What is a Gland and Glandular Therapy?

A gland is defined as an organ that secretes substances into the blood or elsewhere in the body. The endocrine glands (including the pineal, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal, pancreas, testes and ovaries) secrete hormones directly into the blood stream. Although not technically glands, other organs of the body are commonly referred to as “glandulars” when they are consumed as supplements. For example, tissue extracts of the heart, spleen, prostate, uterus, brain, and other tissues are often used in “glandular therapy.”

Glandular therapy refers to the use of animal tissues to try to enhance the function of, or mimic the effect of, the corresponding human tissue. This therapy is based on two basic concepts. First, “like heals like.” For example, feeding thyroid tissue might, in theory, help the body’s thyroid gland heal or function better (note: store-bought glandulars do not contain thyroid hormone by law). The second concept is that ingestion of glandular tissues will provide the body with hormones or other biologically active substances that are normally secreted by that gland. Throughout history, glandular therapy has been an important form of medicine. While ancient glandular therapy usually involved the use of fresh, whole glands, modern glandular therapy primarily involves the use of concentrated glandular extracts.

One argument of this therapy is the ability of the glands’ active constituents to be absorbed. It has been claimed they may be destroyed by digestive enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract before they can be absorbed into the body. However, there is clear evidence that, under normal conditions, some proteins, enzymes, and other large molecules can and do pass intact from the human gut into the bloodstream.1,2,3,4

Most glandular products are derived from beef (bovine) sources, with the exception of pancreatic extracts, which are most often derived from pork (porcine). The two most widely known methods of processing are freeze-drying, and predigestion.

The freeze-drying process involves quickly freezing the glandular material at temperatures 40 to 60 degrees below 0 degrees F and then placing the material into a vacuum chamber, which removes the water by direct vaporization from its frozen state (aka freeze-drying). The benefits of freeze-drying are that it preserves more of the unaltered protein and enzymes as well as all of the fat-soluble components. Since the fat is not removed, potentially harmful contaminants that accumulate in fat tissue may remain in the product. It is therefore critical that the glands be derived from livestock that have grazed on open ranges that are not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. The animals should also be free of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and infection.

The predigestion method employs the aid of plant and animal enzymes to partially digest or hydrolyze the glandular material. The partially digested material is then passed through a series of filtrations to separate out fat-soluble and large molecules. The purified material is then freeze-dried. This method of extraction is thought to be ideal for certain glandulars, such as liver and thymus, where the polypeptide (small proteins) and other water-soluble fractions are desired.



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