The thymus gland is perhaps one of the least-understood organs in the human body.
It actually starts working before you are born, and will gradually be replaced by fatty tissue, beginning after puberty, until it is completely replaced once you reach your 70s.1,2 Furthermore, your thymus will become less effective as it shrinks in size.
Despite its relatively short lifespan, compared to other body organs, the thymus serves some vital functions to keep your body healthy. What are some of these functions of the thymus? How can you help your patients boost their thymus health with supplements? Read on to find out more about how best to support your patients’ thymus health.
What is the thymus and what does it do?
It should not be surprising if you or your patients confuse the thymus gland with the thyroid gland. They are located right next to each other – with the thymus sitting just below the thyroid. Both release hormones into the body that are vital for health.
The thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism, while the thymus produces a hormone known as thymosin. This hormone helps transform white blood cells, or lymphocytes, into T cells. Once the T cells are mature, they then migrate to the lymph nodes, where they help boost the immune system. Some researchers have been investigating if these T cells can also help in the fight against cancer.1-3
Thymus dietary supplements use extracts from calf thymus.4 The supplement can also be synthetically produced. In its purified form, thymus extract is called thymomodulin. It can be found in health food stores as capsules, pills, or in liquid form. It is important to understand that there is a difference between thymus extract and the extract from Thymus serpyl, commonly known as the herb thyme. Although thyme has medicinal properties, it does not treat the same conditions as thymus extract.4
Respiratory infections and allergies
There has been some interesting research showing that thymus extract might help boost the immune system against respiratory infections such as bronchitis, asthma, hay fever, and sinusitis.5 Such conditions can be triggered by an overactive immune system, so having the ability to calm the immune system may help reduce the severity of such attacks.
A 2014 article published in International Immunopharmacology looked at the effect of thymomodulin on mice that were specially bred to be susceptible to asthma.5 The researchers found that those mice treated with the thymus extract showed less lung inflammation, so were less prone to asthma attacks.5
The thymus is perhaps one of the least understood organs of the body. However, ongoing research shows that it plays an important role in improving the body’s natural defense system for a number of immune and inflammatory disorders. This could potentially make thymus supplements a powerful addition to help your patients boost their immune levels.
- An overview of the thymus. Endocrineweb. Accessed 4/27/2018.
- Liu D, Ellis H. (2016). The mystery of the thymus gland. Clinical Anatomy, 29(6), 679-684.
- T cells. National Cancer Institute (NCI) Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Accessed 4/27/2018.
- Lian Q, Jiang W, Cheng Y, et al. (2014). A novel pentapeptide originated from calf thymus named TIPP shows an inhibitory effect on lung allergic inflammation. International Immunopharmacology, 24(2), 256-266.
- Leoci R. (2014). Animal By-Products (ABPs): Origins, Uses, and European Regulations. Universitas Studiorum Academic Publisher, pp. 79-81.