It’s been used as a virility booster in the
Orient for centuries. New research shows it can boost your athletic
performance as well.
It’s the latest rage for enhancing athletic performance with
Western weight lifters and endurance athletes. Yet, velvet deer antler
is anything but new in the Far East. In fact, a 2,000-year-old silk
scroll recovered from a tomb in the Hunan province of China lists 52
different medical conditions for which velvet deer antler is the
Highly prized for centuries throughout Asia as a sex-enhancing potion
as well as an essential immune-system booster and health tonic, velvet
deer antler is rapidly being embraced by world-class athletes. Among
those in the know, "velvet" is considered to be an elite
medicinal solution for improving muscular strength, combating the
effects of stress and fatigue and reducing recuperation time. Used by
Russian athletes for decades, an impressive body of scientific data
substantiate many of its claims to fame.
Velvet Ranks Alongside Ginseng
One of the few "pure" tonics among the thousands of natural
remedies in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, velvet deer antler is in the same
exalted category as ginseng. It is named after the soft, velvet like
covering that deer antlers have while they are growing and before the
antlers turn into formidable bony weapons.
Antlers that are harvested at just the right time contain powerful
nutrients, including free amino acids, free fatty acids, phospholipids,
pentose sugars, prostaglandins, IGF (insulinlike growth factor) and
pantocrin—an anti-fatigue substance. The velvet is sought after
because of its abilities to strengthen muscle contractions, enhance
nerve impulses and heighten a sense of well-being and sexuality.
Russians Pioneer Research
For more than a decade, Arkady Koltun, M.D., Ph.D., and chairman of
the medical committee for the Russian bodybuilding federation, has
conducted research into anabolic agents that are known to improve
strength, performance and musculature in athletes. In studies with
powerlifters, weight lifters and bodybuilders, Koltun found that velvet
antler has both muscle-strengthening and nerve-strengthening properties.
It also contains nutrients that stimulate the immune system and increase
Russian researchers Yudin and Dubryakov were the first researchers to
study the effect of velvet antler extracts on the static load-bearing
capacity of healthy men. (This measures their ability to hold a weight
in a single position.) The extract increased their work capacity by 2 to
4 seconds. Subsequently, researchers conducted another study with 50
men, ages 18 to 23 who ran 3 km. A single administration of 20 ml of
velvet antler extract 30 minutes before the next race reduced their
completion time from 14 minutes, 48 seconds to 14 minutes, 4 seconds.
Researchers have also shown that the nutrient-rich antlers help
athletes to increase their strength and stamina by increasing the blood’s
oxygen-carrying capacity, repair minor tissue damage that occurs during
training or competition, and boost the immune systems of athletes whose
systems have been compromised during extreme exertion.
According to an article in Life Extension magazine,
co-authored by fitness and health experts Abdo and Alex Duarte, research
on the value of cartilage in dramatically improving a weakened immune
system has exploded in the last 30 years. At the forefront of pioneering
research is Arthur Johnson, of the University of Minnesota, who
discovered that cartilage contains a small molecular weight protein
"that has the unique ability to modulate the immune system."
Hard-pumping athletes may benefit a good deal from the velevt antler’s
ability to accelerate wound healing. Abdo and Duarte cite the work of
researchers such as John Prudden, who more than 30 years agoc discovered
that an element found in cartilage, called N-Acetyl-Glucosamine, has
consistently been proven to speed wound healing significantly.
Natural Sex Steroids Only Part of the Picture
Much of the intense scientific interest in velvet antlers is centered
on its complex, unique bioactive properties. As part of AgResearch
Invermay’s highly anticipated studies, natural sex hormones and
natural steroids are only facets of the extensive biology being
investigated. Velvet antler is a rich source of calcium, phosphorus,
sulfur, magnesium, potassium, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron,
selenium and cobalt—all heart-friendly minerals. Fifty percent of the
extract is made up of amino acids; and it also contains high-quality
collagen, anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and gangliosides. The
Invermay research team measured high levels of the natural hormone, IGF-l,
an "insulinlike growth factor" that becomes depleted as we
age, and negatively impacts muscles, which tend to atrophy. Studies
conducted at the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine reveal potent
anti-inflammatory peptides present in velvet antlers. This is
significant because of the extract’s pain-reducing ability, as well as
its help in quick recovery time.
New Zealand Leads New Frontier of Research
While studies conducted in Russia are not easily accessed, the
Invermay Research Center, in association with the universities of
Canterbury and Otago is the key Western research source conducting
investigations into the properties and medicinal values of velvet deer
antler. According to the New Zealand Board of Trade, the Invermay team,
led by David Gerrard, has found that antler extracts improve cell growth
and also have anti-tumor and anti-viral properties. They have also found
that during the antler growth period, deer blood has high levels of IGF-l,
as well as receptors to IGF-l in the antler itself, which promoted
growth in laboratory cell lines when tested on mice.
