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                 Elk News by Scott Owens Hayes

  Immunity & Antler

Traditional Chinese medicine has for thousands of years utilized the antler for keeping healthy.  Based on today's technology, science can now provide the how and why it works, whereas the Chinese based it on the positive results of taking it internally.  Antler was prized for the winter months especially, to keep the bodies ability to fight off illnesses such as colds and flu.  The whole antler possesses the ability to stimulate the production of white blood cells, thus modulating the immune system.  The immune system allows our bodies to combat itself against a wide range of infecting pathogens and infectious agents.  Pathogens are microorganisms or substances which are capable of producing disease or illness with the body,.  They can include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

The balance of the "terrain" (the body's internal environment the condition of the cells within) is a term which can simplify the understanding of the overall health of the body.  Our body, like a battlefield, is constantly at war at the cellular level.  This occurs every moment of our life.  When the pathogens have the desirable cellular conditions they can imbalance the terrain, or outnumber the "good guys.."  We then can become ill or even die as a result. Keeping our bodies in good health helps to keep the terrain in balance thus allowing our bodies to defend itself against these pathogens.  The "good guys" are (leucocytes) white blood cells, which in some situations, fight to the death to keep us healthy.  The immune system is comprised of white blood cells which have many different functional attributes.

 

There are two major cells.  B lymphocytes (produced in the bone marrow) and T lymphocytes (produced in the thymus gland).  They both have different functions while performing important roles in the immune system.  B cell lymphocytes produce antibodies.  Immunoglobulins are antibodies.  There are five classes known as IgG, IgA, IgM, and IE, some of these having subclasses.  Each class performs specific duties within the immune system.  Antibodies are one of two vital antigen recognition molecules found on the T cell, known as T cell receptors.  An atigen is an agent that stimulates the immune response.  T cell lymphocytes Provide Important pathogen destroying functions while also assisting the B cell lymphocytes in their role.  L-arginine, an amino acid found in velvet antler, may enhance the activity of the thymus gland, which assists in the development of the T cell lymphocytes.

Another type of cell is a monocyte. Monocytes are precursors to the foreign pathogen eating cells known as macrophages.  Church (1999), showed an increase of monocytes in rats given velvet antler extracts.  In addition, Li and Wang (1990)cited Chinese studies showing that treatment of rats with a velvet antler extract resulted in marked increases in the numbers of monocytes, suggesting the presence of components that might affect the immune system.

Neutrophils, another type of immune cells, are involved in the inflammatory response.  In New Zealand, (Suttie et al. 1994), researchers have found that extracts from velvet antler increased neutrophil levels in the mice were 2 to 3 fold for antler.  The higher levels of neutrophils increased the body's ability to resist injury and disease.

Cytokines are found in velvet antler.  Cytokines is a term used for signaling between cells during an immune response.  Two types of cytokines are interferons and interleukins.  Interferons limit the spread of infections.  Interleukins are important factors to "acute phase response" including such things as fever, initiating immune response, and inducing sleep.  Interluekins can stimulate the growth of T lymphocytes.  Immune enhancement was still observed even in low doses of velvet antler, possibly due to the cytokines found in velvet antler (Suttie and Haines, 1996.)

The immune system is complex in nature.  The body's ability to ward of infections in the form of foreign pathogens depends solely on a healthy immune system.  Not only can these defensive immune cells interact with foreign pathogens, they have the ability to remember and recognize disease or illness causing pathogens, giving lasting immunity in the body.  These memory cells reside in tissue or circulate throughout the body, awaiting to respond again.  This secondary response to a previous foreign pathogen is usually more rapid and stronger against specific diseases or illnesses.

A healthy diet, a clean environment, and dietary supplements like velvet antler may help to enhance your immune system and keep you in better health.

A dedicated researcher, Scott Owen Hayes is involved in activities providing accurate comprehensive information on the efficacy of herbs, vitamins, and nutraceuticals.  Providing his clients with a basic knowledge of herbal, homeopathic, and naturopathic remedies.  Scott Owen Hayes is a consultant to retailers and manufacturers.