Is Lugol’s Iodine Safe?

The recent sales ban on of Lugol’s Iodine over 2.2% will no doubt be justified by the incorrect statement that Lugol’s Iodine is unsafe. But a small amount of research will soon tell you that Iodine is safe to take as a health supplement in the form of Lugol’s solution or tablets such as Hakala LugoTabs.

Lugol’s formulation is safe because it is water-soluble so any excess is easily processed by the kidneys and excreted via urination. This means that iodine does not build up to toxic levels in the body unless you take over 1g per day, according to Iodine expert Dr David Brownstein.

The NHS recently decided to recommend Iodine but sadly the level of 0.14mg per day is too low. Dr Brownstein recommends 50-300mg daily to push halides out of the body to reach 94% saturation and 12-50mg for a maintenance dose.

The 2% Lugol’s solution that allows to be sold is not strong enough to push toxic halides out of the thyroid unless you take 20 drops or more in one go. So it will drive people mad to have to count out that many drops every morning when previously they could take one or two drops of a much stronger solution.

Medical professionals have historically warned against taking Iodine due to fears about toxicity. This fear is not based on any scientific evidence and the following article aims to summarise the history of iodophobia.

Fears About Iodine

Despite the safety of Lugol’s and the success the medical profession has had in treating many illnesses with it, there is still a lot of unfounded fear. Dr Guy Abraham, a leading expert on iodine, says: ‘Medical iodophobia has reached pandemic proportions. It is highly contagious and has wreaked havoc on the practice of medicine and on the US population.’

Commenting on the medical professions success with iodine Dr Bruce West says that ‘From 1900 to the 1960s almost every single US physician used Lugol (iodine) supplements in his or her practice for both hypo- and hyperthyroid, as well as many, many other conditions-all with excellent results. In fact, iodine was considered a panacea for all human ills. Today a phobia-generated by medical misinformation against iodine therapy-has caused physicians to avoid this powerful treatment like the plague.’

Dr Abraham explains that ‘Medical Iodophobia is the unwarranted fear of using and recommending inorganic, non-radioactive iodine/iodide within the range known from the collective experience of three generations of clinicians to be the safest and most effective amounts for treating symptoms and signs of iodine/iodide deficiency (12.5-50mg/day).’ Dr Abraham is a former professor of Endocrinology, who over a career spanning 35 years has received numerous research awards. Between 1997 and 2005 he researched high dose iodine therapy in over 4,000 people and dispelled the medical myths and fears regarding iodine therapy. You can find links to all of his research papers here

Dr Abraham points out that this fear is because ‘medical textbooks contain several vital pieces of misinformation about the essential element Iodine, which may have caused more human misery and death than both world wars combined.’

Wolff-Chaikoff Study

Gabriel Cousens MD (a Holistic Doctor, Homeopath, and Chinese Herbalist) explains that fear of iodine within the medical establishment is based on a ‘poorly performed … study alleging what is known as the Wolff-Chaikoff effect. The Wolff-Chaikoff effect suggested that theoretically hypothyroidism could occur as a result of excess iodine’. 

However, as Laura Power PhD explains, that the study ‘was misinterpreted, and used to describe a case of hypothyroidism caused by excessive iodine intake. In fact: toxic radioactive iodine was injected intravenously. It had nothing to do with food or supplement iodine intake. And it cannot explain why high intake of natural iodine does not cause the same effect.’

Commenting on the study Dr Abraham says ‘these rats never became hypothyroid and thyroid hormones were not measured in their plasma. Nevertheless, the W-C effect, which did not even occur in the rats, was extrapolated to humans’.

Medical schools still teach that iodine causes hyperthyroidism, but Dr Brownstein says high dose supplementation with Lugol’s has only been associated with hyperthyroid symptoms in rare cases when the dose exceeds 1g daily. He recommends mg doses based on twenty years experience which he says do not cause hyperthyroidism. In fact, as Dr Cousens points out, ‘people who increase their iodine intake do not have signs of hypothyroidism (such as fatigue, hair loss, headaches, weight gain, weakness, and dry skin) and they maintain normal T3 and T4 levels’.

