Endocrine System, Hormones and Glands
As we go through life enjoying a good functioning body, we oft times forget that each little part of the human system is built in for a specific reason. Of course we know we would be in severe trouble if the heart, kidneys, lungs and other commonly known organs were not doing an efficient job. These organs are quite well known by all, but there are also numerous “other little workers” that people are not quite so familiar with, and yet they are very essential. One of these organs is called the adrenal glands. These glands are small, but so important to mankind for if they are ignored and allowed to deteriorate, we are in much trouble. This has been portrayed plainly by one of our best “Sounding boards”, or the “opinion” of doctors who are working with people having adrenal problems.
In our monthly seminars with doctors, we are asked repeatedly – “What can be one for malfunctioning adrenal glands?” A larger and larger number of their patients are suffering from this problem. Because of so many requests for an aid to the adrenals, we formulated a group of herbs consisting of mullein and lobelia, Siberian Ginseng, Gotu Kola, Hawthorn berries, cayenne and ginger. Later in this article this formula will be explained in more detail, but here I wish it noted that two of the important herbs recommended are mullein and lobelia. They are a natural pair to use in repair and rejuvenation of the glandular system. Also, the balance of each additional herb added.This formula for the adrenal glands has done much good, but it is, as we have explained frequently before, working on the effect. In addition to this, we must go to the cause-watch the diet, the liquid intake, remembering to use deep breathing exercises, and above all, keep a positive and good mental outlook on life.
The adrenal glands, seated on top of each kidney, are part of the endocrine system, that is: the internally secreting or ductless glands which release their secretions directly into the blood stream. The adrenals, often referred to as the suprarenal, are the Creator’s most intricate chemical factories “It would take acres of chemical plant” to synthetically manufacture “the 50 odd hormones or hormone-like substances” produced by the adrenal glands. (Ratcliff, 1975, p. 69)
Not only do these hormones control all the ‘oxidation” processes of the human body through the anterior pituitary body, but they regulate growth, mental balance, sexual development and maintenance, and a host of other phenomena which we shall describe forthwith.The adrenals, the pituitary, and the thyroid are functionally united comprising the adrenal system. THE ADRENALS ARE ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO LIFE, so please try to avoid the knife of some frivolous surgeon on them.
“There are two adrenal glands, one at the upper pole of each kidney. The right gland is situated between the liver and the diaphragm and in close proximity to the inferior vena cava. The left adrenal has behind it the kidney and the left crus of the diaphragm where as in front there is the stomach and the pancreas. Each gland has a hilum on the medial side from which the adrenal vein emerges. The right vein joins the inferior vena cava directly but the left drains into the left renal vein. The arteries supplying the adrenal are very numerous and they anastomose in the capsule of the gland. The arteries arise from the phrenic (superior suprarenal artery), from the aorta (middle suprarenal artery) and from the renal artery (inferior suprarenal artery). The adrenal glands removed at surgery and cleaned of fat, together weigh 8 to 10 grams. Those removed as postmortem frequently weigh more because hypertrophy has occurred during the terminal illness.
Each gland consists of two portions, an outer cortex which on section appears bright yellow, and an inner medulla which is brown. The whole gland is only 4 to 6 mm thick. In development and function the cortex and medulla are like separate glands: the former is essential to life whereas the latter is not. Almost all the nerves to the gland end in the medulla and influence the secretion of its pressor amines.” (Mills, 1964 p. 3). The adrenals are two different glands encapsulated as one: the cortex and the medulla. The medulla consists of cords of secretory and nerve (ganglion) cells. Fibers of the greater splanchnic nerve (sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system) stimulate the metabolic rate and the breakdown/mobilization of starch (glycogen) and lipids (fatty acids), resulting in more available energy. They elicit the “fight or flight” reaction in response to life threatening situations: increased nervous system activity, dilated pupils, increased blood supply to skeletal muscle, blood shunted away from skin and gastrointestinal tract to more critical areas, increased respiration rate, and increased heart rate and force of contractions.
