In 1983, at the height of his career as an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, Dr. Carson Burgstiner contracted Hepatitis B when he punctured his finger while operating on an infected patient, thus becoming a carrier. Seven years later and still a carrier, he felt there had to be a reason for his continued inability to get well. He recalled from his medical school studies that the thymus gland controls the immune system. The gland, which is large in children, decreases in size and reportedly stops functioning as we grow older. Remembering this, Dr. Burgstiner went to a health food store and bought a thymic extract and a vitamin-mineral complex containing B complex vitamins, vitamins E and C, Selenium, Zinc, Beta Carotene and an amino acid complex. He began taking these and six weeks later reported that he had converted to a non-active state. He notified the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. They took samples of his blood and sent it to Mass General at Harvard and to Scripps Institute in California. Many studies were done, all having negative test results for the Hepatitis virus.
Was this a case of spontaneous remission or had he found a hidden hope to restore his immune system function? What is known is that the thymus gland produces a variety of hormones which stimulate the immune system to produce Interferon, Interleukin, and white blood cells, including T-Cells. T-(thymus) Cells or T-Lymphocytes fight the battle against viruses, bacteria, yeast, and other foreign invaders that attack the body's immune system. It is the T-Cell that is destroyed by the HIV virus and its destruction brings on AIDS. The thymus gland seeds the bone marrow, the main immune cell producer in adults, with immature T-Cells (stem cells) that multiply and mature.
Dr. Burgstiner contacted a Gastroenterologist-Hepatologist researcher at Wayne State University and told him about his results with the thymic extract and vitamin-mineral complex. Dr. Burgstiner sent him the supplements and he tested them in his laboratory. He then called Dr. Burgstiner and said that his lab results indicated these products could have tremendous potential for stimulating the immune system. The researcher took the supplement himself and measured his blood levels of one of the thymus gland hormones, Thymosin Alpha 1. He wrote, "You might be pleased to know that I conducted a pilot study on myself by taking several of the thymic extract and vitamin-mineral tablets. I first obtained a pre-treatment serum sample followed by serum samples taken at 1/2 hour and then at 1 hour intervals, for four hours. Lo and behold, by the first hour, and consistently for the next several hours, the Thymosin Alpha 1 levels as determined by the Elisa test, increased."
Next, Dr. Burgstiner encouraged a prominent Allergist and Clinical Immunologist in Savannah, Georgia to evaluate the supplements. The doctor gathered before and after serum samples on a dozen patients who took the supplements and sent them to Wayne State University for analysis. A substantial increase in the Thymosin Alpha 1 levels was noted with all of the test patients. The levels ranged from 300-700 percent. depending on the dosage of the supplements. This research confirmed that the thymic extract was ineffective without the vitamin-mineral complex, although this could not be readily explained. Dr. Burgstiner reasoned that the vitamins and mineral provided key activating agents for the natural synthesis of immune factors.
Based on these findings, over the next several years Dr. Burgstiner utilized these products with patients having a wide variety of immune related conditions. He witnessed dramatic results, but continued to seek ways to enhance the effectiveness of the supplements. Citing quality and cost concerns and a desire to combine the products into a single tablet, he eventually incorporated these enhancements into his own unique formula.
Through his clinical experiences with thymic supplementation, Dr. Burgstiner said he observed that:
84 cases of Hepatitis B were arrested
34 cases Hepatitis C were arrested
28 cases of Rheumatoid Arthritis were arrested-patients no longer use Prednisone, Methotrexate, or Gold shots
12 cases of Systemic Lupus were in remission-some patients were using as many as 22 different drugs and are now diagnosed as asymptomatic
10 cases of Multiple Sclerosis were arrested
12 cases of Psoriasis, 7 cases of Squamous Cell Cancer of the skin and several cases of Atopic Dermatitis had completely cleared
Dr. Burgstiner noted that the scientific concepts underlying his clinical approach were not unorthodox, but were based on traditional medical principles. He stated that within the medical community, any gland that decreased in size or "dries up" in your body is replaced. "If your thyroid dries up, we give you thyroid. If your pancreas dries up (you develop Diabetes), we give you insulin. If your adrenal glands dry up (you develop Addison 's Disease), we give you cortisone. If your ovaries dry up, we give you female hormones. However, when the thymus gland dries up, no one treats that as a medical condition even though every doctor and nurse is taught that the thymus gland controls the immune system" Dr. Burgstiner explained the thymic formula most likely has a modulating effect; bringing hyper-immune conditions, such as Rheumatiod Arthritis, down and hypo-immune conditions, such as Cancer, up. He saw thymic supplementation as an effective alternative to current medicines that compromise the immune system, with devastating side effects.
The philosophy of his practice was "If you maintain normal physiology, you can prevent pathology and disease." His approach was to treat the whole patient, monitoring proper diet and exercise regimes, with nutritional supplementation to assure a proper balance of nutrients to enable the body to maintain good health.
There are however, many in the traditional medical community who are skeptical of Dr. Burgstiner's thymic theory. Some argue that it is normal for the thymus gland to dry up and stop functioning, simply because it is no longer needed to produce immune cells. Some have noted that there is no formal proof (from double-blind studies) that the levels of thymic factors are elevated in the body by taking the pill form of the thymic extract. Many of the people I met who have taken it and claim it has helped argue that the worst case scenario is you get no results and have lost some money. To them, the upside potential is and has been tremendous. Most patients we spoke with found a significant response to the supplement within thirty days. "Give it a try" is what one recovering Lupus patient said to me. "If it doesn't work, then stop it."
Before his untimely death, Dr. Burgstiner wanted desperately for research to be done on thymic extract. He agreed that reputable studies are necessary before the traditional medical community accepts thymus supplementation and its potential for treating immune disorders. but he argued that to wait for the research would mean that many would miss out on the benefits he had witnessed. Several studies are planned in hopes of bringing scientific validity to Dr. Burgstiners impressive body of anecdotal evidence.
What is certain is that any decision to try such a supplement should involve your physician It is important that traditional medical treatments for diseases be continued when starting the supplement. Always consult your physician when starting. stopping, or changing medications or adding nutritional supplements, such as thymic extract.
Is thymic extract a hidden hope to good health, or are Dr. Burgstiner's many patient testimonials the result of a placebo effect? I interviewed patients from diverse backgrounds and geographic locales, with a variety of different illnesses, all of whom have reached the same conclusion: If this is a placebo effect, it is an amazing one!
Dr. Burgstiner was a board Certified Obstetrician Gynecologist in Savannah, Georgia. He was past President of the Medical Association of Georgia and Vice Chairman of the Georgia delegation of the AMA. Dr. Burgstiner was a Fellow of the American College of OB-GYN, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a Fellow of the American College of International Surgeons, and a Fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine. He was recently inducted into the University of Miami School of Medicine Hall of Fame a one of only eight distinguished alumni since 1961.