Glandular Therapy In Clinical Practice

Eric Bakker N.D.May 10, 2022

Hormones, enzymes, and other active components required for normal biological functions are concentrated in glands. Natural health practitioners use glandular products to supplement nutrients, enzymes, and other active factors that may be lacking, depleted, or otherwise compromised in the target organ system.

Eric Bakker Naturopath » Recipes » Glandular Therapy In Clinical Practice

Taking a glandular 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. In many instances, parts of animals when consumed were not thought of as ‘therapy’ as such, it was known that those who consumed organs and glands from various animals and fish improved their overall health and wellbeing, especially when it came to assisting in the prevention as well as treatment of specific ailments.

It wasn’t until quite recently in our Western developed countries that the popularity has waned of consuming liver, kidneys, heart, as well as various other parts of animals. Today we tend to favour the muscle meats only, when in fact animal organs from organically raised, grass fed animals are some of the most nutrient-rich foods you could possibly eat in your diet. People who consume today’s nutrient-depleted diet would benefit greatly from adding these animal ‘super foods’ into their diet, the same foods their grandparents and especially their great grandparents would have consumed on a regular basis.

It is most unfortunate that animals raised commercially to day are fed various chemicals in their diet such as antibiotics and growth hormones. In addition, because animals are higher up in the food chain, they tend to have a larger bio-accumulation of various pesticides, weedicides and herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup). The livers and kidneys of animals that are commercially raised have a tendency to accumulate heavy metals, antibiotics and especially the sulfa drugs. The FDA in America found that beef and calf liver had almost 50 different kinds of pesticide residues. Commercially produced meats, the various veterinary drugs and living conditions of animals today are unlikely to result in the animals producing health glands, so if you are interested in consuming glands be sure to obtain organ meats from organically raised animals only.

Dr. Weston Price

Many Australian and NZ practitioners I know, particularly those with an interest in the history of nutritional medicine, will have heard of Dr. Weston A. Price. The famous nutritionist dentist Dr. Price left an amazing body of research about the health benefits of traditional diets amongst indigenous peoples from all around the world. You can read a more about Weston Price on this link: Dr. Price traveled all over the world studying the dietary practices of healthy people from traditional cultures and noticed that the healthiest people regularly consumed organ meats and valued them very highly as being some of the best health building foods. People who were sick were given liver to eat; those with weak hearts were given heart to eat. Dr. Price found that the native cultures who maintained their traditional diets—whole foods from plants as well as animals had the most amazing dental as well as digestive health (compared to people living in Western countries, and were virtually free of the chronic diseases plaguing society today. Native people knew that eating plants but also animals (including all their organs) would support the natural functioning of their bodies. And they were correct; the nutritional benefits of organ meats are now being confirmed by modern science due to their exceptionally high nutrient levels. Organ meats are literally a nutritional powerhouse and come loaded with significant amounts of vitamins (especially fat soluble vitamins A and D), minerals, all the essential amino acids and many other significant nutritional compounds vital for optimal health.

Indigenous People Consume Ten Times More Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Dr. Price discovered that indigenous people were consuming more than four times the amount of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, including the trace elements we are very much lacking in today’s modern and nutrient poor diet. But most surprising was that the indigenous were consuming more than ten times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins such as A and D than their Western counterparts. And these fat-soluble vitamins are present only in significant amounts – in animal fats (like fish oil, egg yolks, lard and butter) and particularly in the fat-rich cell wall membranes of organ meats such as liver and kidneys Unfortunately, many modern people as being “unhealthy”, even by many mainstream medical doctors and dieticians, now see these premium foods.

Glandulars in Western Medicine

Western medicine started to take animal glandulars serious 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, edited by Frank Billings, MD, for whom a University of Chicago hospital was later named. 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. This was based on empirical observation, and not a double-blind placebo controlled study, such studies often fail to prove or disprove the efficacy of natural medicine treatments. And they also found glandular medicines to be non-toxic, unlike pharmaceutical treatments.

Glandular Medicines In Clinical Therapy Today

Glandular therapy today is a treatment that uses the freeze-dried glands or various animals, it is a therapy that has been used for many hundreds of years in medicine, in fact; one might say even thousands of years. Hippocrates wrote extensively on the topic of animal glands in healing, and in biblical days it was known the testes of an ass (donkey) when boiled in milk provided an excellent boost to a feeble old man. It wasn’t until the early 19th century however 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. 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. Other enlightened doctors worked out that one of the best treatments for those with Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency) was to give the patient a bovine adrenal gland extract. Upjohn, a well-known drug company, was in fact manufacturing adrenal glandular extracts right up until the late 1950’s in America.

What killed the glandular industry is of no surprise, the pharmaceutical industry. 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, which they claimed, 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.