The adrenal cortex is organized into three regions: the zona glomerulose (secreting hormones dealing with fluid and electrolyte balance, such as aldosterone and other mineralocorticoid); and the zona fasciculate and reticultariis (secreting hormones influencing carbohydrate metabolism, such as cortisol and other glucocorticoid; and low levels of sex hormones). ACTH from the anterior lobe of the pituitary stimulates secretion of the glucocorticoid. Aldosterone is secreted in response to certain enzymes in the blood (renin-angiotensin system). All these hormones play roles involving all aspects of protein, carbohydrate, electrolyte, and water metabolism … (Kapit and Elson, 1977) The adrenal cortex is formed during fetal development from the same tissue that becomes the gonads and secretes the “steroidal hormones”. (Moore, 1979)
HORMONES OF THE ADRENAL CORTEX
CORTISOL: “Cortisol (or Hydrocortisone) is secreted by the zona fasciculate of the cortex and its rate of secretion is controlled by the pituitary hormone A.C.T.H.” (Mills, 1964, p. 3)
ACTH is secreted by the anterior lobe of the pituitary, and is a polypeptide composed of 39 amino acids. ACTH stands for adrenocorticotrophic hormone or corticotrophin.
The regulator or corticotrophin, known as C.R.F. or corticotrophin releasing factor, is secreted by the hypothalamus.
The pituitary hormone stimulates the adrenal to produce cortisol. Then when the level of cortisol rises in the blood it acts upon the pituitary to decrease the production of ACTH; except in conditions of stress, including severe infections, accidents, operations, emotional outrages, depleting drugs (and this includes the processed junk foods, salt, and preservatives) the plasma cortisol rises to high levels to enable the organism to cope with the induced tension or imbalance. In fact, stress itself has been known to cause an increased release of corticotrophin.
Corticotrophin has been synthesized in the laboratory. It is similar to, but not exactly the same as the ACTH produced in the healthy human body. However, it is used in various ailments, because it does, in fact, relieve some of the symptoms of adrenal hormone imbalance. It cannot, however go to the cause of adrenal exhaustion and is fraught with possible hideous side effects.
Cortisol is indispensable in the following functions of the body:
Excretion of water – Within four hours, the body should excrete 75% of an ingested load of water. If more than the amount is retained, or excreted very slowly over a period of many hours, there is an adrenal deficiency, and a need for cortisol, or a similar hormone.
Sodium-Potassium metabolism – Cortisol usually regulates sodium retention and potassium excretion, but if artificial cortisol is administered, the sudden mobilization of the retained water in the unbalanced body is usually accompanied by quick depletion of potassium as well as sodium. A further increased dose of cortisol continues to deplete the potassium, especially if it is administered in large amounts; an associated side effect is extra-cellular “alkalosis”, a raised plasma bicarbonate level.
Glucose metabolism – Cortisol is responsible for “glycogenesis”, that is, the conversion of protein to glucose in the liver. If cortisol is given to a normal person intravenously, the liver begins to trap amino acids at an increased rate, and the blood sugar level begins to rise after two hours. In people with adrenal imbalance where the cortisol secretion is very high, or with those individuals who are on cortisone treatments for some other malady, there is an interference with the peripheral action of insulin, that is, the intra-arterial insulin has much less effect upon the glucose uptake by peripheral tissues.
“The prolonged administration of cortisone or similar steroids may lead to the development of diabetes which is RESISTANT TO INSULIN and in which ketosis is not usually severe. It is important, however, that patients who require large doses of steroids for therapeutic purposes and who develop severe diabetes should be treated with insulin or else irreversible diabetes may be found to persist after the withdrawal of the steroid.” (Mills, 1964, p. 49) Now the poor victim not only has adrenal exhaustion, but the treatment with “inorganic drugs” also may serve to throw his pancreas into a state of disrepair as well!
Protein Metabolism – An increase of “nitrogen loss” through the urine can occur with cortisol administration. This is associated with gluconeogenesis and the trapping of amino acids at a rapid rate by the liver. In extreme adrenal malfunction, Cushing’s Disease, and the use of large doses of cortisone or prednisone, the results are loss of muscle mass, decrease in thickness of the skin, and osteoporosis, which is the loss of the “ossein network” in the bone.
Calcium and Phosphorus metabolism – Because of the osteoporosis, decalcification of the skeleton occurs with an overproduction of “cortisol” in the adrenal gland. In addition, phosphorus is not reabsorbed by the body, but excreted in the urine. Massive doses of Vitamin D have no effect upon the decalcification syndrome. (Decalcification also discussed by Morton A. Meyers, M.D., 1963)
Fat Metabolism – Along with a stimulation of the appetite from cortisol overproduction, the amount of fat deposits in the body are more than normal. This may be, in part, due to the conversion of the “excess glucose” formed from “protein” trapping to fat.
