Deer Antler Velvet
What Is It & Where Does It Come From?
Deer antler velvet is a name that's used to describe the antler velvet harvested from the antlers of growing deer, moose, caribou and elk. The antlers are removed from the animal before they solidify into solid bone, and the velvet is harvested with no harm coming to the animal.
Deer antler also contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, and a full spectrum of amino acids and anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Most deer antler velvet sold as a dietary supplement comes from Korea or Australia.
What Are Prostaglandins?
Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds produced in body tissue that help control blood pressure, smooth muscle activity, inflammation, glandular secretion, calcium movement, hormone regulation, and cell growth control.
Prostaglandins also control the substances involved in the transmission of nerve impulses, participate in the body's defenses against infection, and regulate the rate of metabolism.
What Does It Do?
What Scientific Studies Give Evidence To Support This?
Deer antler velvet has been used in China for over 2,000 years as a medicinal treatment for numerous minor conditions and ailments.
The effects of deer antler velvet on health will depend on the animal from which it was taken (deer, caribou, moose or elk) and the diet of the animal.
And, while scientific studies on deer antler velvet are scarce, deer antler velvet has been used by traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for infertility, joint inflammation, and hypertension.
In addition, traditional medicine has used deer antler velvet to improve mental alertness and memory, boost immune system function, speed wound healing and recovery, slow aging, balance iron levels, improve libido in both sexes, and restore joint health.
Soviet scientists in the 1980s tested the effects of deer antler velvet on the performance of elite Russian athletes, and the results were astonishing. Deer antler velvet helped increase the strength and muscle mass of Russian athletes, and speed their recovery time from exercise.
The increases in strength helped the Russian athletes shatter new strength records at the Olympics and crush their American competitors.
Glucosamine, Chondroitin, & Collagen
Deer antler velvet is a natural source of glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen. The body uses glucosamine to manufacture glycosaminoglycans that are found in cartilage tissue.
What Are Glycosaminoglycans?
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), also known as mucopolysaccharides, form an important component of connective tissues. Chondroitin Sulphate and Heparin are two well-known examples of GAGs.
Science has validated the use of glucosamine sulfate (the stable form of glucosamine with a mineral salt) as a treatment for osteoarthritis1, and both chondroitin and collagen show promise in arthritis treatment. The presence of these compounds may explain the effects of deer antler velvet on joint tissue.2,3
IGF-1 (Somatomedin C)
Deer antler velvet also contains male and female hormones, including Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-1) - a hormone that's produced in the liver as a response to growth hormone (HGH) stimulation.
What Is HGH, And How Does It Relate To IGF-1?
HGH stands for Human Growth Hormone (also known as Somatotropin), an amino acid produced in the pituitary gland of the brain. HGH plays an important role in human development by affecting skeletal growth.
HGH levels are high during childhood, and peak at adolescence. During puberty, HGH levels determine height and bone size. After puberty, HGH levels start to decline, and by age 61 decrease to 20% of what they were at age 21.
HGH is continually produced throughout the human lifecycle, and continues to regulate the body's metabolism. HGH is carried into the liver and partially converted into IGF-1 (see below).
Increases in these hormones may also lead to increases in circulating levels of free testosterone. Deer antler velvet has been used to boost libido and sex drive, and the elevation of these hormones may explain these effects.
What Are IGF-1, Somatomedin C, And NSILA?
IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1) was known as "Nonsuppressible Insulin-Like Activity" (NSILA) in the 1970s, and as "Somatomedin C" in the 1980s.
IGF-1 is a protein hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin. IGF-1 plays an important role in childhood growth and continues to have anabolic effects in adults.
IGF-1 is produced by the liver upon stimulation by HGH (human growth hormone, see above), and stimulates and regulates cell growth and multiplication in bones, cartilage, and nerve cells, among other things.
Who Needs It?
What Are Some Symptoms Of Deficiency?
Deer antler velvet is not an essential nutrient and no daily requirement (RDA) exists. No symptoms of deficiency exist. Healthy adults can benefit, however, from supplementing with deer antler velvet (see above).
How Much Should Be Taken?
Are There Any Side Effects?
No side-effects are known. It's not known if deer antler velvet interacts with other drugs. Some people may have allergies to deer antler velvet.
- Houpt J.B., McMillan R., Wein C., Paget-Dellio S.D. Effect of Glucosamine Hydrochloride in the Treatment of Pain of Osteoarthritis of the Knee. J Rheumatol 1999; 26:2423-30.
- Ghosh P., Smith M., and Wells C. Second Line Agenda Osteoarthritis. In Dixon, J.S. and Furst, D.E., EDA Second Line Agents in the Treatment of Rheumatic Disease, Marcel Dekker, New York, p. 383, 1992.
- Roden L. Effect of Hexosamines on the Synthesis of Chondoitin Sulfuric Acid in vitro. Ark Keml 1956; 10:3.