Doctors who prescribed Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone) instead on Armour, a well proven and highly effective thyroid gland extract were seen as modern, scientific and progressive. Powerful and side-effect ridden synthetic steroids such as prednisolone were starting to replace adrenal cortex extracts and over time doctors even stopped prescribing ovarian extracts to women with waning estrogen levels in favour of a drug called Premarin, a hormone extract derived from the urine of pregnant mares, kept in the cruellest of conditions.

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, and the doctors who dare to prescribe these out-dated therapies today often ridiculed by their more enlightened colleagues. But 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.

Glandular animal sources have generally been cow (bovine), pig (porcine), or sheep (ovine), with many glandular extracts now coming on the market in the USA from New Zealand, one of the only countries left in the world that is certified BSE free.

Glandular Extracts Work In Four Ways

As glandular extracts are commonly hormone-free, I often get asked “Eric, can you describe the pathways by which these kinds of product work?” A common misconception is that “glandulars contain hormones, that is how they must work”. I hope this article finally helps to lay this common misconception to rest. Some glandulars (certain whole thyroid glandulars for example) do contain hormones, but these are not the products I would recommend. Such products are classified as pharmaceutical agents.

From the current research I’ve looked at, here are the four core ways in which a glandular supplement works in the human body:

1 – By way of active components: You don’t need to be an eminent scientist to understand the logic behind glandular therapy, 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 I prefer to use from different companies. For example, a pig’s digestive system produces enzymes very similar to humans, with digestive enzyme products containing porcine derived pancreatin being very popular. 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. Thus we can deduce that the effect of using the respective biochemical compounds extracted from animals may be one of substituting an exogenous (external) source to make up for the endogenous (internal) deficiency. Dr. Jeffrey Bland, PhD., mentions that the high activity of active portions of molecules in glandular medicines are powerfully effective, and that these glandular sources are often virtually identical in animals as they are in humans.  Even if there are minor differences, Bland mentions that the activity of the glandular is most probably dependent on only the tiniest fraction of its polypeptides. This was Dr. Royal Lee’s opinion likewise.

2 – By way of associated nutritional contingent factors: Glandular tissues are metabolically amongst some of the most active tissues of an animal or human being. They are very dense and are most are 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. This is simple really, 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 and are not allowed by law or they would required to be registered as pharmaceutical agents, though they often do contain hormone precursors which the body can utilise as building blocks for hormone production. Since hormones are not part of the glandular, overdosing is not a concern.  Even when excess amounts of glandulars have been ingested, the body can easily deaminize them. Most glandular dietary supplements have been made and processed in a very special proprietary ways to remove all traces of hormones.

3 – By way of an adaptogenic effect: An adaptogenic substance (like a food, herb, vitamin, glandular, etc.) 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 for example powerful 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 highly specific, 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. Thereby resting the pancreas in day-to-day functioning. 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.

Dr. Paul Niehans

Dr. Niehans was a Swiss medical doctor who discovered ‘Cell Therapy’ in 1931, when he replaced a parathyroid gland of a patient damaged during an operation with parathyroid cells from a calf, instead of whole parathyroid implants. He later used an alternative approach on a female patient whose parathyroid gland had been erroneously removed by another doctor. As transplant was not possible, Niehans injected live cells from the parathyroid of an ox which was not only well tolerated, but the patient recovered completely and lived for an additional 24 years.

In 1948, Niehans began to use liver, pancreas, kidney, heart, duodenum, thymus, as well as spleen cells, and by the following year began to use lyophilized (freeze-dried) cells instead of fresh animal cells. Due to his incredible success, European doctors began to accept Niehans’ work with cell therapy. Cellular therapy was on the way to becoming an accepted regenerative technique in Europe, but not in the United States, where it is not legally available because of ‘safety concerns’ and ‘lack of proof of its effectiveness’. Strong growth in pharmaceutical interests in a post-war America were quick to discredit any non-patentable form of medicine, regardless of its efficacy.

Dr. Royal Lee – Protomorphogens

Dr. Royal Lee, founder of Standard Process, the world’s first nutritional company to formulate products ‘from seed to supplement’, dietary supplements made with whole food ingredients organically grown on their own farms. Dr. Royal Lee introduced his first glandular supplement called Catalyn in 1930.

Catalyn is still in production 84 years later and contains adrenal, liver, kidney, and spleen extracts. In the early 1950s, Dr. Lee introduced glandular supplements made by a unique process he developed.  He called them “protomorphogens” (proto = first or preceding, plus morphogen = able to cause or determine the origination, development, or form). Protomorphogen essentially means ‘the raw materials from which an organ is created’. Injectable protomorphogens similar to what Niehans was having so much success with in Europe, were so successful that the FDA soon outlawed them in America.