Uric Acid Metabolism – Cortisone will lower the uric acid level in the blood plasma, and excrete the uric acid in increased amounts in the urine. In acute attacks of gout, relief is obtained from the steroids only when very little rise in uric acid excretion occurs.
Blood Cells – Although there have not been any long-term experiments, it would appear that steroids of the cortisol type tend to stimulate red blood cell production.
Blood Pressure – Cortisol is essential to the maintenance of normal blood pressure. In cases of overproduction of cortisol, or the administration (long term) of corticosteroids, hypertension may develop. In the case of adrenal deficiency, low blood pressure is one of the common symptoms.
Response to inflammation – Inflammatory states, be they from trauma, infection, or other disorders, are depressed or inhibited by the presence of cortisol. Cortisol often helps the dissolution of fibrous tissue (which may enclose an organism such as tuberculosis). On the other hand, an excess of cortisol affects “cell mitosis” which can interfere with the healing of wounds/or fractures.
Suppression of Allergic Reactions – The skin may produce a rash as a reaction to a foreign protein. Additional symptoms may be local edema and bronco-spasm. Both cortisol and adrenaline will suppress these reactions to an extent.
Peptic ulceration – Gastric secretion is stimulated by cortisol. It has been observed that people who are being treated with synthetic cortisol for arthritis and who are simultaneously ingesting aspirin, may be contributing to their own delinquency, as the excess cortisol may delay healing of the ulcers. The steroid in high concentration in the stomach (without food) may lead to the development of ulcers. Ulcers of the colon have been reported in patients being treated with synthetic ACTH.
Gonadal Function – Absence of menstruation, or irregular bleeding have been noted in the instance of long-term artificial corticosteroid therapy. Cortisol regulates the ovular cycles in females, and in males, an overdose of cortisol may lead to the atrophy of the testosterone secreting cells of the testis, and also adversely affect the seminal vessels.
Bleeding and Bruising – In Cushing’s Syndrome, an overproduction of Cortisol by the adrenal gland in addition to dysfunction of the pituitary, and possibly an adrenal tumor or disorder of the hypothalamus and the central nervous system, the sufferers bruise easily.
Mental changes – Hallucinations and delusions may be observed either with overproduction or underproduction of cortisol. Overdosage with cortisol may produce initial euphoria or difficulty in sleeping. Severe depression has been noted in people who have been on corticosteroid therapy for some time. Withdrawal of steroids alone will not usually cure the depression, and the person must be given antidepressant drugs with their attendant side effects.
Withstanding Stress – During stress or trauma, cortisol is absolutely essential for a person to be able to withstand the circumstances. In Adrenalectomy and Addison’s Disease, artificial cortisol is necessary when a person undergoes trauma or stress, or often all of the symptoms of adrenal depletion will occur. (Mills, 1964, p. 46-57)
In the light of the above information, doesn’t it make more sense to care for and maintain healthy adrenals? And that’s only half of it. Let’s go into the symptoms of Addison’s Disease or adrenal insufficiency, and see if we don’t agree that a majority of folks around us are suffering from adrenal exhaustion in one form or another.
