What are the Benefits of Deer Antler Velvet?
Generally researchers agree that deer antler velvet stimulates the body’s own systems to protect, strengthen and restore functions that are out of balance.
Deer antler velvet can act as a natural adaptogen, restoring homeostasis to an unbalanced body by helping where it is needed. Deer antler velvet has an effect on many systems of the body given its complex chemical composition. The active ingredients in deer antler velvet are mostly precursors that are required by the body to process substances that maintain its health and wellbeing.
Deer antler velvet is a 100% natural food. It is not a synthetic, foreign substance. Therefore, deer antler velvet is safer and better at bringing the body to homeostasis than any drug because it is a whole food that acts on the whole body.
Deer antler velvet has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years. It continues to be a fundamental ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine today. Other countries in Asia, Europe, and America have also used deer antler velvet for a variety of conditions.
Modern scientific research indicates that deer antler velvet may have beneficial effects related to:
There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence supporting the benefits of deer antler velvet from decades of research carried out in Russia, Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This research has given credibility to deer antler velvet’s traditional usage and validated recommendations for its inclusion as an everyday health supplement. Almost 250 papers have been published since 1930 on the manufacture, composition and biochemical effect of deer antler velvet. Studies on deer antler velvet and the corresponding findings are described below.
Athletic Performance, Muscle Strength, Endurance, Recovery
Research suggests that deer antler velvet has a positive effect on athletic performance- including increases in muscular strength, endurance, aerobic capacity and recovery time.
In Russia, Korea and China, deer antler velvet is widely used by athletes to enhance performance. In the United States, more and more athletes are looking to deer antler velvet as a training aid, a promoter of recovery after physical activity and injury, and possibly an injury preventative. Deer velvet could improve athletic performance in many ways, for example by assisting strength and endurance, by supporting the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, by facilitating minor tissue damage, and by boosting the immune system.
Russian bodybuilders have claimed to benefit from deer antler velvet by increasing muscle and nerve strength in the late 1960’s. Earlier studies found similar results in laboratory animals and athletes given pantocrin, an extract of deer antler velvet. Several studies show a positive correlation between consistent use of deer antler velvet and cardiovascular health. Human subjects who used deer antler velvet were able to endure larger work loads and experienced a shorter recovery time between exercises.
In clinical studies conducted by Tanejeva in 1969, the test subjects were placed on a stationary bicycle and their work rate was measured. One half of the men were given Pantocrin and the other half were given a placebo. The group that received deer antler velvet extract showed a greater increase in the total work achieved.
Tanejeva also tested the effect of deer antler velvet in athletes running three kilometer races. In the experiment, 50 men ran the distance and their completion time was recorded. Deer antler velvet extract was administered to half of the runners and the participants repeated the race. The group receiving the Pantocrin completed the subsequent race in a faster average time.
A study (Yudin and Dobyrakov, 1974) on the effect of deer antler velvet extract on the static load-bearing capacity of subjects found that those who took the extract increased the time of work by 2-4 seconds compared to the control group. In tests of dynamic work using a veloergometer, the subjects who took the extract increased the work output 4 to 5 times more than the control group.
In 1989, fitness expert John Abdo, who trained numerous Olympic and world class athletes, visited the Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow to investigate Russian training routines. At that time, Russian athletes underwent a dramatic increase in the success in weightlifting competitions. John met with former Soviet weight-lifting champion Victor Sheynkin and training expert Yuri Verhoshansky. John learned that their athletes had experienced considerable improvement in performance with deer antler velvet. Dr Arkady Koltun, Chaiman of the Medical Committee for the Russian Bodybuilding Federation, and an expert on anabolic agents confirmed that deer antler velvet increases muscular strength and speeds recovery after exercise.
More recent tests (Slievert, 2003) confirm deer antler velvet’s effects on muscle strength and endurance. In a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled experiment, 18 males entered a 10 week strength training program. Those who took deer antler velvet showed an increase in maximal aerobic capacity, an increase in strength in the bench press and leg squat, and decrease in body fat relative to the placebo group.