Lee discovered that when organs are damaged in our body, some of its cells are released into the bloodstream that attracts an immune response with the production of antibodies. These antibodies not only form CICs (circulating immune complexes) that attract various cytokine responses, they can potentially attack and damage the original organ or gland as well which causes what we now call “auto-immunity”, inducing conditions of ‘no know aetiology’ such as type 1 diabetes, R.A, colitis and M.S. Dr. Lee discovered that protomorphogens have the amazing ability to assist in the neutralisation of these immune complexes, thereby reducing the tissue destruction. Some people believe that the term protomorphogen simply means a “whole gland concentrate”. What Lee was trying to describe however with this term is the part of the cell itself that carries the “blueprint” material found in the nucleus of each and every cell itself. It is cytotrophic cellular material (cyto = cell, plus trophic = nourishment; thus, cellular nutrition). The nucleus of the cell is the cellular control centre, it contains large amounts of RNA (ribonucleic acid) and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), and these are responsible for gene expression, for the storage and transmission of genetic information. This is exactly how the characteristics of a cell’s proteins as well as the control of the protein’s activities outside the nucleus are determined. RNA and DNA are not only vital for the reproduction and replication of the cell; they translate the complex genetic molecular language into a highly unique protein sequence that determines the exact structure and function of each tissue, gland or organ.

Dr. Lee knew why glandulars worked so well, they supplied the body with specific peptides and polypeptides which helped to form the very core of cellular nutrition, and even though nucleic acids only account for less that 2 percent of a person’s body weight, Lee knew that they determine with precision the properties of specific corresponding cells in the human body. Dr. Lee believed that glandular tissues contain nutritionally contingent factors such as varied intrinsic protein factors which are separate from, but synergistic with the vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, enzymes, co-enzymes, and fatty acids contained within the specific gland.  These unique and highly specific protein factors are highly organ or tissue specific.  This means that the raw cellular material of a bovine kidney, for example, will be picked up from the lymph of the human kidney when ingested.  These tissue-specific particles apparently “target” other cooperative and essential nutrients to the gland or organ for repair and maintenance.

What Dr. Lee also discovered is that when cellular debris enters a person’s bloodstream, the activity produces RNA, which is then filtered and stored in the thymus gland, one of the main glands associated with the body’s immune system, particularly the development of T-cells, renowned for their cancer-fighting ability. From there, the RNA passes to the parotid glands where it combines with salivary juices and is secreted as food is chewed. During this process, these tissue-specific RNA particles combine with nutrients necessary to repair a particular target organ (depending on the glandular consumed). Rather than being distributed randomly throughout the body, these “tagged” nutrients find their way in concentrations to the specific organ tissue where they are needed.

Glandular Research – Radioactive Isotope Proof

Unfortunately, empirical observations and clinical evidence along with countless tens of thousands of patient testimonials are considered mere anecdotal by mainstream Western medicine. But for the past 40 to 50 years, scientific evidence is slowly turning the tide in favour once again of glandular medicine in clinical practice. Dr. Royal Lee’s theories of glandular therapy in terms of protecting cells from the body’s own immune system attack is a good fit with today’s anti-aging and free radical induced inflammatory response, along with the use of anti-oxidants. In 1967 and 1972, Dr. A. Kment of Germany demonstrated (through radioactive isotope tracing) that the bloodstream transports specific factors from glandular tissues and absorbed by the corresponding glands of the patient.  This radioactive isotope confirmation of organ specificity was also demonstrated by Stein (1967) and several years later again by Starzyl (1979).

Porcine Pancreatic Glandulars For Type 1 Diabetes

Dr. Andrew Muir from the University of Florida discovered that the nutritionally beneficial effects of glandular medicines are ineffective if they do not go through at least part of the digestive process, an indication that swallowing a glandular dietary supplement is the optimal way of benefitting from this therapy. Dr. Muir admitted that the use of glandulars is far from new, and his research and that of others is aimed at how and not at if glandular therapy works. Tests that Dr. Muir has performed to significantly delay the onset of Type 1 diabetes in rats that were bred to become diabetic have been so successful, that human trials are now being performed. The rats were fed pancreatic tissue proteins that are essentially pancreatic glandular extracts.

According to Dr. Richard D. DiMarchi, current Chairman in Bio molecular Sciences and Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University: “This particularly innovative approach to treat diabetes potentially offers the advantages of oral administration and a high degree of safety”. Dr. DiMarchi is most notable for his work as a former Vice President at Eli Lilly, a major pharmaceutical drug company.

Bovine Eye Protein For Uveitis

Dr. Robert Nussenblatt is a world-class ocular immunologist from the National Eye Institute in Maryland, USA, and an expert with 38 years of experience in designing and conducting clinical research eye studies. Dr. Nussenblatt states that “oral toleration’ and ‘oral tolerance treatment’ are the new terms used for glandular therapy. “Patients eat proteins that are like those in the beleaguered tissues in their own bodies.” Dr. Nussenblatt has been successfully treating patients with uveitis (a serious inflammatory eye disorder) by oral toleration with the ingestion of bovine eye protein. “It’s not hocus-pocus,” says Rachel R. Caspl, immunologist at the National Eye Institute. “We can definitely measure responses and confirm our data. This is very real science.”