Lugol’s Iodine is Safe

It is safe to take Lugol’s Solution as a supplement because the body can naturally get rid of any excess through the kidneys and urine within 24 hours – hence why the Hakala 24 Hour Loading Test is recommended to check iodine levels. It measures the amount of iodine excreted by the body over a 24 hour period to accurately measure iodine sufficiency when combined with a bromine test.

‘Iodine has an unusual excretion pattern in the urine. There are no reabsorption mechanisms or preservation mechanisms in the urinary tract to keep this element from excretion in the urine and hence loss from the body. Iodine is the trigger mechanism for apoptosis and it is imperative that a constant source of iodine in the urine be available. If the body was capable, and it is not, of holding the iodine inside and therefore allowing urine with no iodine to flow through the renal system, then the renal system would be deprived of iodine. This would immediately lead to abnormal cells and cancer. The Western diet contains nowhere near the levels of iodine needed to saturate the thyroid.’

A Brief History of Iodine & Iodophobia

Iodine was discovered by accident in 1811 by the French chemist Bernard Courtois (1777 – 1838) – the son of a saltpeter (potassium nitrate) manufacturer. When operating the factory in his father’s absence he accidentally added too much sulfuric acid during the extraction of sodium and potassium from the ashes of seaweed and noticed a violet vapour was released, which condensed into crystals on colder metal objects. In 1813 the English chemist Sir Humphry Davy (1778 – 1829) published a paper describing the substance as being similar to Fluorine and Chlorine. He named it ‘Iodine’ from the Greek for ‘violet coloured’. Davy and the French scientist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778 – 1850) were rivals who both claimed priority over discovering its elemental nature, but later acknowledged Courtois as the true discoverer of iodine. Courtois went on to manufacture iodine and iodine salts which were recognised for their medicinal value.

Iodine came into medical history in 1820 when Dr Jean François Coindet (Swiss, 1774-1834) discovered that iodine could reduce goiters/goitres (enlarged thyroids) and successfully treated 200 patients, without serious complications, not only with goitre but also breast cysts and syphilis complications. Coindet did not use Lugol’s because it hadn’t yet been invented. So he tried three other preparations: a solution of potassium iodide, an iodide-iodine solution (different from Lugol’s), and an alcoholic (tincture) solution that Coindet later was to recommend as the safest and easiest to use. Twenty drops of these solutions contained approximately 50 mg of iodine. Coindet routinely prescribed 10 drops three times a day for the first week, and then 15 drops thrice a day for the second week and 20 drops three times a day subsequently. He only rarely prescribed higher doses. The recommended duration of treatment was 8-10 weeks. Results of the treatment were spectacular: softening and shrinking of goitres occurred after 8 days, and disappearance or a significant improvement in disfiguring or uncomfortable goitres occurred later in many cases. Coindet received wide recognition in Europe for his work with iodine with one medical journal commenting in 1824 ‘it cannot be doubted that it possesses strong claims to the attention of the bold and judicious practitioner’.

Coindet is regarded as the first to use iodine in the treatment of goitre, but the Londoner Dr William Prout (1785 – 1850) says that he treated one case in 1816, but he didn’t publish this until 1834 when he said he was ‘instrumental in St Thomas’s Hospital adopting the remedy in 1819’.

Although a link was established between iodine deficiency and goitre, iodine soon became controversial when it was administered at very high doses by other doctors. Iodophobia was started in the medical profession by Dr J P Colladon (1769-1842), who was well-known in Geneva in the early 1820s. He reported that among the nine patients he had treated with iodine, six had developed severe ill-effects, predominantly gastric pain and discomfort. However, we are not told which formulation he was using and at what dose – he certainly wasn’t using Lugol’s, as it wasn’t invented at that time.

Although the doctors at this time knew very little about iodine, in the interests of public safety they decided it should be regulated as a semi-controlled substance and gave it a Required Yearly Amount (RYA) that was not based on guesswork and not science.

