The Historical Journey of Iodine: From Ancient China to Modern Supplements

The Historical Journey of Iodine: From Ancient China to Modern Supplements

Explore the fascinating history of iodine from ancient Chinese remedies to its crucial role in modern health, highlighting its importance for thyroid function and its inclusion in supplements like Thyrite.

Published February 16, 2024

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The discovery and understanding of iodine's crucial role in human health is a fascinating journey that spans millennia, cultures, and scientific advancements. This journey not only highlights the importance of iodine in our diet but also showcases the ingenuity of early medical practitioners and the curious nature of scientific discovery.

Ancient Wisdom: The First Steps

The story begins in ancient China around 3,600 B.C., where medical texts first recorded the observation that the ingestion of seaweed and burnt sea sponge could lead to decreases in goiter size. This practice, unbeknownst to the early Chinese medical practitioners, was effectively a treatment for iodine deficiency.†

They had discovered the critical role of iodine in human health without even understanding what iodine was.

Iodine's Role in the Body

Iodine is a trace element found in the Earth's upper crust.

Its distribution, influenced by geological events like the Ice Age, varies geographically, often being more abundant in coastal areas.

This element is vital for the production of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism, growth, and development.†

Without sufficient iodine intake, the thyroid gland enlarges in an attempt to capture more iodine from the bloodstream, potentially leading to the development of a goiter.†

Rediscovery and Recognition

Fast forward to 1811, when Bernard Courtois, a French chemist working with seaweed ash during gunpowder manufacturing, noticed an unusual purple vapor. This discovery led to the identification of iodine, named from the Greek word "ioeides" meaning "violet-colored."

It was a pivotal moment that connected the dots between the ancient practices and the scientific understanding of iodine's significance.

In 1852, French chemist Adolphe Chatin hypothesized that iodine deficiency in populations could be linked to endemic goiter, a theory later confirmed by Eugen Baumann's discovery of iodine within the thyroid gland in 1896. These discoveries underscored the importance of iodine in preventing goiter and illuminated the path for future thyroid treatments.†

Iodine in Modern Nutrition

Today, we understand the importance of iodine in our diet, with seaweed and other seafood being prime sources of this essential mineral.

This knowledge has led to the inclusion of kelp extract, a rich source of iodine, in dietary supplements like Thyrite. This practice, rooted in ancient wisdom and confirmed by centuries of scientific inquiry, helps support thyroid health in a modern context.


The journey of iodine from ancient Chinese remedies to a cornerstone of modern nutrition and health supplements like Thyrite is a testament to the enduring quest for understanding human health. It highlights how traditional practices can lead to significant scientific discoveries and underscores the interconnectedness of our world.

The story of iodine is a perfect example of how ancient wisdom, when coupled with modern science, can lead to better health outcomes for everyone.