Thymus extract is derived from thymus glands of animals, most commonly from young bovine calves. The thymus produces white blood cells and releases several hormones that regulate immune functions. Because the thymus gland is a major factor in the immune system, thymus extract theoretically can boost immunity, and several studies support this theory when the extract is used for specific conditions.
Immune Compromising Disorders
Some people with HIV/AIDS or other diseases that compromise the immune system use thymus extract for its possible benefits. Some studies support the use for immune system deficiencies. A study published in the May 1987 issue of "Annals of Allergy" indicated effectiveness of the extract Thymostimulin for successfully resolving combined immunodeficiency in an infant, without need for continued therapy. Another thymus extract, Thymomodulin, showed benefits for enhancing the immune system in people over 74 years of age with reduced immune function. During this study, published in the October 1994 issue of the "Journal of Chemotherapy," treatment with Thymomodulin for six weeks had a restoring effect on the immune system.
Recurrent Respiratory Infections
Some studies support using thymus extract for treating recurrent respiratory infections such as bronchitis. For instance, research published in "Thymus" Issue 6, 1986, found that children treated with Thymomodulin experienced a significant decrease in the monthly frequency of these infections when compared with the previous year and with a group taking a placebo.
A study published in "International Journal of Tissue Reactions," Issue 3, 1986, investigated the effects of thymus extract on food allergies in children aged seven months to 14 years old. The researchers divided the children into two groups. Both ate an exclusion diet for six months and one group also received Thymomodulin. Children taking the thymus extract achieved better food tolerance. Further, when the problem foods were reintroduced, 68 percent of the non-treatment group experienced a relapse of allergy symptoms, while only 29 percent of the treatment group did. Symptoms also were less severe in the group treated with thymus extract.
Thymus extract shows benefits for people with the liver disorder chronic active hepatitis B. A small study published in "Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis" in 1991 observed 18 patients treated with thymus extract for six months, some of whom showed improvement within 14 days. Improvements continued for the length of treatment, and normalization of biochemical and immunological measures occurred within five to six months. Patients were still in complete clinical remission when checked again after two years.