Lugol’s Solution was invented in 1829 by the French doctor Jean Lugol who discovered that bonding iodine to potassium made it water-soluble. The solution contains iodine (I), potassium iodide (KI), and distilled water (H2O). Being water soluble makes it much safer than previous recipes because the kidneys can easily process it and excrete the excess through the urine. The water soluble nature of Lugol’s allowed for the later discovery of its antiseptic qualities.

In 1877 William Ord identified the disease myxoedema (or myxedema in the US) which had the symptoms of being slow in mind and body and always feeling cold with a swollen face. In 1883 Felix Semon thought the cause might be an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

More scientific research on iodine started in 1896 in Germany when Baumann and Roos discovered that the thyroid contained a high level of iodine, which was a key discovery. In 1917 US thyroid specialist David Marine (1880 – 1976) discovered that goitrous thyroids contained less iodine than healthy ones. In a study of over 1,000 girls with enlarged thyroids Marine gave them 200mg Lugol’s solution for ten days, every six months, for two and a half years – a similar amount to Coindet 100 years earlier. Improvement was seen in 56% and there was no indication of iodine poisoning. Marine conclusively established that iodine was an elemental body requirement whose absence could lead to goiter and cretinism.

It is also said that Marine discovered that the RYA had been set too low and the yearly amount should be given in a fortnightly. But the medical establishment denied the findings and this work was never endorsed. We should remember that at this time the pharmaceutical industry was the most profitable business and growing rapidly, so iodine would have been a threat – and it still is.

In 1910 the Swiss surgeon Professor Theodore Kocher initiated the first wave of iodophobia in a report stating that he had ‘experienced symptoms of hyperthyroidism following ingestion of potassium iodide’. He did not perform a scientific experiment, he merely reported his own experience which resulted in 15 years of iodine fear.

In the UK the phenomenon of ‘Derbyshire neck’ (non toxic goitre due to iodine deficiency) was well-known in the early 20th century. The medical research council delivered a report in 1922 concerning iodine status and goitre on a national basis.

In the 1920’s the Hindu scientist and chemist Dr Sunker Bisey (d 1935) was cured of malaria with iodine and decided to study it. Bisey discovered an electrification process which exposed iodine to a magnetic field, which detoxified it, transmuting it into a form the body could fully recognise and assimilate. It was known as Atomic Iodine, Detoxified Iodine, or Atomidine before being know as Nascent Iodine. Bisey built up a successful business when thousands of people were routinely cured of different ailments which had no other treatment. They took around 100 drops per day of Atomidine with each drop containing 1/100 grain of iodine.

In 1927, the first International Goiter Conference was held in Bern, Switzerland where endemic goiter was discussed by the 188 delegates and the importance of iodine prophylaxis using iodized salt was recognized. The US government recommended iodized salt and based the new required daily amount (RDA) on the previous RYA, which is a trace amount only just enough to prevent goiter, with no additional health benefits. David Marine’s scientific research on higher doses was ignored and forgotten along with Bisey’s research on Atomidine.

Between 1917 and 1927 iodized salt was introduced and used as substitute for iodine supplementation. But as Dr Abraham says: ‘the bioavailable iodide from iodized salt is only 10% of the estimated 0.75 mg iodide in iodized salt consumed per day. That amount, 0.075 mg of bioavailable iodide, represents less than 1% of the amount of iodide used in Marine’s study, that is, 9mg; and also less than 1% of the recommended daily intake of iodine from Lugol solution.’

During the 1930’s the introduction of thyroid hormones caused iodine to be ignored by the majority of thyroidologists in the treatment of goiter and hypothyroidism. According to Dr Abraham ‘this progressed to medical iodophobia in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Following World War II, there was a systematic attempt to remove iodine from the food supply of Christian America. Iodophobic misinformation, well synchronized with the introduction of alternatives to iodine supplementation in medical practice, strongly suggest a well planned conspiracy’.

