Iodine As Medicine

Barnard Courtois was the French chemist that first discovered iodine by accident in 1811. Until the mid-1900s, iodine had many widespread medical applications. Iodine as medicine was used to treat various skin conditions, fungal infestations and lung disease. Iodine was also used in the treatment of syphilis and to help unclog the plaque in hardened arteries.

The Nobel laureate who discovered vitamin C, Dr. Albert S Györgi, had this to say about the fascinating mineral:

“When I was a medical student, iodine in the form of KI (potassium iodide) was the universal medicine.  Nobody knew what it did, but it did something and did something good. We students used to sum up the situation in this little rhyme: If ye don’t know where, what, and why Prescribe ye then K and I.” 

Potassium Iodide occurs naturally in kelp. The Encyclopedia Britannica at the time described the effects of compounds containing potassium iodide as obscure and consistently brilliant.

History of Iodine Deficiency

Less Iodine Content in the Soil

Iodine and other minerals once had a natural and reliable ecosystem supply route. It is more abundant in the aquatic ecosystem than on land. Despite this, iodine was still able to replenish the earth’s soil with impressive frequency. The winds carried the minerals from the oceans and the rains deposited them into the earth’s soil. As the earth absorbed these minerals they provided nourishment for plant life. Animals then ate the plants and humans, being omnivores, ate both the plants and the animals. And so the cycle continued.

The amount of iodine found in plants depended, as it does now, on the amount of iodine in the soil. In the early 1900s, some parts of the US had very low iodine content in the ground. This included the mountainous regions and the Mississippi River Valley. Other areas included the Ohio River Valley and the Great Lakes region.

The low iodine levels in these regions had a negative health impact on the local inhabitants. They developed large growths in their thyroids called goiters. By far the most common cause of goiter is a lack of iodine in the diet. Because of this condition, these regions became known collectively as the “Goiter Belt.” This prompted the American and Canadian governments to promote iodine as an essential nutrient

A Solution to Low Iodine

The job was to then get iodine into the diet by adding it into foods that most people consumed on a regular basis. This process of adding essential elements to food is known as food fortification. Iodine was added to milk, bread and ultimately salt. This was a relatively simple way to combat the goiter epidemic in and around the Goiter Belt.

Low RDA for Iodine

In the early 1950s, the US recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for iodine changed. It was reduced to just 0.150 mg or 150 mcg. This change was based on flawed research. The suggestion was that iodine could be toxic to the thyroid if more than 2 mg was consumed on a daily basis. This idea would have little to no support today. However the RDA for iodine remains the same and is far too low. Though it is enough to prevent goiters.

Medical physicians and holistic doctors, including Dr. Jorge Flechas MD, and Dr. David Brownstein MD, now know that iodine plays a much greater role in our overall health.

Reduced Availability and Consumption of Iodine

The fear of iodine toxicity resulted in the removal of this element from bread in the 1980s. They then replaced the iodine in bread with bromine. This was not a good move. The problem with bromine is that it inhibits iodine absorption within the body.

Iodine is most prevalent in sea foods. Potassium iodide occurs naturally in kelp (large brown seaweed). Potassium iodide is a salt of stable iodine.

Caution with Seafood

These days, Americans tend to restrict the amount of seafood they consume which is a wise choice. Many sea foods, such as fish and seaweed, now contain high levels of mercury. The accumulation of mercury is not only toxic but it also replaces iodine in the body.

Reduced Salt Intake

Over the generations, government health departments have advised Americans to reduce their salt intake. The reasons given are it contributes to high blood pressure and hypertension. It is also said that excessive salt consumption increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. As we consume less iodized salt, our body becomes even more deprived of the much needed iodine.

Halogens and the Modern Environment

Halogens can accumulate in the body and quickly reach toxic amounts. They include fluorine, bromine, and chlorine. The halogens look very similar at an atomic level. When it comes to binding to receptors they can replace each other. Receptors are protein molecules. They can recognize and respond to the body’s own (endogenous) chemical messengers including hormones and neurotransmitters.

Halogens in your system compete with each other. They compete for absorption and even utilization in iodine binding sites in the thyroid and the rest of the body. Our modern environment is awash with poisonous halogens. They are present into pesticides, water supplies, toothpaste and even bakery products.

As you can see from the above, it’s almost impossible now to get enough iodine from diet alone. There are too many competing variables to only rely on food for your iodine needs.

Iodine for Your Thyroid and Heavy Metal Detox

It is crucial that you get enough iodine into your system on a regular basis. You need it because iodine helps to maintain good health and fight diseases. It also displaces harmful halogens and expels heavy metals from your system. Heavy metals in your body can undermine your health in so many ways. Reducing and eliminating heavy metals in your body will have the reverse effect and promote better health. Regular, controlled amounts of iodine, especially with selenium, can help to do just that.

