is the thyroid storage hormone which converts T3 in the body.

Synthetic medicines like Synthroid only provide T4.  However, and this is the critical point, STTM claims a growing number of patients and doctors are realizing T4-only medicines do not help with the conversion of T3 in the body.  Most patients taking T4 only (synthetic medicine) are left with hypothyroid symptoms and related conditions, like high cholesterol, which could affect our overall health.

T4-only Medicines Doing More Harm than Good?

While synthetics medicines might be doing part of the job in treating Hypothyroid symptoms, according to STTM they may also be doing harm because lingering hypothyroidism puts stress on the adrenals which can lead to low cortisol.  To make matters worse, you think you are getting treatment with T4-only medicine but still have hypothyroid symptoms like chronic low grade depression, high cholesterol, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, bi-polar, anxiety, trouble sleeping, hair loss, but don’t know why.

Desiccated Thyroid Medicine

According to STTM, natural desiccated thyroid hormones have been around for over 100 years. They are available by prescription and give patients the T4, T3, T2, T1 and calcitonin our bodies need (not just T4).  The most common brands are Naturthroid, Westhroid, and Erfa (in Canada). Natural desiccated thyroid hormones are made from pig glandular (gross I know!) but they meet the stringent guidelines of the US Pharmacopeia, and have a long proven track record.

My Medicine

Until 2010 I had tried both Naturthroid and Armour. Both worked great for me until they both reformulated! After the reformulations, many people including myself experienced more hypothyroid symptoms and other issues. Largely people seem to have a reaction to the filler used in the new formula.

From 2010 until mid-2013, I had my thyroid medicine custom made through a compound parmacy, so I could control the filler being used. The pharmacy is called Collier’s, located in Fayetteville Arkansas. Anyone can order from Collier’s. It’s very easy. Just ask your doctor to call Rodney at (479) 935-4336. Ask for the “Miss Lizzy Compound” and he can talk with your doctor about the prescription details. It costs about $50/mo, so its definitely more than Armour or Naturethroid but for me it was well worth it.

MEDICINE UPDATE (Jan 2014): Starting mid-2013 I switched to a new dessicated thyroid medicine called “NP Thyroid” by the pharmaceutical company “Acella”. They had some shortages over the summer of 2013 but have had good stock since then. NP Thyroid reminds me of the “old Armour” before it was reformulated. I have done very well on NP Thyroid. It dissolves easily under the tongue — which is great because you can eat and drink immediately before and after taking the medicine. And I have a good reaction to NP Thyroid overall.

I continue to meet women who say they are “getting treated” on T4-only medicines but still experience many hypothyroid symptoms like depression, terrible PMS, weight gain, arthritis, or are going bald. Its so scary! And they have no idea the medicine may not be working for them. If you know someone like this who is taking T4-only medicine and still having problems please share this blog post.




Miss LizzyDesiccated Thyroid Medicine vs. Synthetic T4 only (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothyroxine)

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Join the conversation
  • Dr. Charles - July 26, 2010

    Dear Miss LIzzy,Great info! Accurate and spot on. Your blog is highly informative and interesting….all with a great sense of humor.Well done!

  • Lizzy - July 27, 2010

    Thanks Dr. B! You are my hero. Hey everyone, say hello to Dr. B.xxooLizzy

    Melissa Poppy - October 25, 2016

    I have been to so many doctors my head spins just thinking about it. I have so many symptoms and I have a new doctors appointment with doctor #15 tomorrow. I am honestly so tired of when I go in doctors touch my neck where my thyroid is and tell me to swallow. Then they shake their heads and say, that feels fine. Then they look at my thyroid results and I am .1 over the lowest range in normal so I am in the box…seriously .1 I also have adrenal insufficiency. They tried steroids but it wasn’t a good fit for me-though I am considering going back on it because I am so tired I am afraid I will lose my job and marriage over this illness. Thanks for your blog….maybe I will request additional testing.

  • Cristy B. - April 25, 2012

    So I have been taking levothroxin 88 for about 6 months or so, prior to that several strengths. I have been testing my levels about every other month. I feel like something is off, but all the levels are in normal range. I have been hard core dieting, eating right and exercising and have stayed at a consistent weight. Not even losing a pound. I still have a tendency to drag around with little energy. My question to you is if I start taking desiccated thyroid will the symptoms that are still there go away? I am tired of being tired and all the extra weight is weighing me down. I have recently had a bad bout of acne on my face, back and chest. I have been reading on this but needed the inside scoop. Thank you for your time and help!

  • SmileNT - March 31, 2014

    Thank you Lizzing for sharing your story. I am currently struggling with many of the hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue symptoms mentioned on this page. I have been on this long frustrating journey trying to find a way to deal with the weight gain, fatigue, and thinning hair. I've tried many things leaving me little to no relief. This website gives me a new perspective and encouragement for something that can address my specific needs. I am following some of your eating guidelines and noticing immediate positive results. It's only been about 3 days so far and I am looking forward to continued success in the days to come! Many thanks for all of your knowledge and words of encouragement.

  • Páu Liñe - April 29, 2014

    Interesting. I am from the Netherlands and reconize all the symtomps from hypo but yet doctors tell me that my levels are completely normal. I have terrible PMS too, always cold, and I am already walking around with a puffy face, a lot of backpain, foggy head, it’s just horrible. The mean doctor send me away with ‘psycological issues’. Then I came across your website and it made me feel a little bit better again. I have a question, how do you dose with your NP Thyroid? And do you think it would be possible for me to get it here in the Netherlands?

    Thank you very much for your website, I hope you can be my final answer.

    My levels were:
    THS 1.9
    FT4: 14
    FT3: 4.6

    Looks compeletely normal, yet all the symtoms, then I read on ‘Stopthetyroidmadness’ about the very low THS levels and feeling great. I think this might be the answer, why else do I have all the hypo symtoms? Right now no doctor wants to help me, but I am starting to understand that I can start natural medication by myself, how do you dose?

    Hopefully I could talk to you or get an answer


  • Ana Elisa Carrasquel-Edge - October 23, 2016

    I’ve been taking medication since I was 18 years old (now 39), 10 years ago, after all doctors would tell me I have to learn how to live with my symptoms, and after doing my oun research, I found Armor thyroid as an option. It was night and day over synthetic t4. Thanks to you, I now know why my medicine hasn’t worked the same for years. I will switch to NP Thyrois asap and let you know. Thanks again.

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