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Adrenal Cell Extracts & Cortisol in Adrenal Fatigue


October 15, 2009 | Published by

 History of Glandular Extracts

The first recorded use of an adrenal extract was in 1898 when Sir William Osler administered a crude preparation of adrenal cells to a person with Addison’s disease. Since 1918, when they became commercially available, adrenal cell extracts have been a valuable and powerful form of therapy and have been used by thousands of medical doctors in the treatment of non-Addison’s type of adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal cell extracts, also known as adrenal cortical extracts, are the liquid or powder extracts of the adrenal cortex. Their action is to support, fortify and restore normal adrenal function, thereby enhancing adrenal activity and speeding recovery. Adrenal cell extracts are not replacement hormones; in fact, the best type of extract to use has been processed to remove the adrenal hormones. What they provide are the essential constituents for adrenal repair, including the adrenal cell contents, such as nucleic acids (adrenal cell RNA and DNA) and concentrated nutrients, in the form and proportion used by the adrenals to properly function and recover from stress.

Various types of adrenal cortical extracts have been used orally and as injectables since the end of World War I and have rarely produced unwanted side effects. They have been, and continue to be, a fundamental part of the treatment protocol for adrenal fatigue used effectively for over 80 years, and provide significant value for alleviating all levels of adrenal fatigue.

Today, by combining our knowledge of adrenal cortical extracts with lifestyle modifications, dietary supplements and herbal formulas, we can stabilize people with adrenal fatigue and accelerate their recovery more efficiently than ever before.

Adrenal Cell Extracts vs Natural and Synthetic Adrenal Hormones

It is important to understand the difference between adrenal cell extracts and natural or synthetic cortisol and cortisol-type steroids, such as cortisone and prednisone. Adrenal cell extracts that have been processed to remove adrenal hormones nourish and help rebuild adrenal cells. By this means, they tend to normalize adrenal function. In contrast, corticosteroids, whether natural or synthetic, tend to reduce or shut down the activity of the adrenal glands. This happens because the brain senses the presence of these cortisol substitutes and, in response, withholds the signal of adrenalcorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) it would otherwise send to the adrenal glands to make more adrenal hormones. Thus, corticosteroids suppress the functions of the adrenal glands, over-riding the normal feedback loops that regulate and balance adrenal hormones. In spite of the fact that this action can produce dramatic initial improvements in symptoms, these symptomatic improvements come with a heavy price.

Because corticosteroids mask the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and, when used in excess, depress immune function, the person taking them is at greater risk from stress and infection. Corticosteroids may have quick and dramatic symptomatic results, but unless they are used in their natural form and in physiologic doses that mimic the natural secretion of cortisol, they make the adrenals weaker rather than stronger. In addition, it can be difficult to get off a corticosteroid drug once on one for a while. People get caught in the “catch-22” that if they stop taking the corticosteroids, they crash and their symptoms return worse than ever because adrenal activity is suppressed. So they keep taking them, but the longer they take them, the harder it is for the adrenals to regain proper function.

Conversely, adrenal cell extracts support adrenal function and, when taken over time, naturally strengthen the capacity of the adrenals for healthy function. Once the adrenal glands are responding sufficiently, a gradual step-down program can be initiated to reduce and even eliminate the need for adrenal cell extracts. In recovering from adrenal fatigue and stress, it is important to allow adequate time for the optimal adrenal function to become fully established before beginning a reduction schedule.

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  • Sharon says:

    I don’t get it? If cortisol is related to stress and stress is associated with heart problems, belly fat, etc. how can an adrenal extract or powder be good for anyone? Please direct me to a short answer to this question.

    • adrenalfatigue says:

      Hi Sharon,

      When the adrenals are fatigued, they have difficulty responding to and recovering from stresses. Hormone-free adrenal extracts are meant to support the adrenal glands without stimulation and without adding additional hormones to the body. Formulas using these types of extracts are meant to naturally support the adrenals and help regulate the stress response.

      Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Fatigue Team

  • Susan Moskalets says:

    Can I purchase adrenal cell extracts?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thank you for writing. It seems you are referring to the cell extracts Dr. Wilson mentions in his book. Some things have changed since then, and you can find these changes outline here on our website:
      In short, Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder is his glandular extract supplement recommended for support during stress and adrenal fatigue. Please let us know if you have any further questions on this or anything else.

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