It is critical that sufficient iodine is taken so that it helps maintain good health and fight disease while displacing halogens and expelling heavy metals that can cause health issues.

The Importance of Iodine

It Affects Everyone

The first problem is that there is less and less iodine available from our food sources. The other problem is the increase in harmful halogens in modern living. These halogens compete with the reduced amount of iodine the body has. Needless to say that iodine deficiency affects Americans and Canadians across North America.

Iodine for Women

Women produce high amounts of the sex hormone estrogen, and this inhibits the uptake of iodine in the body. After the thyroid gland, the ovaries need more iodine than any other gland or organ in the body. Iodine is a particularly important element for the production of female hormones.

Pregnant and Lactating Women

It is well established that pregnant women have significantly reduced amounts of iodine in their bodies. Lack of iodine during pregnancy can have serious implications. It is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery and stillbirth.

Fetuses and Newborns

Iodine is essential for healthy brain development in the fetus and in growing children. A woman’s iodine requirements increase by a lot during pregnancy. It has to, so that there is adequate supply to the fetus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published alarming findings about iodine deficiency. They said that it’s the leading cause of mental retardation throughout the entire world. This deficiency is also a contributing factor to ADD and ADHD.

Iodine supplementation can reduce the occurrence of mental retardation in children. It can also have a significant increase in the intellectual prowess of children. In fact, researchers have linked controlled iodine supplementation to higher IQ scores. In some cases, children can show an IQ score that is 20-30 points higher than that of their parents.

Iodine and Vegetarians

For years vegetarians knew nothing of the importance of iodine or consuming sea vegetables. Vegetarians who are iodine deficient need regular supplementation, and in high dosages. It is the only way to restore their bodies to normal levels. Today the advice to vegetarians and vegans alike is to include more seaweed in their diet. The problem with this is that it will mean more exposure to toxic heavy metals such as mercury.

In the twenty-first century we have coal-fired electricity generation, smelting and the incineration of waste. These activities boost the amount of airborne mercury. It finds its way into lakes, rivers and oceans. Sea life and animals then consumes it and it is now part of the food chain.

The Whole Body Needs It

Iodine is necessary for many functions in the human body. It is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. It is also needed for the detoxification of the harmful halogens mentioned earlier. To recap, these are bromine, chlorine, and fluoride. Every tissue in the body needs iodine and the body cannot produce it on its own. That is why it is referred to as an “essential” element.

The thyroid can store large quantities of iodine, but the whole body needs it. Your adrenal glands, ovaries, breasts, and prostate gland also use iodine. In fact, the entire hormonal system and tissue of the human body needs iodine to some degree.

Let’s look at a few of these to see just how important iodine is to human health.


Iodine is vital for brain development, preventing brain damage and reducing brain fog.


Iodine reduces soreness and fibrocystic breast disease (FBD). It also reduces cyclic mastalgia. Iodine fights breast cancer cells, and provides essential iodine for newborns via breast milk.

Thyroid Gland

Iodine regulates the thyroid gland and the body’s metabolism. Those who deal with chronic fatigue and have trouble losing weight may have an under active thyroid. Read the article on Iodine and Weight Loss to learn more.

Salivary Glands

Iodine helps with dry mouth, inability to produce saliva, and prevents gland malfunctions and diseases.


Iodine counters problems with sweating and dry skin.


Iodine helps the body produce the correct amount of stomach acids.


Iodine is used in the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancers.


When muscles are deficient in iodine, muscle weakness, nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis, and fibromyalgia can develop.


Studies show that Japanese men have a lower risk of prostate cancer. This is likely to the Japanese high consumption of iodine-rich seafood, both plants and animals.

Proper Cognitive Development and Function

Iodine deficiency can cause lower-than-average IQ in infants and children. It is also connected to a reduced ability to work and think clearly among adults. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy has links to various birth defects in newborns.

Especially Important for Women

Iodine is the modern female mineral because it is especially important for women’s health. After the thyroid gland, the ovaries need more iodine than any other gland or organ in a women’s body. Iodine has an effect on the entire hormonal (or endocrine) system. It is particularly important for the controlled production of female hormones. One example is that iodine ensures the proper balance between the three principal forms of estrogen. These are estriol, estrone and estradiol.

Compared to men, hypothyroidism affects women disproportionately. In the US, this is at a rate of about 9 to 1. The main reason is that the female hormone estrogen inhibits the absorption of iodine. On average, Japanese women get 25 times more dietary iodine than their American counterparts. On a population basis, Japanese women have a much lower incidence of breast cancer.


