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Glandular Extract Therapy: How Does it Work?


July 26, 2017 | Published by

Taking a glandular extract product to improve one’s health is not new by any means. Throughout history, people have used the glands and various other parts of animals for healing purposes. It was known that those who consumed organs and glands from various animals and fish improved their overall health and well-being, especially when it came to assisting in the prevention as well as treatment of specific ailments.

Western medicine started to take animal glandulars seriously in the 1920’s. In fact, the 1925 textbook Medical Glandular Therapy was published as a joint project between the American Medical Association and the University of Chicago. There are different theories as to how glandulars actually work, and the main argument conventional medicine has against glandulars is that any natural medicine when taken would merely be broken down into fats, proteins or carbs by our digestive system and converted to energy or fat and therefore have little ability to improve the health of the corresponding gland in the body. Some of our greatest pioneers in natural medicine knew different; they knew that those who consumed animal glands as part of therapy found them to be a most useful for treating a wide range of health problems.

Glandulars In Therapy Today

It wasn’t until the early 19th century that conventional physicians started to take this form of nutritional therapy seriously. Doctors discovered that desiccated pancreas helped those with sugar-disease, now known as diabetes. In the mid 1800’s to mid 1950’s, physicians knew of the amazing benefits conferred by giving dried thyroid gland extract to those exhibiting signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. Glandular therapy today is a treatment that uses the freeze-dried glands of various animals.

Thyroid glandular extracts were considered standard treatment for hypothyroidism, and doctors successfully prescribed bovine thyroid gland extract to hundreds of thousands of patients in the USA alone. Upjohn, a well-known drug company, manufactured adrenal glandular extracts right up until the late 1950’s in America.

Although pharmacy started before the Second World War, it wasn’t really until after the late 1950’s that scientists started to artificially synthesize hormones. It was claimed that they worked better and more consistently than glandular extracts. The truth of the matter is that instead of farming animals, they could now artificially synthesize a chemical drug in a laboratory cheaply and efficiently, and then go on to patent this chemical, thus assuring exclusivity and huge profits for many years to come.

Powerful and side-effect ridden synthetic steroids, such as prednisolone, were starting to replace adrenal cortex extracts. Over time, doctors stopped prescribing ovarian extracts to women with waning estrogen levels in favor of a drug called Premarin, a hormone extract derived from the urine of pregnant mares.

Glandular extract therapy, which was once successfully prescribed in medical practice for over one hundred years by thousands of doctors to countless patients, has now became discredited by mainstream medicine. The good news is that there has been a revival and a huge interest in glandular therapies in both America, Europe and in many other countries in the 21st century.

The 4 Ways Glandular Extract Therapy Works

Here are the four core ways in which a glandular supplement works in the human body:

  1. By way of active components: The gland of an animal will be reasonably close in its nutritional composition to that of a human being, and contain most of the necessary nutrients for healthy glandular function. Eating meat supplies us with ample protein, which in turn forms an important building block (amino acids, protein) for our own muscles. It is believed that glands and organs in animals and humans contain similar biochemical substances, as their functions are very similar.

This is particularly true with the porcine glandular products. For example, a pig’s digestive system produces enzymes very similar to humans. Pig tissue contains several enzymes found in other living organisms like the human body. Two of these enzymes for example are: (1) Aldose reductase, an enzyme required for sugar breakdown; and (2) Steroid 17 -20 lyase, an enzyme for both producing steroidal hormones and for the subsequent detoxification of those hormones from the body.

2. By way of associated nutritional contingent factors: metabolically speaking, glandular tissues are amongst some of the most active tissues of an animal or human being. They are very dense and rich in nutrients including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, polypeptides, nucleic acids (RNA & DNA), enzymes, and many other miscellaneous nutritional contingent factors. Glandular therapy can supply these essential nutritional needs in a highly efficient manner.

Adrenal cell extracts (or those made from hypothalamus, pituitary, gonads, etc.) are not meant to be “replacement hormones” like giving estrogen, DHEA, melatonin or progesterone as some people think, but instead provide a person’s body with the essential endocrine and neuro-endocrine nutrient building blocks contained in a highly specific hormonal nutrient dense form and proportion which are analogous to the human body. Contrary to popular belief, most of the highest quality nutritional glandular medicines in fact do not contain hormones. Even when excess amounts of glandulars have been ingested, the body can easily deaminize them. Most glandular dietary supplements have been made and processed to remove all traces of hormones.

3. By way of an adaptogenic effect: An adaptogen is any substance that increases the body’s resistance or adaptation to any physical, environmental, emotional or biological stressor and helps promote normal healthy functioning. Glandular-based food supplements contain a myriad of different tiny polypeptides, minute protein-like substances that have highly specific messenger activity and directly act on target tissues. Many hormone-like substances found in the glandular tissues, even at almost undetectable concentrations, still have potent tissue-specific activities.