In another randomized, double blind, placebo controlled experiment (Broeder, 2004), 38 males, all of whom were experienced weightlifters, entered a 10 week strength training program. Those who took deer antler velvet experienced an increase in peak torque and average power relative to the placebo group. They also experienced unexpected improvements in aerobic performance.
Other studies reported an increase in heart strength and volume of blood pumped, while cardiac output, heart rate, mean arterial pressure, pulse pressure, central venous pressure and other parameters remained unchanged. Researchers suggest that the polysaccharides in antler may reduce the blood’s tendency to clot, improving circulation, decreasing stroke risk and boosting general cardiovascular health. Researchers theorize that the deer antler velvet may improve blood supply to muscles or act as an anti-inflammatory, allowing athletes to recover faster from training sessions.
In an experiment (Gerard, 2004) conducted to study muscle damage and repair, 20 males ran for 35 minutes on a downhill treadmill. The participants, who were not trained runners, were pre-treated with deer antler velvet or a placebo 14 days prior to the run. The subjected treated with deer velvet showed that their creatine kinase levels, a marker of muscle damage, was significantly lower than the control group. Also, muscle soreness on average was reported to be gone 24 hours before subjects in control.
Deer antler velvet has the potential to increase growth hormones and testosterone levels.
Deer antler velvet's effects on cell growth and repair have been investigated in several areas. Deer antler velvet may be a natural source of hormones for those seeking aid to muscle growth and development. Research has identified various growth factors in deer antler velvet including IGF-1 (Insulin–like Growth Factor-1), IGF-2 (Insulin–like Growth Factor-2), and EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor).
Many people confuse IGF-1 with HGH. The two hormones are very closely related. HGH is a precursor to IGF-1. The pituitary gland produces HGH, which travels to the liver and other surrounding tissues where it begins the synthesis and stimulates the production of IGF-1. It is a well-known fact that IGF-1 levels are significantly correlated to HGH levels.
IGF-1 is responsible for the anabolic reactions to HGH. It binds to receptors inside the muscle’s cells, which stimulates cell growth. IGF-1 promotes both muscle hypertrophy (growth) and hyperplasia (formation of new muscle cells). Herein lies an important distinction between IGF-1 and anabolic steroids. Although anabolic steroids increase muscle cell growth, it does not create new muscle cells.
In childhood, IGF-1 is important for growth (the highest levels in humans occur during puberty). In adults, it has anabolic effects. IGF-1 aids growth and stops cell death in normal ranges. The hormone stimulates growth in most cells of the body, including skeletal muscle, cartilage, bone, nerves and skin. It increases the number and size of cells. This makes IGF-1 very important for building muscle and for reducing muscle loss due to aging or disease. It should be noted that because IGF-1 stimulates growth of all types of cells without differentiation, people with cancer or people who are prone to cancer should never take IGF-1 as it can very negative effects.
IGF-1 also plays a role in recovery and fat loss. It speeds cell repair and muscle regeneration. It reduces body fat by stopping insulin from moving glucose through the body, resulting in the body using fat as a source of energy instead of glucose. Therefore, increasing the levels of IGF-1 in the body can increase the body’s ability to build muscle, recover from injury or workouts, and burn fat.
A study conducted by Suttie and Haines in 2000 found that animals fed high levels of active deer antler velvet extract grew significantly faster than a control group. The animals also experienced increased liver weight and a higher bone calcium content.
In a randomized, placebo controlled test in 2004, researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, placed 18 males from the Edmonton Police Force into a 9 week strength training program. The results showed that deer antler velvet increased the strength and endurance of the subjects relative to the control group. The researchers found that use of deer antler velvet significantly increased blood plasma testosterone levels.
Similar clinical studies performed on players from the University of Alberta football team also showed that deer antler velvet supplementation increased the levels of testosterone, and built and toned muscle.
New Zealand research has shown that deer antler velvet can help promote the growth of new blood vessels, which accelerates wound healing and recovery from major surgery.
