Glandular therapy is a medical practice with roots in traditional medicine. It originates from thousands of years of accumulated experience.
Also known as organotherapy, tissue therapy, or cell therapy, glandular therapies are characterized by the use of animal tissues to produce biological effects. Whole animal
tissues, organs, or special extracts are used to support, repair, or manage early functional health problems. Organ tissues are utilized for their effects on the patient’s corresponding organ tissues, in hopes of achieving beneficial physiologic changes and healing. In essence, the goal is “like heals like.”
ANCIENT USE OF GLANDULAR THERAPY
Ancient Egyptian medicine and Ayurvedic writings from several hundred years B.C. mention the therapeutic use of animal tissues and glandular materials.1 Glandular therapies then evolved into what would be considered scientific endocrinology in the 19th century; the dramatic healing of a patient suffering from severely low thyroid function (myxomatous edema), using a glandular extract of thyroid tissues, was documented with much enthusiam.3
As glandular therapy gained increased acceptance in mainstream medicine, it became termed “organotherapy”. Crude extracts and whole gland concentrates were developed in the 1920s and 30s, with more reputable supply companies and the clinical use of glandular materials described more extensively in scientific literature.4 Cell therapies consisting of injections of fresh animal cells into patients also emerged in the mid-20th century.2,5
TREATMENT FOR DOGS AND CATS
Veterinarians have been using glandular therapies in dogs and cats for decades. Oral freeze-dried concentrates of liver, kidney, heart, and other tissues have been used to treat and manage degenerative conditions with some success. However, this area of veterinary
medicine needs further exploration to document efficacy.
Some concerns have arisen as to whether whole glandular or live cell therapies might transmit infectious disease, including viruses, from one species to another.
Freeze-drying, however, regulates sterility while allowing preservation of cell materials for a longer time. The use of freeze-dried cell ultrafiltrates also removes potential antigenic cell surface material and allows for better quality control.6
The humane treatment of animals is paramount when tissues from one donor species are used to treat another.
Glandular tissues may provide a source of bioactive compounds, such as the following, which are capable of delivering clinically beneficial effects:
• Peptide hormones
• Low-dose hormones
• Lipids, steroids, and fat-soluble compounds
• Pancreatic and other glandular enzymes
Glandular tissues may also play a role in modulating the immune system. Ingested proteins may act as antigens by the gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT) to help establish oral tolerance. Promoting oral tolerance helps inhibit autoimmunity. Glandular tissues
may contain small proteins or peptides that directly or indirectly promote oral tolerance and a balanced immune response.
Glandular therapy may be an untapped medical approach for animals and humans alike, although further study is needed to understand its potential benefits. It has a long history of use for a wide variety of health conditions. Glandular therapies may be a rich source of bioactive ingredients, including lipids, steroids, and enzymes.
- Harrower H. Practical Hormone Therapy – a manual of organotherapy for general practitioners. American Medical. 1916.
- Uhlenbruck P. Introduction In: Schmid. Cell research and cellular therapy. Switzerland: Thourne;1967.
- Schwartz TB. Henry Harrower and the turbulent beginnings of endocrinology. Ann Intern Med. 1999;131(9):702-6.
- Schoen AM WS. Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine. Mosby; 1998. p. 81-91.
- IM P.Cell Therapy. Journal of International Academy of Preventative Medicine. 1977;3:74.
- Allen T, Solorzano H. Cell therapy. In: Alternative medicine: the definitive guide, Purallup, Wash, 1993, Future Medicine.