For example, a polypeptide material present in one tissue can have powerful and selective effects in encouraging another tissue at a different site in the body to produce hormonal materials that then may affect a final target tissue and change its physiological function. In addition, glandular extracts help cells eliminate cellular waste and speed up and revitalize their restorative functions allowing the body to metabolize hormones like adrenalin and nor-adrenalin more effectively.

4. By way of an organ-sparing effect: many experts have long held the belief that glandular medicines exert a “tissue-sparing” effect on a person’s bodily tissues. This mechanism is by way of either neutralizing the auto-antibody attack on specific organ cells, or by way of supplying the right kinds of nutrients and enzymes that allow the corresponding organ to rest up.

Some examples are as follows: Research revealed that pancreatic enzymes are reabsorbed in the lower bowel and returned back to the pancreas and stored for future use (Liebow 1975). It has been shown through research that giving a patient a pancreatic glandular not only benefits the patient’s digestion and assimilation, but also increases their pancreatic reserves.

Hans Selye in 1976 also remarked on the importance of “sparing the adrenal glands” when a person is in an adrenally compromised state. Research in the 1950’s discovered that adrenal extracts contain enzymes that assist in the conversion of cholesterol to various glucocorticoids as well as their precursors (Friedman 1956).

If Friedman’s organ sparing premise is correct, then many other glandular extracts (including their highly specific intrinsic factors) such as spleen, heart, lungs, liver, etc., may potentially support the particular organ by supplying the necessary compounds essential for the production of essential body chemicals such as RNA, enzymes, as well as hormone production. By doing so, glandular medicines could very well be capable of sparing the organ from overworking, thereby allowing the organ to function with optimal efficiency.


It is important to reiterate that glandular therapy is not new by any means, and that physiology and biochemistry texts have for almost 100 years described the fact that organs and glands communicate chemically with minute amounts of polypeptides which can be supplied by way of a glandular dietary supplement. The blood levels of these chemical messengers may appear to be miniscule, yet can and do have the most significant and profoundly positive effects on the human body.

In my experience, glandular preparations can have a most definite and positive impact on human health, and can be used advantageously by health care professionals in their quest to improve their patient’s outcomes. Have you used glandular preparations? You may like to consider this therapy, it works and I can vouch for its efficacy.

dr-eric-bakker-150x150About the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 27 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specializes in candida, psoriasis, as well as adrenal fatigue, thyroid and digestive disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. He has also written what may well be the most comprehensive Natural Psoriasis Treatment Program available. You can find more articles by Dr. Bakker on his blog at



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  • Andrew says:

    Thank you for such a succinct and brilliant article.

  • Peggy says:

    Thank you so much!

  • Hadassah says:

    This makes me feel better about glandulars taken in the past. One thing I wonder, is there a time when we can overdo it? Like, if we take too many glandulars and the organ we wanted to support slows down due to it thinking the body has what it needs? And taking thyroid glandular is different than the thyroid hormone doctors prescribe? Just making sure I understand. 🙂 Thank you!

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Hadassah,

      There is certainly a healthy limit of glandulars that can be taken on a daily basis, though an excess should not be slowing down organ function of any kind. With Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder, we recommend taking between 3 to 6 caplets per day. Yes, taking thyroid glandulars are different than prescribed thyroid medications. Some thyroid medications contain thyroid extracts, though there are certainly differences. We recommend speaking with your healthcare professional if you’re considering taking thyroid extracts along with any thyroid medication. Thanks for writing!

  • norman says:

    iam taking glandulars for hypothyroid and iodine what strength is the best and how long dus it take fix a yhyroid problem I had it about 45 years im 72 thank you norman Chisholm nova scotia canada

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Norman,

      Thank you for writing. What kind of glandulars are you taking? We can offer advice if you’re taking Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder. For any other products, you will need to consult with the company’s customer service team or with your healthcare practitioner.

  • Clare says:

    Hi there,
    I am currently weaning off prednisone. Down to 6mg. I have been on it since April- never higher daily dose than 15mg.
    I am taking the Adrenal Builder to help with the fatigue I have been experiencing. I am going to get my adrenals checked and I do have good rest and diet.
    My question is are they REALLY safe? I just don’t want to get ‘hooked’ on them. Will my own adrenals recover in time (I know you cannot say for sure but just in general would be great) so I can wean off these? Dr Wilson states 6months- 2 years to take…. Thank you for your time. Clare

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Clare,

      The Adrenal Rebuilder is certainly safe to take, even over a long-term period. The glandular extracts used in the supplement are processed to remove hormones, so the product does not create dependency. Dr. Wilson developed a reduction schedule for the supplements in his Adrenal Fatigue Protocol, which you can find here:

      Please let us know if we can help with anything else, and thank you for writing!

  • Clare says:

    Thank you for your speedy response!

    Its states on the Adrenal Builder tub take 1-4 caplets daily but on Dr Wilsons main site it says up to 8 can be taken?

