The adrenal glands secrete cortisol and other hormones that regulate the body's stress response and support normal physiological functioning. As a treatment for adrenal disorders, holistic physician James L. Wilson and other physicians say that people showing signs of adrenal fatigue, a disorder linked to prolonged stress, can boost underperforming glands with adrenal cell extracts or glandulars, also called raw adrenal supplements. While these supplements, which are derived from animals, feature hormones, nucleic acids and nutrients that provide building blocks to help restore the adrenal glands, effectiveness depends upon the stage of adrenal weakness that a person is experiencing, Wilson and other physicians say.
When a person takes a raw adrenal supplement, the constituents of the supplemental gland are incorporated into the same gland within the body, Wilson says. These substances help build and support healthy structure and function in the adrenal glands and other endocrine glands affected by stress. This stress can come from a physical source, such as accident or injury, or a psychological source, such as financial, job or relationship difficulties, Wilson writes in his book "Adrenal Fatigue," therapy with adrenal extracts was widely used to treat the flu and other endocrine disorders before the development of synthetic cortisol in the 1950s.
Mild Adrenal Fatigue
Dr. Michael Lam, a specialist in nutritional medicine, agrees that short-term use adrenal supplements have a role in treating mild adrenal disorders. In people showing mild and moderate symptoms, the supplements serve as adaptogens, which stimulate hormone production, and have resulted in patients feeling more energetic when previously fatigued, and calm where previously anxious. Due to the lack of standardization in over-the-counter supplements, consumers should exercise caution and work with a medical professional. While adrenal supplements are made from porcine and bovine sources, the best products come from freeze-dried extracts from organic cows raised in New Zealand, Lam advises.
Advanced Adrenal Fatigue
For people showing advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, raw adrenal extracts can operate as stimulants and, if taken long-term, deliver negative side effects. "Taking adrenal glandulars chronically to sustain energy is one of the common reasons for adrenal recovery failures due to addictive and withdrawal side effects of these compounds," Lam writes. Over time, the body may require a higher dosage of glandulars to produce the same effect. Withdrawal and rebound symptoms may develop when the person stops taking the supplement. The supplemental glandular also may trigger extreme fatigue, palpitation or blood pressure sensitivity, Lam writes.