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Glandular Therapy

The history of glandular or tissue therapy has its roots in ancient cultures, as exhibited by the common belief that the health or function of a specific body part could be enhanced by consuming the same organ from a specific animal. The practice was accepted to varying degrees as modern civilizations advanced. 

With the development of endocrinology (the study of hormones, glandular organs and their function), and the understanding of the actions of hormones on the body, glandular therapy acquired a basis in science, and gained popularity as a form of medical treatment. The modern use of thyroid hormone supplements in hypothyroid patients, and even porcine insulin in diabetics, can be seen as stemming from this historical practice.

As chemists and biochemists developed improved analytical and extraction methods, the medical profession embraced the use of pharmacologic doses of pure hormones and other pharmaceutical agents for therapy, either as natural or synthetic products. Physiologists, nutritionists, and medical professionals accepted the idea that other tissue constituents such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates were not absorbed intact, but were broken down into their amino acid, fatty acid or simple sugar components.  Consequently, the scientific community generally abandoned glandular therapy in favor of pure drug treatments. 

The principal challenge to oral glandular therapy was the lack of evidence that large molecules were absorbed intact across the intestinal wall, and that there was no evidence that ingested materials could exert specific effects (either sparing effects or healing effects) on target tissues. However, radioactive and dye studies have demonstrated that large hormones, enzymes, proteins and peptides are routinely absorbed intact or only partially degraded, and that these constituents can concentrate in target tissues. Laboratory studies have documented a more rapid uptake of tagged cells or their components by traumatized organs than normal organs, leading to enhanced healing rates. These observations have lead to the resurgence of interest in whole food supplementation, or glandular therapy, as a method of promoting tissue sparing and cellular repair in specific disease states.

Veterinary use of whole tissue supplements has paralleled its use in the human field. In recent decades, holistic practitioners have begun to employ glandular therapy and whole tissue supplementation in immune-mediated and degenerative disorders that are often refractory to conventional therapies.


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