    Please clarify. Thank you

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Clare,

      You’re most welcome! Yes, the bottle has more general directions for use. For best recommendations on daily intake, we recommend going by Dr. Wilson’s Programs for Adrenal Fatigue:

      There are 3 programs: basic, intermediate and maximum. We recommend starting at the basic program (3 per day) and going up from there as needed. If you have further questions on how best to take this product you can contact us at 800-357-5027 or ask them here. Thank you!

  • Maree says:

    Hi. You’ve said that hormones are removed from these adrenal glandulars. Some experts believe that people with adrenaline problems such as those with complex ME/CFS shouldn’t take adrenal glandulars due to the medulla component having an effect on the high adrenalin. What is your take on this please?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Maree,

      Dr. Wilson believes that using glandular extracts processed to remove hormones can help people across all levels of adrenal fatigue. His supplements were not made for conditions such as ME/CFS. Some with these conditions may find some relief from these or other supplements, though these conditions are vastly different. We wouldn’t recommend our glandular extract product to be used with other conditions unless it was discussed with and deemed appropriate by a healthcare professional. We hope that helps. Thank you for writing!

  • Jean Rudge says:

    Hi I am planning to use glandular extracts for adrenal support after 30 years of levothyroxine use and believe my adrenal gland has been compromised due to adrenal and thyroid gland being closely interrelated.
    Presently I still take thyroxine but I plan to use NDT in the future so I want repair my adrenal gland using glandular extracts, in preparation for taking the NDT after stopping thyroxine .
    I have two questions: is it safe to take glandular extract while using levothyroxine.?
    Also do I have to have a medical diagnosis to prove my adrenal gland is not functioning as it should in order to use glandular extract?

    Thank you

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Jean,

      Thank you for writing. There should be no issues with taking our Adrenal Rebuilder along with your thyroid medication, though we do recommend checking with your health practitioner to be sure. Some hormone medications have specific instructions on waiting a certain amount of time before taking anything else. You do not need a medical diagnosis or a doctor’s order to use any of our supplements, including our Adrenal Rebuilder. It is a glandular extract supplement but has been processed to remove hormones. If you have further questions you can respond to this post or email us at

  • Linda Davila says:

    Hi this is my first to use natural herbs, my friend been taking natural vitamins for 43 yrs and she’s 73 years and looks like a 40 years old no wrinkles , slim and full of energy it’s amazing.
    Am diabetic 2 and high blood pressure and she advise me to call swanson to detox with raw pancreas glandular and my liver with dandelion root to get rid of toxins an possible have my sugar and Hbp control now my question is should I take this always or how many days should I take it to get rid off toxins.
    I apreciated your answer and will this help me. Thanks

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for writing. We are not healthcare practitioners and cannot advise you on this detox. Those are best done under the care of a practitioner. We may be able to provide you a referral if you’re interested. If so, email with your location.

  • Connie says:

    I chose to work with a chiropractor(1yr 2018) as he assured me he could clear my parasite infection. He ran scans that showed a pathogen, but also other issues like adrenals …his main concern! His adjustments were done with tapping tools. He worked on my tailbone area and during the Dey after that adjustment, I have suffered from itching(started around tailbone but rotates all over my body, every night) He insisted I take high amts of a bovine supplement through Standard Process. I refused first because I am highly intolerant to beef and second, that companies products are not clean. His continued adjustments did nothing to stop the nightly itching.I took zero drugs but had to find a antihistamine so I could sleep…but over the years now has taken a toll on my stomach. I fired him after a year as he still did nothing for parasites, and I am still itching! I have tried other theories to correct my food intolerances/Celiac disease/IBS hoping something would stop the itching! I NEVER ITCHED BEFORE IN MY LIFE until that adjustment! What would bovine glandular supplements do for the itching that I consistently suffer with every night? Thank you!

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Connie,

      Unfortunately we would not be able to answer this question, but may be able to refer you to a healthcare professional who can. If you’re interested, email us at with your zip code for practitioner referrals. Thank you for writing!

  • Rachel says:

    This was a very informative article and it has very good information. I am looking specifically for information about about ovarian glandular therapy. I am 34 and want to begin supplementing ovarian glandular to delay menopause (I cannot afford the surgery where they harvest ovarian tissue/eggs, freeze them, and then graft them back, usually at the armpit, to allow a woman more time to plan for a family and live her life without being burdened with the terrible symptoms/ death sentence of menopause). Would there be any danger of too many hormones if I were to begin supplementing ovarian glandular? Thanks!

  • Else K says:

    I am a 63 y/o diabetic mellitus. Ex ICU nurse and am wondering 1. how the bovine pancreas ( I do not consume pork in any fashion)works to reduce blood glucose2.can you overdose on this product?3.does it replace what is missing in order for the pancreas to heal or islets of langerhans to be repaired and start producing insulin ? Does it work obstructing the feedback mechanism?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Else,

      Thank you for writing. We do not have much info on bovine extracts, as Dr. Wilson primarily uses porcine glandular extracts in his supplements. The supplement we offer for blood sugar management, Good Sugar, does not contain any glandular extracts.

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