Benefits of Iodine for Health

Modified on Sep 05, 2023 | Earth Clinic Team

Iodine Health Benefits

Iodine is an element required by the body. Thyroid disorders, breast tumors, and skin problems are just a few of the maladies that can result from iodine deficiency. Every system of the body needs iodine and benefits from this mineral. Unfortunately, most diets are lacking in iodine, therefore an iodine supplement is a natural remedy for many health conditions.

Iodine Health Benefits

  • Thyroid
  • Heart
  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Energy
  • Temperature Balance
  • Sleep
  • Breasts
  • Skin
  • Bones
  • Hair
  • Reproductive System
  • Brain
  • Glands
  • Cognitive Function
  • Immune System
  • Cancer Prevention

Iodine and Women’s Health

Iodine deficiency can wreak havoc on a woman’s health. Insufficient iodine levels often leads to poor thyroid function, which can cause many health problems including low energy, hair loss, weight gain, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breast disease, breast pain, fibroids, and infertility.

Studies have found improvement in the above and other symptoms with iodine supplementation.1,2

Men Need Iodine

While women’s needs for iodine may be more often noticed or diagnosed, men need iodine for proper body function.

Men specifically need iodine for proper prostrate function. In Japan, where iodine consumption is high, prostrate cancer is quite low.3

Children's Iodine Needs

Certainly children need iodine, too. Children born to mothers with low iodine levels have an increased risk for mental retardation. Iodine deficiency may also be a cause of attention deficit disorder.4 Iodine supplementation appears to be useful to improve cognition in children.5

Iodine and the Elderly

Obviously age would not diminish the need for an essential nutrient, therefore the elderly have iodine needs as well. Nearly 200 years ago tincture of iodine was used topically for diseased joints, which is a common malady of the aging.6

Cancer and Iodine

Iodine has been found to be cytotoxic to some types of cancer cells include colon and breast cancer cells. In other words, it appears to kill cancer cells. Povodine iodine, Lugol’s iodine and a combination of iodine and iodide were each found to have some degree of effectiveness.

Not only a potential cancer treatment, iodine may be a cancer preventative as well. Low dietary iodine has been associated with increased risks of ovarian, breast and endometrial cancers.7

The Effect of Iodine on Infections

In addition to being a basic need for daily body function, iodine is an effective topical antibiotic, even for serious infections like MRSA. 8

Iodine also fights fungal skin infections like tinea.9

Certainly iodine has a long history in hospitals in it use to prevent surgical infections.

More recently, combinations of antibiotics and iodine have shown encouraging results against Lyme Disease bacteria.10

What Causes Iodine Deficiency?

Unfortunately, worldwide, it is estimated that over 2 billion people suffer with iodine deficiency.11

The body’s only source of iodine, apart from supplementation is from food. However, there are not a multitude of foods that contain iodine.

Sea vegetables are high in iodine, but not many people have local access to sea vegetables or choose to eat them even if they are imported.

Modern diets are high in processed foods. Processed foods tend to contain very little, if any iodine. While table salt is iodized, the salt added to processed foods is not.

It used to be that iodine was added to bread as a preservative. When it was discovered that bromide could bring the same results to bread as iodine, manufacturers switched to bromide. Unfortunately, not only did this remove an iodine source from modern diets, bromide competes with iodine in the body, and wins, further decreasing available iodine to the body.

Table salt is supplemented with iodine. However, many chose less processed forms of salt, like sea salt and do not receive this supplementation. Additionally, the amount of iodine in table salt is minimal. It meets the RDA, but in many cases, that amount of iodine is only enough to prevent goiter but not other health problems.

Many water supplies contain chlorine and fluoride. Both of these elements displace iodine in the body. Fluoride is even in many brands of bottled water. Unfortunately, even filtered water often contains fluoride. Carbon filters do not remove fluoride.

The bottom line is that intake of iodine is commonly inadequate and multiple factors can compromise even the small amounts of dietary iodine most people consume.

