Fig 1: Location
This article attempts to provide an overview of the functions of the human endocrine system and form a basis for some prescription choices, based mostly on sarcodes and organ therapeutics. The author’s overall prescribing techniques, underlying logic and other observations are given according to individual patient profile and practitioner choice.
Our Endocrine System is summarised by the Gale Encyclopaedia of Medicine as “a system of organs that produces chemicals that go into the bloodstream to reach other organs whose functioning they affect”. This, essentially, is our body’s chemical messenger service.
Hormones, which are these chemicals that circulate in the bloodstream are continuously secreted, but the endocrine glands have a natural tendency to over-secrete and so control of our endocrine secretions is via negative feedback. It is not dependent upon the amount of hormone present, but upon whether or not its intended function is being achieved. One gland produces a hormone which affects a second gland. That gland then produces its own hormone, which in turn influences the first gland’s secretion and so hormones have an increasing effect upon their target cells and organs.
When over-function occurs, the feedback system (usually routed via the Hypothalamus in the brain) causes the endocrine organ in question to halt its production. In under-function, where the target cells or organ are not responding to their hormonal messenger, the body produces an increasing amount of that hormone to compensate for the problem.
Thus, our Endocrine System is an extremely interdependent and intricate set-up: a dysfunction in one gland will certainly result in a disruption elsewhere in the body. Allopathic tests for glandular function usually only address the quantities of hormone levels present in the bloodstream and these occur in minute amounts: 1 picogram per pint of blood. A picogram is a millionth of a millionth of a gram, and so medical and synthetically produced hormonal treatments tend to be rather unsubtle, to say the least: our bodies just don’t react in the same way to what amounts to chemical sledgehammers as they do to natural prompts! Also of course, ordinary medicine may not necessarily consider either the reason behind any endocrine dysfunction, or its actual location/s.
THE GLANDULAR HIERARCHY
The endocrine synergy of regulation and production works within a type of hierarchy driven by the Hypothalamus. The Hypothalamus is often described as the body’s internal eyeball, and I find it helpful to liken its role to that of a Chief Executive of an organisation. The Hypothalamus itself comprises a collection of cells at the base of the forebrain that acts as the receiver of messages via nerve cells from other parts of the brain. It then sends out signals to the Pituitary Gland by substances termed neuro-hormones to stimulate or inhibit glandular secretions somewhere else in the system in response to received information in order to co-ordinate, maintain and control our internal homeostasis.
It can be seen that the endocrine and nervous systems are also closely intertwined: something else that conventional medical concepts tend to de-emphasise. What actually happens is that the endocrine hormones act directly upon our glands and body tissues whilst the autonomic nerves activate the relevant motor nerves of our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems in order to make changes in breathing, heart rate, galvanic skin response and so on, to activate reflex actions (such as blinking) and to carry out bodily processes such as digestion.
This nervous and endocrine mutuality is one reason why stress and our coping mechanisms play such a significant role in a variety of dis-ease. Agrawal (2004) directly links emotions and parts of the body to the endocrine glands, based upon the inter-relationship between the seven chakras, the endocrine glands and our emotionality that traditional Hindu thinking holds, whilst Ambika Wauters (1999) inter alia, has further aligned our chakras to colours as well as emotions, illustrated in the summary table below.
Squire (2003) lists the BCG vaccine nosode, along with Pulsatilla and Tuberculinum as related remedies to the Hypothalamus sarcode, and Hilery Dorrian notes that the Hypothalamus remedy picture can present similarly to that of Puls with the tearfulness, changeability and so on. So we could think of this sarcode in cases where extreme levels of emotional and physical stress have caused a general hormonal imbalance. I have used Rainbow (or Spectrum) quite successfully as a support where I have sensed that a patients’ chakras have been thrown out of alignment and they have reported that the remedy acted as a wonderful pick-me-up. Aside from this, I would say that it is the constitutional remedy of the individual concerned that is the most closely aligned to the Hypothalamus, simply because it is their own ‘boss’.
The Pituitary Gland, located in the base of the brain has two lobes, the Anterior and Posterior. The Anterior lobe is an actual gland in itself, whilst the Posterior lobe consists of a lump of nervous tissue directly connected to the Hypothalamus. The Anterior lobe can be said to be the more important influence upon the functioning of other glands, as it produces six hormones to the Posterior’s two, but essentially the lobes act in concert and are able to compensate for each other.
Anterior Lobe Hormones
The Anterior Lobe produces prolactin, which is a hormone involved in the preparation of the breasts for maternal milk production and to synthesise this following birth. It also produces somatotropin, the human growth hormone that primarily influences the skeletal system, growth rate and maturational size. Under-secretion of this hormone results in dwarfism, whilst over-secretion results in gigantism in children and a condition known as acromegaly in adults (as in the James Bond film character ‘Jaws’). Metabolic effects of somatotropin include the general synthesis of amino acids, assimilation of fat and blood sugar levels.
The Anterior lobe of the pituitary gland also produces a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which influences all aspects of thyroid function and ultimately the regulation of our metabolic rate, fat breakdown and the water content of certain tissues. The follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is also created here. FSH controls the maturation of ovarian follicles in females and sperm production in males. Luteinizing hormone (LH) also comes from the anterior lobe of the pituitary. LH contributes to the formation of the corpus luteum and therefore production and synthesis of the egg in women, as well as preparing the breast for lactation.
The equivalent hormone to LH in men produced by the anterior pituitary is the ICSH, or interstitial cell stimulation hormone, which acts on the testes and affects sperm and testosterone (the major male hormone) production. ACTH or adrenocorticotrophine, a hormone affecting various secretions of the Adrenal Gland, also starts life in this lobe. The general metabolic effects of ACTH include the mobilisation of fats, blood sugar and glycogen (muscle fuel) levels as well our body’s resistance to stress.
Posterior Lobe Hormones
The Posterior lobe of the pituitary gland secretes an anti-diuretic hormone called ADH that, to a certain extent, is responsible for the constriction of veins in some cases of high blood pressure, but more importantly affects kidney function. Water is re-absorbed by the kidneys so that less urine is excreted. ADH under-secretion causes the condition diabetes insipidus, where excessive amounts of very dilute urine are excreted but not absorbed. The other hormone secreted by the Posterior Pituitary is oxytocin, which works alongside prolactin in the production and flow of milk and also acts on the smooth muscles of the uterus in pregnancy. Both of these two hormones are actually produced in the Hypothalamus and are only stored and released by the Posterior lobe.
Overall then, the Pituitary Gland extensively affects our wellbeing and lifespan development in general, including our early in utero period. It can therefore be said to act rather like our body’s Managing Director, and is generally known as the master gland of the body because of its action upon the activity of the thyroid and adrenal glands and upon our organs of reproduction: the ovaries and testes, or gonads.
The functions of both lobes of the Pituitary gland, and hence the whole gland are fairly well defined and so choice of the three related sarcodes would mirror whatever was being addressed. As far as my own practice is concerned, Pit Ant has been indicated the most, predominantly in children when maturational markers or behavioural issues have been delayed and has been especially useful as an intercurrent in cases of bedwetting. Baryta-Carb is also very helpful in contexts of delayed development and with childlike presentations in the elderly. Because of its hormonal profile, Folliculinum has an affinity with this gland.
The Thyroid Gland, located in the front and sides of the base of the neck just below the larynx, acts rather like our body’s General Manager. It is a butterfly-shaped gland containing a number of closed follicles and, essentially, it controls the pace of chemical activity and metabolism of every cell of the body. Thus it impacts significantly upon the growth and rate of function of many other bodily systems.