The thymus is located just above and slightly over the heart and produces a vital component of the immune system, called T-cells, which fight infections and regulate the immune response. The body uses T-cells help destroy infected or cancerous cells. T-cells created by the thymus also help other organs in the immune system grow properly.  “It (the thymus) is the primary donor of cells for the lymphatic system, much as bone marrow is the cell donor for the cardiovascular system,” according to a paper, The Thymus: A Forgotten, But Very Important Organ, published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Wait, where is my thymus?

This baseball-sized gland plays a huge role in our immune system, yet nobody ever talks about it! By the time you are in your 30’s, this gland is operating at full throttle, gradually declining in function as we age. By the time we are in our 70’s, it has shrunken to the size of an almond! The thymus keeps our bodies strong and our immune system stronger. Use it or lose it certainly reigns true with this squishy, mysterious gland. A little at-home Chinese medicine can help!

Both Eastern and European herbalists can tell you about a category of herbs called adaptogens that help to promote vitality and balance amongst all functional systems. They literally help you adapt to stressful stimuli. Adapotogens, such as Huang Qi (astragalus) are especially beneficial for thymus function.

Acupressure can also be effective in tapping into the benefits of this gland (pun indented!): gently tap on the acupuncture point “CV 17”, which is located on the midline of the sternum, at the level of the 4th rib (or between the two nipples, if that’s easier!) Activate this point first thing in the morning, mid-day and before bed to stimulate the healing and protective properties of the thymus. Keep this little bad boy strong and you’ll thank yourself later.

Kate Kronisch, L.Ac., MSOM is a licensed acupuncturist and clinical herbalist in Denver, CO.