Research has been conducted on the potential use of deer antler velvet for healing of wounds. In Russia (Arapov, 1969), Pantocrin was administered to patients with surgical and internal wounds. The study reported that there were a number of positive effects, including the normalization of arterial pressure, reduction in surgical complications, and becoming active quicker. In tests on rats (Wang, 1985), bone fracture repair was accelerated. A recent study by Bubenik found that antler helped heal epidermal wounds in rats. In another study by Takikawa, et al., researchers reported observing new bone formation following experimental whiplash injuries in rabbits. Pretreatment in rats reduced cell degradation and improved recovery times from extreme temperature and electric shock exposure.
Bone and Joint Health
Osteoarthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage in bone joints. In normal joints, cartilage serves as a buffer between bones. Usually the body replenishes cartilage as it wears away, but when osteoarthritis occurs, cartilage deteriorates faster than the body can replace it. Eventually, the bones begin to rub together, causing pain, swelling and loss of joint mobility. Most treatments for osteoarthritis attempt to reduce pain and maintain joint function, but these treatments do little to restore joint health.
Researchers believe that the imbalance between cartilage erosion and regeneration in osteoarthritis suffers is caused by a lack of glycosaminoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans play a vital role in the structural integrity of cartilage. The compound appears to inhibit enzymes that deplete cartilage nutrition. Chondroitin sulfate molecules are long chains of sugars and sulfur that create tiny spaces filled with fluid. These spaces protect and cushion joints.
Several studies indicate that deer antler velvet can reduce or even eliminate symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.
New Zealand research reports that although the mechanism is unknown, deer antler velvet shows strong anti-inflammatory effects. Recent clinical tests suggest oral ingestion of glycosaminoglycan-peptide complex, or components such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate — both found in deer antler velvet — may help stimulate cartilage repair.
In a double blind study (Edelman, 2000), 54 patients with arthritis in the knee were given deer antler velvet or a placebo and assessed at 1, 3 and 6 months. Patients treated with deer antler velvet showed improvement in pain and physical global assessment at 3 and 6 months. No significant improvement was observed for the placebo group for any of the parameters examined.
In 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of deer antler velvet as a scientifically supported and compliant treatment for its beneficial effects in treating arthritis “to support healthy joint structure and function.”
Deer antler velvet helps support healthy sexual function.
According to modern research, deer antler velvet has shown gonadotropic activity. Studies by both Fisher and Wang indicate that deer antler velvet may increase testosterone levels in men and can help prevent some conditions associated with aging. The estrogen hormone most affected by deer antler velvet is estradiol. Estradiol is a precursor to testosterone.
WebMD notes that deer antler velvet is used to increase libido, treat male erectile dysfunction, and improve fertility. Traditionally, deer antler velvet was used to remedy sexual disorders in men such as premature ejaculation, watery semen and impotence.
For women, deer antler velvet can help ease the symptoms associated with pre-menstruation by relieving cramps, suppressing mood swings, and raising energy levels. It is also used to treat vaginal discharges, uterine bleeding, menstrual disorders, infertility, and menopause. Russian researchers claim that compounds found in deer antler velvet can ease the effects of menopause in women.
Research suggests that deer antler velvet supplements inhibited the activity of some enzymes associated with aging.
Also, it increases the synthesis of liver and kidney protein by promoting activity of other specific enzymes. Reviews report that this research is strong evidence of the anti-aging influence of deer antler velvet.
Recent studies in Japan show that deer antler velvet reduced signs normally associated with senility. This is probably due to its hormonal effects. Deer antler velvet has shown marked effects on biochemical parameters related to aging in mice, a model for senility.
Wang Ben-Ziang (1988) found that deer antler velvet decreased activity of enzymes associated with aging process, increased levels of liver superoxide dismutase, a free radical scavenging enzyme, and increased liver and kidney protein synthesis by enhancing enzyme activity. These effects are general evidence of anti aging.
Blood Pressure Control
Research has shown that deer velvet supports the oxygen carrying capacity of blood, facilitating healthy blood pressure and circulation. Blood pressure reduction is due to velvet antler's ability to increase dilation of the peripheral blood vessels.
