glandular products

Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022

Generic Name: glandular products

Other Names: adrenal extract, aortic glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), liver extract, pancreatic extract, spleen extract, thymus extract, thyroid extract

Drug Class: Herbals

What are glandular products, and what are they used for?

Glandular products are nutritional supplements prepared with extracts from dried organ tissues of animals such as cows, pigs or sheep. Glands form part of the body’s endocrine system, a network of organs that secrete hormones into the bloodstream. Endocrine glands include pineal, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal, pancreas, and gonads (testes and ovaries). Glandular products taken as supplements, however, also refer to extracts from other organs such as the heart, spleen, uterus, prostate, brain, and other tissues.

Glandular products have been historically used to enhance the function or mimic the effect of the corresponding organ in the body. Glandular products contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, peptides, nucleotides, and other nutrients, specific to each organ. Organ meats are valued for their rich nutrient content in cultures where they are consumed as food. Studies show glandular products taken as supplements have efficacy for their listed uses, however, it is safer to take them in consultation with a healthcare provider and avoid over-the-counter (OTC) products.


Glandular products and their suggested uses include the following:

Adrenal extract

Aortic glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)

  • Vascular insufficiencies

Liver extract

  • Adjunctive therapy in liver disorders, source of heme iron, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, enhancing muscle development in bodybuilders, and improving strength and stamina

Pancreas extract

  • Digestive aid (with food), anti-inflammatory, herpes zoster, and immune complex diseases

Spleen extract

Thymus extract

Thyroid extract

What are the side effects of glandular products?


  • Do not take glandular products if you are hypersensitive to animal products including ovine/bovine/porcine extracts.
  • Glandular extracts are usually prepared from organs gathered from slaughterhouses, which presents a potential risk for infection from contaminants.
  • Avoid taking glandular products from countries where the cattle disease bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, occurs.

Common side effects of glandular products include:

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:

This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


Where is the thyroid gland located? See Answer

What are the dosages of glandular products?

Appropriate dosages vary depending on the product and there is inadequate information to determine a standard appropriate dosing. Follow the manufacturer’s label.

Suggested dosages:

Adrenal extract

  • Varies depending on product; follow label recommendations, and titrate as indicated

Aortic glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)

  • Typical Dose
    • 100 mg orally once daily
  • Cerebrovascular disease
    • 100-144 mg/day orally
    • 30 mg intramuscular (IM) twice daily
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
    • 72 mg/day orally
  • Hypertriglyceridemia
    • 96 mg/day orally

Liver extract

  • Varies depending on product; follow label recommendations, and titrate as indicated

Pancreas USP extract

  • 500-1000 mg orally thrice daily, with or without meals

Spleen extract

  • 1.5 g spleen peptides (50 mg tuftsin and splenopentin)/day

Thymus extract

  • 120 mg pure polypeptides or 750 mg crude polypeptide fraction/day

Thyroid extract

  • Varies depending on product; follow label recommendations, and titrate as indicated


  • Overdose of glandular products can have serious adverse effects because each product can overstimulate the particular organ’s function. For instance, overdose of thyroid extract can lead to overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and overdose of liver extract can cause iron overload.
  • Treatment of glandular products overdose includes discontinuation of the product and appropriate symptomatic and supportive care.

What drugs interact with glandular products?

Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.

  • Glandular products have no listed serious, severe, or moderate interactions with other drugs.
  • Mild interactions of glandular products include:
    • levothyroxine
    • liothyronine
    • thyroid desiccated

The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.

It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions about the medication.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • There is no reliable information on the safety of glandular products use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Avoid taking glandular products if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, unless specifically prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Never take any nutritional supplement including glandular products without first checking with your healthcare provider, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What else should I know about glandular products?

  • Take glandular products exactly as prescribed, or as per label instructions if you use OTC products.
  • Check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary/nutritional supplement, including glandular products.
  • Dietary supplements often contain many ingredients. Check labels for the components in the glandular product you choose.
  • Glandular products are marketed as nutritional supplements and are not stringently regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents; exercise caution in choosing your product.
  • Store glandular products safely out of reach of children.
  • In case of overdose, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.


Glandular products are nutritional supplements used to enhance the function or mimic the effect of an organ. Glandular products can be used to treat hypothyroidism, low adrenal function, autoimmune disorders, adrenocortical insufficiency, hyperkalemia, ulcerative colitis, liver disorders, vascular insufficiencies, pancreatic disorders, and others. Common side effects of glandular products include allergic reactions, hyperthyroidism symptoms, iron overload, infection, and others.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022