Before World War II Lugol’s was ‘considered a panacea for all human ills’ but the Wolff Chaikoff publication in 1948 wrongly concluded that high levels of Lugol’s ‘blocks the synthesis of thyroid hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism and goiter’. Dr Abraham says that this interpretation was wrong because the ‘authors did not measure thyroid hormones in the rats studied’ and as a result ‘hypothyroidism and goiter were not observed in those rats’. He explains that ‘the correct interpretation would be: iodide sufficiency of the thyroid gland was achieved when serum inorganic iodide levels reach 10 (to the power of ) 6 M’. In 1969 Wolff decided to arbitrarily define four levels of iodine excess which started at 0.2 mg per day with an intake of 2 mg or more considered to be excessive and potentially harmful. 

Dr Abraham says that ‘attempts to reproduce the Wolff-Chaikoff experiments in rats by other investigators were unsuccessful’. They found that concentrations ‘4 orders of magnitude greater than the amount proposed by Wolff and Chaikoff to cause inhibition of organification of iodide by the thyroid gland. Yet, thyroidologists refer to these in vitro studies to confirm the Wolff-Chaikoff Effect. They must think we are really stupid. Daily intake of 50 grams (50,000,000 micrograms) iodide would be required to achieve these peripheral levels … in the adult human subject, a heroic amount by any standard.’

Although the dose was substantially limited by the medical profession, researchers still continued drawing the link between goiter, cretinism, and iodine deficiency. André Ermans (1923-2008) authored over 300 scientific publications on goitre, origin of endemic cretinism, physio-pathology of iodine deficiency, influence of dietary goitrogens on thyroid function, congenital hypothyroidism, and programmes for iodine prophylaxis. André Ermans was not only the leader of numerous clinical and experimental studies of thyroid disorders, but he also led several scientific missions and campaigns for the eradication of iodine deficiency in Central Africa, Algeria and Vietnam. André pursued the study of iodine deficiency from 1959 throughout the rest of his career, mainly with François Delange and Claude Thilly.

André Ermans was the mentor of Francois Delange who started researching iodine deficiency disorders in 1960, and successfully treated goiter in children throughout Central Africa. In 1962 Andries Querido studied goitre in Indonesia reporting severe iodine deficiency and cretinism.

As well as iodized salt, in the early 1960’s potassium iodine was added to bread as a dough conditioner so that one slice of bread contained the full RDA of 150 ug. But by 1965 the government evaluated that in a typical diet contained 1 mg of iodine with 726 ug coming from baked goods. This, according to London et al, was causing ‘the inhibition of thyroid hormone synthesis in thyrotoxic patients’. In 1969 Pitman et al reported on the negative impact of the iodization of bread and Wolf published an iodophobic review. Dr Abraham believes that these events were ‘well synchronized for maximum effect’ and soon after bakers discovered the goitrogen bromate as a replacement.

However, in 1963 F W Clements in Tasmania ‘reported that a daily intake of 1.4 mg of potassium iodide (10 times the RDA) by infants and children for 16 years resulted in reduction in the prevalence of goiter, but in some regions, that amount of iodine was not sufficient enough to have a significant effect on the rates of goiter’.

Dr Cousens summarises the reduction in iodine intake during the 20th century: ‘In 1911, 900 milligrams daily (900,000 micrograms/day!) were considered usual and safe doses. In 1950 the Japanese had 100 times more iodine in their diet than Americans. In 2001 they had 202 times more iodine than Americans and were using up to 13.8 milligrams daily as opposed to the average US intake of 425 micrograms daily. Unfortunately there has been no real study, ever, about what is the optimal safe dosage of iodine. Be that as it may, no one has ever died from iodine overdose or allergic reactions. It is safe to suggest that at least the guidelines given by Drs Abraham and Brownstein for the use of 12-50 milligrams of iodine daily, for overall sufficiency and well-being, and up to 100 milligrams/day for diabetics is reasonable in doing much more for our health than to prevent cretinism, mental retardation, and goiter. Moreover, iodine is a universal health mineral having 22 major health and wellbeing benefits (see below) for humans, many of which are largely unknown to this day.’