In 1855, Thomas Addison described a disorder of the suprarenal capsules, or the adrenal glands. He had the dubious honor of having the disease bear his name to this day in history. Herewith shall be presented a capsulation of the symptoms of chronic adrenal deficiency according to Ivor H. Mills, M.A., Ph.D., MD, and F.R.C.P. and one of Great Britain’s experts on adrenal function: “The adrenal in this disease suffers from destruction by tuberculosis or progressive atrophy or, very rarely, destruction by secondary carcinoma [cancer] … most common presenting symptom is tiredness… “worn out” but healthy people… loss of weight … slowly and is not usually gross… gastrointestinal upset is not uncommon … severity depends upon the degree of steroid deficiency… may have no such symptoms of gastrointestinal upset until he gets acute infection … anorexia, vomiting and occasional diarrhea… vague abdominal pain … steatorrhoea [increase fecal fat excretion] to the extent of 30 gm. fat per day, without diarrhea…
Pigmentation is a striking feature of the patient with advanced Addison’s disease … widespread on trunk, face, arms, and extends to the creases of the hands and the mucous membranes of the mouth … tan of a previous summer did not fade during the winter … even in Negroes … palmar pigmentation has increased… tendency for the blood pressure to be low …. vascular reflex responses to the fall in pressure are impaired. The periphery (hands, nose, ears) of such a patient may be warm when the systolic pressure has fallen below 100 mm Hg whereas a person with normal adrenals would usually show peripheral constriction with a fall in arterial pressure … Hypoglycemia… does occasionally occur… They may suffer hypoglycemic symptoms some hours after a large carbohydrate meal but usually their anorexia prevents them from consuming sufficient carbohydrate to do this …
In women of childbearing age, some disturbance of the menstrual rhythm is occasionally seen …. loss of pubic and auxiliary hair is a very useful physical sign … Impotence is rare but loss of interest in sexual activity is not uncommon … Nocturia (night urination) is common in patients with chronic adrenal deficiency, because of the impairment of their handling of a water load …. mild neurotic traits to gross psychosis … depression, schizophrenia, and hallucinations …. severe headache … resemble/s/ patients with raised intra cranial pressure, but the blood pressure remains low and the pulse rate does not slow …. An X-Ray of the chest may reveal the small heart frequently seen in chronic adrenal deficiency …. A straight X-ray of the abdomen may reveal calcification above the kidneys if the adrenals have been destroyed by tuberculosis … sodium and chloride are low or in the lower half of the normal range… blood urea frequently raised… a low fasting blood sugar… Low adrenal steroid excretion… [ACTH test is usually used to confirm adrenal deficiency:
if no increase of steroid hormone is noted in the urine after two to four days of intravenous administration of ACTH, then adrenal deficiency is suspected rather than other diseases such as Steatorrhoea, Crohn’s disease (regional ileitis), Cirrhosis of the liver, Slat losing renal disease, Leukemia, Anorexia nervosa, and chronic thyrotoxicosis.]” (Mills, 1964, pp. 88-100)The special requirements of pregnancy, surgery, diabetes, and hypoparathyroidism complicate Addison’s disease even more. In addition to Addison’s disease there is hypopituitarism which is a deficiency of pituitary thyroid stimulating hormone, and can result in loss of pigmentation, and also in water intoxication because of the prevention of the steady drain of sodium into the urine. This may exhibit itself as confusion and disorientation, epileptic fits, hypothermia, and even coma. There is also depressed thyroid function: sensitivity to cold, slowness in mental and physical activities, loss of sexual libido, absence of menstruation in women and impotence in men. “In children, arrest of growth hormone occurs.” (Mills, 1964, p. 133)
Aldosterone is secreted by the zona glomerulosa of the cortex of the adrenal gland, and is the main mineralocorticoid. Aldersterone has a similar electrolytic effect as cortisol. (Mills, 1964 p.) In Hypopituitarism, there is less secretion of aldosterone than in the normal person. Some other symptoms of this ailment are anemia and tiredness. Also the victim can be very thin. There is decreased body hair. The true disease may go undiagnosed for years, while the person is given various inorganic iron compounds for the treatment of anemia.
An increased of secretion of aldosterone occurs after hemorrhage, on a low salt diet, when a person is loaded with potassium salts, during pregnancy, and during the first few days of ACTH administration. (Mills, 1964, p. 140) For an abnormal excessive increase of aldosterone and its accompanying syndrome, an adrenalectomy (removal of part of the adrenal gland which bears the aldosterone secreting tumor) is advised by the standard practitioners.
The androgens, which are three substances produced by the adrenals are the “main precursors of the urinary-17-ketosteroid. The other tissues contributing to these urinary steroids are the testes and the ovaries. (Mills, 1964, p. 79) These androgens affect puberty changes, the sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin, the nitrogen balance in the body, and the fusion of the ends of the long bones in forming the adult skeleton.
Androgen plays and important role in the fetal sexual development. Any imbalance in this important hormone group could display disastrous results in the form of genital abnormalities at birth, development of hirsutism (excess facial and body hair) in the female accompanied by deepening of the voice and loss of female fat distribution often associated with ovarian tumors. Adrenal tumors may also be responsible for feminization of males, with fat deposits on the hips of males and changes in the function of the reproductive organs.