Deer antler velvet can lower blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure and stabilize abnormal blood pressure.
Russian and Japanese researchers have conducted experiments using deer antler extract and found that it appears to lower blood pressure in both human subjects and laboratory animals. A series of clinical case studies (Albov, 1969) were conducted in which the effects of Pantocrin on cardiac patients were assessed. In one test involving 32 subjects with high blood pressure caused by cardiac disease, early onset menopause or obesity, blood pressure was lowered in 81% of patients. In another study involving 13 patients with hypotension caused by disorders of heart muscle activity, blood pressure was lowered for 84% of patients.
Deer antler velvet has been shown to stimulate red blood cell synthesis in induced anemia in laboratory animals. The polysaccharides in deer antler velvet have been linked to biological activities, such as improving circulation, reducing the blood's tendency to clot, decreasing risk of stroke, and improving general cardiovascular health.
Mental Performance and Mood
The effect of Pantocrin, a deer velvet extract, on mental performance was tested (Taneyeva, undated) on men aged 18-23 years old. The subjects were asked to make corrections to text by substituting letters. The subjects who used pantocrin scored higher than the control group.
Clinical studies suggest that deer antler velvet can function as an antidepressant and mood regulator.
A study by Chen found that deer antler velvet inhibits monoamine oxidase activity in the liver and brain tissues of aged mice. Monoamine-oxidase inhibitors prevent breakdown of monoamine neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin. Antler apparently allows these vital neurotransmitters to be available longer to the brain structure, enhancing mood.
Stimulation of the Immune System
Deer antler velvet can stimulate the immune system and has been found to be a natural source of immunoglobulins, which fight infection and disease.
Research in Korea, New Zealand and China has shown that deer antler velvet can stimulate the immune system. Extracts of deer antler velvet were variously shown to increase macrophage activity, stimulate the production of lymphocytes and increase the number of red and white blood cells. Each of these effects may directly complement the body’s ability to resist or fight disease and so promote and maintain health and an associated feeling of well being.
A Russian study indicated that the amino acids, polypeptides and other compounds found in antler increased the survival rate of mice with cancerous tumors as much as 40 percent. In addition, a study conducted by the East-West Research Institute in Korea found that deer antler velvet appears to increase neutrophil levels in mice, which boost the body’s ability to fight injuries and disease. The mice with tumors lost less weight and suffered lower levels of kidney damage than those treated with drugs.
Tests with preparations of deer antler velvet have shown it to increase production of both red blood cells and white blood cells. A New Zealand study (Suttie, 1994) found compelling evidence that extracts of deer antler velvet stimulated the human immune system, as measured by increased white blood cell production.
Who Can Benefit from Deer Antler Velvet?
Almost everyone - men, women, young and old - can benefit from deer antler velvet.
Deer antler velvet can be used for a variety of reasons:
- to support general health, to maintain and protect the body's systems.
- for therapeutic effects, to restore an ailing body back into balance.
- to support athletic activity, to improve physical function and performance.
- to prepare for athletic competition, for those who demand optimal performance from their bodies.
Deer antler velvet is a natural, well tolerated, non-toxic dietary supplement. Men and women of all ages can benefit from consumption because it supports the whole body’s ability to adapt to and resist stress, diseases, degeneration and toxins. Deer antler velvet helps bring the body's systems back into balance.
Research suggests that deer antler velvet has a positive effect on athletic performance, including increases in muscle strength, endurance and recovery. Bodybuilders and athletes can thereby take deer velvet supplements as part of their regular training programs.
Due to deer antler velvet's ability to support healthy joint structure and function, the elderly can improve their stability and mobility by using deer antler velvet. There are also potential anti-aging properties in deer antler velvet.
Deer antler velvet's positive effects appear to be most apparent on people who are unhealthy. Deer antler velvet's active ingredients can help ailing body systems on sick people.
Deer antler velvet can be given to pets to prevent and treat arthritis and other joint issues in dogs, cats and other animals. Read more here.