Iodophobia within the medical establishment has increased since the pharmaceutical industry gained dominance in the mid-20th century. As Mark Sircus OMD explains: ‘From 1900 to the 1960s almost every single U.S.physician used Lugol’s (iodine) supplements in his or her practice for both hypo and hyperthyroid, as well as many, many other conditions all with excellent results. In fact, iodine was considered a panacea for all human ills.’

Dr Donald W Millar Junior explains that the medical establishment fears iodine because they are wary of most naturally occurring, non-patentable, non-pharmaceutical agents. He goes on to say that ‘thyroidologists cite the Wolff-Chaikoff effect and warn that TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) blood levels can rise with an iodine intake of a milligram or more. The Wolff-Chaikoff effect, a temporary inhibition of thyroid hormone synthesis that supposedly occurs with increased iodine intake, is of no clinical significance. And an elevated TSH, when it occurs, is subclinical. This means that no signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism accompany its rise.’ Mark Sircus OMD explains that ‘magnesium and iodine deficiencies are the causes of autoimmune thyroiditis, not excess iodide’.

The Nobel laureate Dr Albert Szent Györgi (1893 – 1986), who discovered vitamin C, writes: ‘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.’ Today we know what iodine does and how much it can help people but modern allopathic medicine is asleep at the switch letting people suffer and die for it’s lacking.’

Dr Brownstein says ‘I was initially hesitant to use higher (>1 mg) doses of iodine due to my concern about causing adverse effects. In reviewing much of the literature there was concern about larger doses of iodine causing hyperthyroid symptoms. However, a further, more exhaustive review of the literature failed to prove that iodine, in milligram doses ever was shown to cause hyperthyroid symptoms. In fact, as iodine levels have fallen over 50% in the last 30 years in the United States, autoimmune disorders and hyperthyroid symptoms have been increasing at near epidemic proportions.’

Dr Abraham concludes: ‘After 60 years in the dark Ages, following the second wave of medical iodophobia, inaugurated by the Wolff-Chaikoff Iodophobic Effect, iodine is emerging recently as an important nutrient for protection against breast cancer and the degenerative diseases of the Western World. For the first time, a simple loading test became available to assess whole body sufficiency for iodine. … for the first time, the detoxifying effect of iodine at 50 mg per day on the toxic halides fluoride and bromide was reported.’

Fears About Hashimotos

The fears about Iodine supplementation causing Hashimotos are rife in the UK thyroid FaceBook groups I frequent. I have lost count of the number of times I have recommended that people research the benefits of Iodine for thyroid health only to get slammed by an admin or an aggressive know-it-all who warns about Iodine causing Hashimotos.

It is essential to take the companion nutrients to assist with the detox process and in particular Selenium should not be missed out as it protects against Hashimotos. After six months of supplementation ensure that you perform a Selenium RBC blood test to ensure that you don’t go above range, which is as harmful as being under range.

Group member and knowledgeable iodophile Brian Haviland comments: ‘The prevalence of Iodophobia has resulted as an unfortunate lack of knowledge about the importance of these factors. There have been several reports where widespread governmental dosing of populations with Iodine have resulted in an increase of hypothyroidism and thereafter this data was taken to support the fear of Iodine (Germany was one example). Instead the results should have indicated the need to add Selenium and the other factors.”

Does Lugol’s Solution Expire?

According to J Crow, a reputable maker of iodine, Lugol’s Solution is made from Distilled Water (H2O), Potassium Iodide (KI), and Iodine (I). The product is a stable chemical mixture and does not “expire”.

Further Information

For further information on iodine and for information on where to buy in the UK go to: 

Further Reading

Dr Abraham, Dr Brownstein, Dr Flechas, and John Hakala have done extensive research into the safety and benefits of Iodine supplementation and their research can be found here:

5 thoughts on “Is Lugol’s Iodine Safe?



      1. What about supplementary use of sea kelp ? This is what i have been recommending as it very tolerated & a natural source of Iodine.


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