Food Sources of Iodine

  • Kelp
  • Wakame
  • Nori
  • Dairy products
  • Cranberries
  • Strawberries
  • Some grains
  • Navy beans
  • Tuna
  • Codfish
  • Potatoes

Herbal Sources of Iodine

Black walnut is one great source of iodine. The hulls of black walnut are rich in iodine. Even removing the green hulls will stain the hands, just as an aqueous iodine solution would. Black walnut is used by herbalists for oral health. Indeed, iodine has been found to fight cavity causing bacteria in the mouth.12

 Iodine Supplementation

There are a variety of ways to supplement iodine to the body.

Lugol’s Iodine

Lugol’s iodine is an excellent overall iodine supplement. It contains both iodine and iodide. This combination allows all body systems to benefit from iodine. This liquid form can be used internally, orally and directly on the skin. For more complete information about using Lugol’s Iodine, see this page

Potassium Iodide

Some supplements say that they contain iodine as potassium iodide. Potassium iodide alone will benefit the thyroid, salivary glands the skin. It will assist in heavy metal detox. However, if a potassium iodide supplement does not contain elemental iodine, the breasts, prostrate, digestive system and brain may not benefit from the supplement.


Iodoral is the name of a company that produces a tablet form of Lugol’s iodine. It is sold in 12.5 mg and 50 mg tablets. It is commonly used to relieve thyroid conditions, fibrocystic breast disease and ovarian cysts.

Iodoral is more expensive than Lugol’s iodine but preferred by many because it is easier to take. This is especially helpful for those who do not like the taste of iodine, which is admittedly not the most pleasant taste.

Kelp Supplements

Kelp supplements will contain micrograms of iodine, as opposed to milligrams of iodine. Micrograms are much smaller units. If only a small amount of iodine is needed, a kelp supplement can be of benefit.

Black Walnut Supplements

Black walnut tincture supplies iodine to the body. It can be used internally or topically. It may be difficult to ascertain how much iodine is in a black walnut supplement however. Black walnut powder is also useful. It can be added to tooth powders for dental health, or made into a tea for another way to get iodine and the other healing elements of black walnut into the body.

Iodine and Companion Nutrients

Vitamins and minerals work together in the body. Iodine has several “companion nutrients” that must be present in the body to ensure that the full benefit of iodine is experienced. Additionally, without the companion nutrients, a reaction to iodine or lack of success with iodine supplementation is likely.

Companion Nutrients

  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • B Vitamins

What About Iodine Skin Painting?

The body does absorb iodine through the skin. In fact, it is one way to get extra iodine into the body. However, it can be difficult to know exactly how much iodine is absorbed into the skin and how much evaporates.

Painting specific areas of the skin to get iodine to where it is critically needed may be a prudent use of skin painting. “Painting” a breast cyst, swollen lymph node, skin tag, mole or wart can help ensure that the iodine gets to where it is needed the most.

Furthermore, skin painting may be preferred by individuals who do not absorb nutrients well through the gut or who do not tolerate oral iodine dosing well.

One problem with skin painting is that it does discolor the skin a yellow/orange color. While the stain will vanish within hours or in some cases, days, vitamin C can be used to remove the stain. Dissolve ¼ teaspoon ascorbic acid in 2 teaspoons of water and use that solution to remove the stain.

Side Effects of Iodine

In addition to the staining of skin, which is not dangerous, iodine can have side effects in some individuals.

Iodine may cause digestive distress, including stomach ache, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Too much iodine can cause hyperthyroidism. It can cause a jittery feeling, racing heart, sweating, and insomnia.

Iodine could cause flu like symptoms, especially if it is removing poisons from the body.

History of Iodine

French chemist Bernard Courtois discovered iodine in 1811. Soon after this, it was learned that iodine was of benefit to those with goiter.

Iodine has been used medically for swollen glands, joint disease, sexually transmitted diseases, gout, excess mucous, asthma, ulcers, edema, boils and burns.

Before it could be understood exactly what iodine did, it was prescribed liberally for a multitude of conditions. Dr. Albert Szent Gyorgyi, a medical student 100 years ago wrote, “Nobody knew what it did, but it did something and did something good.  “If ye don’t know where, what, and why, prescribe ye then K and I (potassium iodine).”13

Have you used an iodine supplement? Please share your experience with us!

Additional Pages of Interest:
Lugol's Iodine

Iodine Side Effects
















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List of Remedies for Iodine