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
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,
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
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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