Dr. Robert Nussenblatt has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed research papers, dozens of book chapters, and several books, including a standard textbook on uveitis. His work has appeared in publications including the New England Journal of Medicine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Nussenblatt is also an editor for ophthalmology publications and holds several patents on ophthalmological procedures.

Bovine Tissue Looks Very Promising

There are numerous reports as well as many scientific studies published on the efficacy of glandulars in clinical practice. Bovine glandulars look particularly promising for many different kinds of conditions. Dr. Howard Weiner and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital report that collagen, a natural component of cartilage tissue, reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. According to Dr. Weiner: “All of the animal studies and initial human trials look promising. This method is attractive because it allows us to take advantage of a natural route of exposure and a natural system rather than fighting the body.  And there aren’t any toxicities involved in treating people with glandular medicines either.”

Multiple sclerosis patients are currently being trialled with bovine myelin, because it has shown to produce significant improvements in animals with myelin disorders. Bovine brain glandulars assist persons with various nerve diseases and similar studies have revealed that bovine cartilage tissue can have a most positive effect of various forms of arthritis.

Many scientific papers (over 80 papers in 1996 alone) have been published on oral tolerance of glandular medicines.  What is interesting is that when glandulars are trialled and tested in a conventional scientific medical fashion, they are found to positively alter all aspects of human biochemistry. When a patient with hypothyroidism is given a thyroid glandular, thyroid blood tests improve, along with other tests that demonstrate thyroid activity. In my own personal experience I have routinely found this in clinical practice. Likewise, when I treat a patient with Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder for several months, salivary cortisol levels most always improve.

What Pharmaceutical Drugs Interact With Glandulars? (RX List)

  • Glandular products have no listed severe interactions with other drugs.
  • Glandular products have no listed serious interactions with other drugs.
  • Glandular products have no listed moderate interactions with other drugs.

Eric’s Conclusion

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.

Forget the sceptics, there are plenty of medical doctors who say “at best, glandular extracts are a waste of money. At worst, they could be dangerous. I strongly recommend against using these products” (Dr. Weil for example). Well, I guess he is a medical drug promoting doc. Many of the “old school” still think anything other than drugs and surgery is complete quackery.

Bob Dylan once wisely said “Oh the times, they are a changing”.

A good paper to read is A Rational For The Use Of Glandular Products by Robert Ronzio Ph.D.

And what about Mad Cow Disease? Glandular products have been produced and used for over 100 years with absolutely no reports of microbial contamination or resultant illness.  In USA where we obtain our supplies, both the FDA and the USDA requirements and strict quality assurance assure there is absolutely no such contamination.  The chance of glandular products transmitting BSE to humans is virtually non-existent.  Since BSE does not exist in any country (such as NZ) from which raw materials for glandulars may be made, there is no need for concern about any link between BSE and human transmission from that source.


  • Weston A. Price, D.D.S., Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, New Canaan: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1989.
  • Royal Lee, D.D.S., An Intro. Protomorphology, Los Angeles, 19 April 1956.
  • Royal Lee, D.D.S., 10 “The Control of Growth, Health and Vitality by Protomorphogens, 23 Feb. 1954, p.1.
  • Jeffrey Bland PhD, “Glandular-Based Supplements: Helping to Separate Fact from Fiction,” Bellevue-Redmond Medical Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, 1980, pp. 20-21.
  • Jeffrey Bland, “Nutritional Perspectives”, July 1980, pp.15-39.
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Discussion (8 comments)

  1. Great article. There’s quite a bit of research on peptides from collagen. It does appear that di- and tri-peptides get absorbed into the bloodstream, and end up in the skin, where positive effects are seen. The same type of thing could happen with peptides from glandular supplements.

    1. I”m very interested in this topic, and have used glandulars for years in our naturopathic clinic before retiring. Some of the best glandulars in fact come from NZ, grass-fed animals. We have seen some incredible results with thyroid and adrenal glandulars in particular. I wish more funding went into this field of medicine, it seems to make so much common-sense. Thank you for your comment.

      1. Thanks for the article.

        Is there more information on the subject on Medical Glandular Therapy that you can recommend please.

    1. Your best option currently may be a doctor who knows the Standard Process array of products. Many Chiropractors sell SP, but some ND’s do as well.

  2. Hey Eric, great article! Do you by any chance know where I could find the research documents by Dr. A. Kment, Stein (1967) and Starzyl (1979) on radio isotopes and glandular therapy?

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