As we have observed, the proper functioning of the adrenals are quite a blessing as the complications of adrenal hormone imbalance hormone insufficiency, as well as synthesized hormone therapy are extremely risky. We note, too, that it is of the utmost importance to maintain the health of several other interrelated organs or systems such as the pituitary, the thyroid, the nervous system, the kidneys, the pancreas … we could go on indefinitely, but it will suffice to say that instead of provoking the aforementioned syndromes of exhausted adrenals or use of synthetic (and this includes animal gland extracts, as they are also a crutch and they are not the same as human hormones) steroid therapy, we can rebuild the adrenal tissues through cleansing, mucusless diet, and nontoxic, wholesome herbs.
For example, licorice root contains a cortisone-like substance which actually feeds the adrenals. During the 1950’s successful medical experiments were done with licorice root. As one looks through the more modern medical literature the idea seems to have been given up in favor of more “sophisticated” inorganic drugs. The body, being the wonderful computer that it is, can select what it needs in the amount it needs for regaining normalcy in adrenal function. According to Le Sassier, “The body has certain organs that store energy-especially the liver, spleen, and adrenal system… When any one of them becomes to weak, it borrows on other organs and interrelates these imbalances perfectly so the system does not, on the whole, suffer too much.
It really pays to do several things when the system is weak: sleep, stay warm, and eat lightly but of nourishing things, preferably with complete amino acid balances. Remember, when the body does not sleep at night the nervous system, lungs, adrenals, and liver all suffer. In order to avoid this we must first understand the healthy immune reaction-what I call atunement… Overuse of stimulants, coffee and others weaken the adrenals. A good way to tell how much vitality is present in the adrenals and the kidneys is to look under eyes. Those dark circles are sometimes called adrenal ruts.
To rebuild weak glands, B vitamins, sarsaparilla, licorice, and ginseng can be used. These contain plant ingredients that support adrenal functions. These can be made into a formula such as this:
- 1 part sarsaparilla
- 1/2 part licorice
- 1 part ginseng
- 1 part astragalus (or burdock root)
Two cups a day for about a week and a good conscious diet … Unless the system is seriously depleted or seriously diseased it is not necessary to fill yourself with hundreds of vitamins. Let your system develop its own natural resistance to disease. (LeSassier in Salat and Copperfield, 1979, pp. 51-53)
Because licorice root acts as desoxycorticosterone when administered orally, and sodium retention are present along with some potassium loss (in experiments done in the Netherlands on human subjects) there may exist a slight caution in administering large amounts of the herb to those persons suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure. In these cases, we must seek to remove the causes of high blood pressure through diet, including herbs. Herbs and foods high in potassium, elder for example, or grape juice, would be indicated here.
The Adrenal Formula which we recommend consists of:
Mullein and lobelia: the perfect glandular foods
Siberian Ginseng: Successfully used in the Soviet Union to ease stress in everyday situations and tend endurance to athletes under great strain during training
Gotu Kola: Known to stimulate the brain and relieve fatigue when given in small amounts. Wonderful for the functioning of the pituitary in disorders of the adrenal system when used in conjunction with other herbs.
Hawthorn Berries: A celebrated cardiac tonic for many centuries. Under conditions of stress, the heart often “works overtime.” Hawthorn berries can help in treatment of high or low blood pressure, tachycardia, and arrhythmia. It is also anti-spasmodic, sedative, and soothing to nerves, especially in nervous insomnia.
Cayenne: Nature’s finest stimulant; source of calcium and vitamin A. Aids in circulation of blood which brings oxygen and other nutriments to cells in need of repair.
Ginger: A stimulant and a ‘lead sheep’ herb, bringing the other herbs in the formula into the abdominal area. Ginger differs from cayenne as a stimulant, in that the cayenne stimulates the heart, arteries, veins and then the capillaries. Ginger starts its stimulating effect in the capillary, flushing out the “constipated” capillary, driving these wastes into the veins for disposal. This formula may be taken as capsules or as a tea. It may safely be given to a person suffering from hypertension.
For those who wish to rebuild the adrenals and do not have the sodium retention problem, Licorice root can be used as a supplement the above formula in tablets, capsules, extract, or as a tea. The suggested dosage is one #0 capsule daily – six days each week. Relaxation, meditation, recreation, or some form of stress reducing activity will certainly help the cause of exhausted adrenals. We should wish to eliminate hate, anger, fear, and other negative emotions as they take their toll on the physical body. Listening to relaxing music has proven to be wonderful in easing hostile attitudes.