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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Adrenal Extracts

What are adrenal extracts? Why do we need them?

Adrenal extracts are made from the adrenal glands of bovine sources - most often cows, but also sheep and pigs. They come from the adrenal glands, a pair of small glands found just above the kidneys.

Adrenal extracts are usually made using either the whole gland, or just the cortex, or outer portion, of the adrenal. They are believed to supply small amounts of adrenal hormones and improve the function of the human adrenal glands.

Adrenal extracts have been in use at least since the 1930s, typically to support the adrenal glands and help people deal with stress. Whole adrenal extracts have been used to help patients deal with fatigue and suppressed or depleted immune systems. Some studies have shown that adrenal extracts may be successful in treating the symptoms of morning sickness. Other research suggests they can help relieve the symptoms of allergies and inflammatory conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

How much adrenal extract should I take?

Patients with poor adrenal gland function or adrenal insufficiency may have lower levels of certain hormones than other people. However, because adrenal extracts are not considered essential nutrients, daily recommended allowances and optimal levels have yet to be established. The amount to be taken depends on the quality and potency of the extract. Patients should consult with a licensed health care provider about proper dosage and use.

What forms of adrenal extract are available?

Originally, adrenal extracts were available in an injectible solution. Today, they are most commonly sold in capsule and tablet form.

What can happen if I take too much adrenal extract? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

High-potency extracts may cause stomach irritation in some people. Other side-effects may include anxiety and insomnia. Excessive amounts of adrenal extracts may lead to side-effects similar to those seen in people taking large amounts of the drug prednisone; however, these side-effects usually disappear after discontinuing use. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult with a health care practitioner before taking adrenal extracts.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with adrenal extracts. As always, make sure to speak with a license health care provider before taking adrenal extracts or any other dietary supplement or herbal remedy.

References

  • Demitrack MA Crofford LJ., Evidence for and pathophysiologic implications of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Ann N Y Acad Sci May 1, 1998:840:684-97.
  • Gardner MLG. Gastrointestinal absorption of intact proteins. Annu Rev Nutr 1988;8:329-50.
  • Hemmings WA, Williams EW. Transport of large breakdown products of dietary protein through the gut wall. Gut 1986;27:715-23.
  • Masin G, Piccolomini A, Soma V. Natural adrenal cortex extract in the prevention of operative stress in obstetrics and gynecology. Clin Ter 1981;99(2):131-137.
  • Murray MT. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996.

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