Iodine helps the body eliminate toxic metals and fights off many types of infection. It also promotes the urinary excretion of toxic halogens. It might pay us to follow the example of the Japanese. In fact, Japanese iodine intake from edible seaweed is the highest in the world. The average is approximately 12-14 mg. Worth noting is that the Japanese people have less incidence of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and other forms of cancer. They also have higher than average IQ scores. Learn more about iodine intake from seaweeds in the Iodine and Iodides in Seaweeds and Supplements article.

It is critical that we get enough iodine so that the brain and nervous system develops properly. It is also crucial that we reduce the incidence of new cancers while countering various other forms of cancer prevalent today.

The Zen Haus Iodine Supplement

The Zen Haus Iodine Supplement is the choice supplement for Americans. Consider the reasons outlined below.

High Potency

The dosage is enough to restore and maintain healthy levels of iodine in the body. It is also sufficient for supplementing the increased iodine needs of pregnant and lactating women. Other supplements containing iodine tend to fall short on dosage. Many of them only have 25–150 mcg, which is closer to the outdated RDA amount. It is certainly not enough to address the current epidemic of iodine deficiency.

These lower dosages do not address the needs of pregnant and lactating women or thyroid disorders. Nor do they address various forms of cancer including breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer. Remember the US RDA amount was set to be sufficient to prevent goiter. It was set in a time of heightened medical iodopohobia and the importance of iodine throughout the body was poorly understood.

The Zen Haus Iodine Supplement contains 12.5 mg of elemental iodine. Elemental iodine is the essential element. It helps raise metabolism and restore the electrical balance in your body. This supplement delivers iodine to the body using a potassium iodide compound which is well-absorbed in the stomach. There, potassium iodide is converted to the bio-active form of iodine that the thyroid and other parts of the body needs. The first step in the synthesis of thyroid hormone is the uptake of iodide into the cells of the thyroid gland. This is done by the Sodium-Iodide Symporter. Clearly, your body needs the iodide form of iodine.

Read our 4-part article entitled Why KI? for more information.


The Zen Haus Iodine Supplement includes selenium. This is a trace mineral and one which works in conjunction with iodine. Selenium is vital for helping the body to recycle iodine. It is needed to make enzymes that convert inactive thyroid hormones (T4) to active thyroid hormones (T3).


Selenium assists the body to produce a simple molecule called glutathione. Glutathione prevents damage to important cellular components. It also builds the immune system and supports the heart. Furthermore, glutathione removes mercury and other toxic metals from the body.

Our modern lifestyle depletes our glutathione levels. It is the usual culprits like poor diet, pollution, toxins and pharmaceutical medications. A few others are stress, trauma, aging and infections.

The good news is that the Zen Haus Iodine Supplement includes an appropriate amount of Selenium.

Tablet Form

The two most common forms of iodine supplements are tablets and tinctures. Each of these has their strengths and weaknesses. However, we have determined that for iodine supplementation the tablet form is superior. This is why we created the Zen Haus Iodine Supplement in tablet form. Tablets are more stable, better tasting, longer lasting and more convenient. They are also alcohol-free and more cost effective when compared to liquid alternatives.

Tablet supplementation is also a safe alternative than consuming large amounts of sea food. Sea food does deliver iodine to us in the form of potassium iodide. The problem is that seafood today contains higher amounts of mercury that can accumulate to dangerous levels in the body.

Now you can have potassium iodide which is clean and safe. It is accompanied by selenium, which supports iodine uptake in the body. The way to take iodine supplementation is with food. Iodine is easily oxidized. Food present in the digestive tract will oxidize iodine to iodide which is not corrosive to the gastrointestinal tract.

The thyroid, breast tissue, muscle tissue, ovaries and skin all use IODIDE.  So does the brain, cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), and the pancreas. This is the form your body prefers and has much less digestive burden while avoid other complications with digestion. It is also the type that occurs naturally in sea vegetables. Unlike sea vegetables, supplements do not contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury.


After this article was posted we had adjusted our position on the inclusion of some molecular iodine in iodine supplements. After some discussions with active members of the iodine-taking community we have accepted that there may be some benefits of molecular iodine in supplements. Namely, that it may help control stomach bacteria, displace toxic halides, and/or be useful for new-takers who may have damaged Sodium-Iodide Symporters (NIS). We now have a dual form iodine supplement based on the iodine/iodide intake in the Japanese diet that is safer than Lugol’s iodine and much more effective than nascent iodine. For more details read the posts Iodine and Iodides in Seaweeds and Supplements and Why KI?

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Iodine Supplement Complex with Selenium (lugol's iodine, iodine pills, potassium iodide)