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Adrenal Cell Extracts


Adrenal extracts have been recommended and successfully used for a variety of conditions that involve low adrenal function, including asthenia, asthma, colds, burns, depletion from colds, coughs, dyspepsia (poor digestion), early Addison’s disease, hypotension (low blood pressure), infections, infectious diseases, depletion from infectious diseases, convalescence from infectious diseases, neurasthenia (low energy/weakness), tuberculosis, lightheadedness and dizziness, and vomiting during pregnancy. (Harrower, ’39, pg. 19-22)

History of Adrenal Cell Extracts
The earliest, and still probably the most reliable, way of rebuilding the adrenals from adrenal fatigue is the use of extracts from liquid or powdered porcine adrenal glands. Historically and in many modern clinics, preparations using adrenal cell extracts have been used extensively and are considered to be the most important aspect of the treatment. 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 hypoadrenia.

Their first claim to fame in the United States occurred with the epicemic flu virus of 1918. Respiratory infections are especially hard on the adrenal glands and fatigue them rapidly. This effect was shown by Lucke and his associates at Camp Zachary Taylor in 1919, when he found that adrenal exhaustion was present in 103 of 126 autopsied cases of mortality from the flu epidemic. In 3 other cases he even found adrenal hemorrhages and enlargement of the adrenal glands to twice their size. This means that in 106 of 126 patients who died from influenza, the adrenals were actually damaged by the infection. It is not that the adrenals were infected per se, but that the effort they made to try to restore balance to the body led them to a degree of exhaustion that was physically detectable upon autopsy (Lucke, B., et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, August 1919, XXIIII, pg. 154).

While this flu epidemic was debilitating and even killing thousands around the world, a few hundred of its victims were given a formula containing liquid adrenal cortical extracts (extracts from the adrenal cortex) combined with small amounts of thyroid and gonadal extracts. The formula was found to be unusually effective in overcoming many of the asthenic (weak) and depleted states that were so common to those afflicted with this deadly flu. It also effectively reduced the serious sequeli that usually followed this particular infection. The benefits of this adrenal cell extract formula dramatically drew attention to its practical use. The quick and uneventful recovery experienced by those taking it contrasted to the long period of recuperation normally seen in this flu epidemic. These results made many physicians aware of the possibility for recovery from less severe forms of hypoadrenia as well. It was known even in 1919 that the early functional endocrine disorders, especially adrenal fatigue, are infinitely more common and far more likely to respond to therapy than extreme endocrine diseases such as Addison’s (Harrower, ’39, pg. 17).

By the mid 1930’s, adrenal cell extracts in liquid and tablet forms were produced by several companies. By the late 1930’s, they were being used by tens of thousands of physicians. As recently as 1968 they were still being made by some of the leading pharmaceutical companies (Upjohn and Eli Lilly, among others).

However, in the early 1950’s synthetic cortisol became available. Because the synthetic hormone produced effects that seemed, at first, so much more dramatic than the effects of adrenal extracts, many physicians switched to synthetic cortisol and its derivatives to treat conditions they had previously treated with adrenal cell extracts. Unfortunately for patients, the profit margins were also more dramatic for the synthetic corticosteroids. This quickly made the synthetics the unquestionable favorite of the pharmaceutical industry. Within a few short years, the many detrimental side effects of the synthetics started appearing, but the pharmaceutical industry had made its profitable choice and would never turn back. In fact there has been a concerted effort to discredit adrenal and other cellular extracts and to remove them from the market. Luckily, these valuable cellular extracts, which provide more true benefits to your body without the damaging side effects of synthetic corticosteroids, are still available from a few sources.

Adrenal Cortical Extracts
Also known as adrenal cell extracts, adrenal cortical extracts are the liquid or powder extracts of the adrenal cortex. Their action is to support, fortify and restore normal adrenal function, there by enhancing adrenal activity and speeding recovery. Adrenal cell extracts are not replacement hormones, but instead provide the essential constituents for adrenal repair. They include all 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, but contain only tiny amounts of the actual hormones in the adrenal gland. Adrenal cortical extracts have been used orally and as injectables since the end of WWI and have only rarely produced unwanted side effects.

These extracts have been the cornerstone of effective therapy for adrenal fatigue since they were first developed. There are several brands available in both tablet and liquid form. The liquid is generally more powerful than the tablet, however it is more costly. I usually use the liquid in moderate to severe cases, and tablets in milder cases. Dosage for the adrenal cortical extract tablets is 6-12 per day, depending upon severity, taken in three to four intervals throughout the day. Dosage for the liquid form is usually one vial under the tongue 2 to 3 times weekly or as directed by your physician. In severe cases, it may need to be more frequent. Although these extracts are classified as dietary supplements, they must usually be purchased through a physician. Check our website for present suppliers of liquid and tablet forms of adrenal extract. A few sell directly to the public, but it is usually much better to work with a physician familiar with the treatment of adrenal fatigue.

Most medical doctors are unaware of the existence of this type of therapy and do not know how to use it. Because it is a departure from their usual thinking and protocol, they are often reluctant to even explore it. If a patient asks about cell extracts, they are typically negative about the subject. But as my friend, Dr. Leo Roy, the first holistic physician of Canada, said, “Doctors are down on things thy are not up on.” This is especially true of live cell substances and their use.

The doctors who are up on treating adrenal fatigue find significant value in adrenal extracts 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 extracts have been and continue to be a fundamental part of the treatment protocol for adrenal fatigue used effectively for over 80 years.

Cortisol vs. Adrenal Cell Extracts
It is important to understand the difference between adrenal cell extracts and natural or synthetic cortisol and cortisol type steroids such as cortisone, prednisone, prednisolone and many other forms of adrenal steroid hormones. Adrenal cell extracts nourish and help rebuild your adrenal cells. As these cells recover, they can once again produce the proper amount of the various hormones needed for the many functions performed by your adrenal glands. 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 your adrenal glands. This happens because your brain senses the presence of these cortisol substitutes and, in response, withholds the signal (ACTH) it would otherwise send to your adrenal glands to make more adrenal hormones. (See illustration – “Cortisol vs. Adrenal Cortical Extracts”). Thus corticosteroids suppress the functions of your adrenal glands, over-riding the normal feed back loops that regulate and balance adrenal hormones. In spite of the fact that this action can produce dramatic initial improvements in your symptoms, these symptomatic improvements come with a heavy price.

Although coricosteroids are replacement hormones; that is, they replace the natural hormone (cortisol) they are designed to mimic, they do not function exactly the same as natural cortisol because they are not identical to it. For one thing, synthetic corticosteroids are up to 17 times more powerful than the natural form of cortisol. If taken in excess of the physiological needs of the body (above the equivalent of 20 mg of cortisol per day), which many prescriptions are, their unfortunate side effects are many and far-reaching. Even after a course of just a few days of corticosteroid medication, it takes several days to several weeks for adrenal function to return to normal. When taken for a long period of time, the adrenals may require anywhere from several months to 2 years to revive and produce their own cortisol again. Sometimes they never fully recover.

This is why it is so difficult to get off a corticosteroid drug once you have been on one for a while. You get caught in the “catch-22” that if you stop taking the corticosteroids, you crash and your symptoms return worse than ever because your adrenal activity is suppressed. So you keep taking them, but the longer you take them the harder it is for your adrenals to regain proper function.

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. Such therapy can become more hazardous than the original disease. 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, the list of their side effects is sobering for those who care to look them up in the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR). They range from rash to sudden death.

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