Some people believe thymus extract can boost your immune
system and fight off symptoms of allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders. Is
there any truth to these claims?
Read on to learn what thymus extract is and which claims are
backed by research.
Your thymus gland is an important part of your immune system
Your thymus gland sits below your thyroid gland and above your
heart. It’s pinkish-gray in color and shaped like two ovals.
The thymus is a unique gland in that it works before birth
and throughout puberty. When you hit puberty the gland starts to shrink and
fatty tissue replaces it. By the time you reach age 75, your thymus gland is
usually nothing more than fatty tissue.
Although the thymus gland stops working pretty early on in
life, it still fulfills several key purposes. The thymus is responsible for
producing and releasing the hormone thymosin. This hormone is responsible for
stimulating the production of T lymphocytes, or T cells for short. These immune
system cells help to ward off infection in the body. Once produced in the
thymus, T cells travel to your lymph nodes, where they fight infection.
Scientists also study T cells for their potential
As you age, your thymus gland gets smaller and can become less
Thymus extract is made from the thymus gland of cows
Thymus extract is made from the thymus glands of cows,
typically calves. It can also be synthetically produced. Note that there is a
difference between thymus extract and extract from Thymus serpyllum. The latter comes from the thyme plant.
Since the thymus gland is an important part of the immune
system in both animals and people, some people think thymus extract has
medicinal benefits. They believe that consuming it can boost your immune
system, helping you fight off various diseases.
Glandular therapy became popular in the 1900s
The idea of using animal glands or organs for medicinal purposes
is hundreds of years old. This “glandular therapy” is based on the belief that
“like heals like.” For example, glandular therapists believe that consuming
nutrients from an animal’s healthy liver can help repair your liver if it’s
In the 1900s, scientists began to look for active chemicals in
organ foods that have health benefits. Scientists and manufacturers have since
isolated many chemicals, such as thyroid extracts, estrogen, and cortisol.
Thymus extract is one of the chemicals they’ve extracted.
You can find thymus extract at most health stores
Thymus extract is now sold as a dietary supplement. It’s
also sold in a more purified form, called thymomodulin. Both varieties are
available in capsule, pill, or liquid form at many health stores.
Did You Know?
While there’s not yet enough research to determine recommended doses, a typical daily dose is 750 mg of pure thymus or 120 mg of thymomodulin.
Thymus extract might help ward off respiratory infections
Some evidence suggests that thymus extract might help ward
off respiratory infections, such as bronchitis. This research
has focused on people prone to respiratory infections. Other reasons a person
may take thymus extract include fighting off hay fever and sinusitis
that can all affect the respiratory system.
Some asthma attacks are triggered by an overactive immune
system. Some research suggests that taking thymomodulin helps reduce the
severity of asthma attack symptoms. It may also help reduce the frequency of
It’s used to treat autoimmune diseases
Some people have used thymus extract to treat autoimmune
conditions, such as rheumatoid
arthritis, eczema, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.
Research on these uses is still in its early stages. According
to the U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs, preliminary studies have
found that thymus extract may help treat hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Some of
these studies have used an injectable form of thymus extract. However, many of
these studies conducted in the mid- to late-1990s used small sample sizes. The
Department of Veterans Affairs found some studies pointed to an effective link
between taking thymus extract in combination with interferon. Interferon is an
injectable medication that’s also used in treating cancer.
Their findings don’t necessarily demonstrate the
effectiveness of oral supplements. Other studies have focused on oral
supplements. More current research is needed to support the proposed
uses of thymus extract in fighting autoimmune disorders.
It might help treat food allergies
Allergic reactions happen when your immune system treats an
otherwise harmless substance as a threat. As a result, it goes into attack
Some people believe that thymus extract may help calm rather
than boost your immune system if you have food allergies. Thymomodulin may help
prevent allergic reactions, reports a study from International
Thymus extract can be added to skin care products
Thymus extract is sometimes added to cosmetics and hair care
products as an antiaging ingredient. The extract contains amino acids and
peptides, which are thought to help keep the skin supple and smooth.
Ingredients lists on skin care products may call bovine thymus “bovine collagen.”
The extract is added to moisturizers, facial masks, and more.
Supplements aren’t regulated
No side effects from thymus extract have been reported. But it’s
important to note that dietary supplements aren’t well regulated by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For example, they aren’t covered by regulations
that ban the sale of food products from cows with mad cow disease. Also, the
FDA doesn’t currently list registered skin care products that have thymus
extract added to them, yet many exist on the market. For this reason, you
should always use caution when buying thymus extract.
Talk to your doctor before trying thymus extract or any
other dietary supplements. They can help you assess the potential benefits and
More research is needed to explore the potential benefits
and risks of taking thymus extract. Some studies suggest it may help prevent or
treat certain conditions, such as respiratory infections and asthma.
Always check with your doctor before trying a new dietary
supplement or alternative treatment. It’s possible that bovine extract could
react adversely with a medication you may be taking. Don’t stop taking other
medications in favor of thymus extract unless directed by a doctor.