In addition, after findings last year that deer velvet is effective
in stimulating the immune system, the same researchers launched a new
study to test velvet antler’s efficacy for strength enhancement.
Athletes from the university in New Zealand were tested before and after
10 weeks of strength training: 24 males, averaging 21.4 years of age,
were divided into two groups. One group received 70 mg velvet antler
extract per day for 10 weeks, while the other group received a placebo.
Strength-performance tests were carried out using resistance-training
apparatus. Muscular endurance was tested using the Biodex isokinetic
dynamometer, and power was tested on a stationary bike for 30 seconds
against a set resistance.
Although results of the Phase I trials were not considered highly
significant statistically, they suggested that velvet deer antler can
improve fat loss, total work, max torque, peak power, mean power and max
weight lifted. The researchers speculate that the dose was too low for
statistical significance. Currently, much higher doses are being used in
Phase I and III trials.
Early word from the researchers via the New Zealand Trade Association
Office is that Phase II results are highly significant statistically.
Jimmy Suttie of AgResearch Invermay and the School of Physical Education
at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, notes that velvet
antler does not necessarily increase muscle size, but enhanced strength
"must be due to an improvement in the dynamic ability of the muscle
to do the work."
The New Zealand Trade Association reports that four world-class New
Zealand athletes used deer velvet antler to help their strength training
and endurance, and to improve their recovery rate after training or
competition. All have been taking the deer velvet since February 1998.
Of the group, triathlete Hamish Carter, No. l in 1998 world
championship ratings, says, "Velvet helps my training, energy and
endurance. I feel better when taking velvet." The others, swimmimng
champs Trent Bray and Nick Tongue, and world champion single sculler Rob
Waddell report achieving their best form yet, attributing the success in
part to velvet’s effect. Bray said, "I found I have a lot more
energy during the day than I was used to ... since taking velvet I have
been able to put more effort into all my training sessions."
In addition, the athletes say they feel less tired during training
and have not become sick during the season, which has been a common
vulnerability before taking velvet.
With benefits like increased strength, a heightened sense of overall
well-being and reduced recovery time, it’s safe to assume that
athletes will be using a lot more velvet deer antler in the future.
Antler Harvesting: A Humane Procedure
Antler harvesting, a booming industry in New Zealand, is closely
monitored by government agencies and humane organizations. Allowed to
romp among hundreds of acres of pristine prairies where the deer feeds
on ginseng, rye and other herbs, the animals’ antlers are removed
about 65 days into their new spring growth. Seventy years of rigorous
scientific testing have shown that the blood, nerves and cartilage are
in their prime state of bioactivity at precisely this time.
Veterinarians supervise the painless removal of the antlers in a
Many veterinarians and animal behaviorists worldwide view painless
antler removal as a safeguard for animal welfare, according to fitness
guru John Abdo in a "Health World Online" article. "In
autumn, during the mating season, stags become aggressive; defending
their territory and harem of females from would-be suitors, and they
often pose a mortal threat to other stags in their paddock. This
aggressiveness is due to these animals’ high levels of testosterone
and other circulating hormones. This hormonal surge stimulates rapid
growth, awesome strength and sexual power." So removing the antlers
at this time actually prevents some gruesome combat between stags.
Velvet Deer Antler at a Glance
Used in Asia for 2000 years as a general health tonic
and aphrodisiac. Research in the United States, Russia, New Zealand and
the Far East suggests that velvet deer antler may improve strength for
power lifters, bodybuilders and endurance athletes; reduce recuperation
time and pain; increase energy; and heighten your sense of well-being.
Recommended Dosage: Take 2 to 4 250-mg capsules 4 times per day.
Side Effect: On rare occasions, users experience an upset
Form: Freeze-dried, pharmaceutical grade capsules
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antler" Health World Online (1998) 1-8
Church, JS "Velvet antler: Its historical medical use,
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Duarte, A and Abdo, J "A 2000-year-old medicine from deer
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Sadogjo, M, Haines, SR, Skottnes, A et al "Effects of
insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-l) and IGF-II on the growth of antler
cells in vitro" Journal of Endocrinology (1994) 143: 461-469
Zhang, ZQ, Zhang, Y, Wang, BX et al "Purification and partial
characterization of anti-inflammatory peptide from pilose antler of
Cervus nippon Temminck" Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pao (1992) 27: