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Velvet Antler, A 2000 year old tradition by Alison Davidson

reprinted with permission

 As the traditions of Oriental medicine become more accessible to the western world, many potent new herbal tonics and formulae are appearing on the market. While new to us in the west, many of these herbs have a history of continuous use that dates back thousands of years. They are still in use today for one reason only末because they work.

 Among the thousands of herbs in the Chinese pharmacopoeia that treat specific diseases there are only a select few that are regarded as pure tonics. They are the royal herbs, the precious substances that are held to nourish both body and spirit, so valued by the ancient Taoists. Among these ginseng has established its reputation in the west, but ranking alongside ginseng as one of the most valuable of all medicines, and rapidly proving its reputation as an extraordinary tonic, is deer antler velvet.  The first recorded use of velvet as a medicine in ancient times dates back over two thousand years to a Han tomb in Hunan Province where a silk scroll was recovered listing over fifty different diseases for which antler velvet was prescribed. Several hundred years later, in the 16th century medical classic Pen Ts'ao Kang Mu, the master herbalist Li Shizen devotes several pages to deer products including velvet which was prepared into powders, pills, extracts, tinctures and ointments. This highly authoritative materia medica is the standard text of Chinese herbalists to this day.

 Deer velvet is named after the soft velvet-like covering of deer antlers while they are growing and still in a cartilaginous state, before they harden into bone. Every year the stag's antlers grow with remarkable swiftness and every year, after the roar and mating season, the antlers are cast to begin the cycle again in the spring. On New Zealand deer farms the antlers are removed painlessly under veterinary supervision before they harden, in order to protect the stags from each other, and also to harvest the velvet which is then processed in government licensed facilities. Most of it ends up in Asian herb markets, particularly in Korea where it is one of the most highly regarded medicinials, prescribed daily by thousands of pharmacists and doctors.

Although widely acclaimed as an aphrodisiac due to its powerful gonadotropic and tonic effects on the body, this is only one of the wide ranging benefits associated with the use of velvet. For centuries it's been used to control blood pressure, increase hemoglobin levels, increase lung efficiency, improve recuperation, improve muscle tone and glandular functions, sharpen mental alertness, relieve the inflammation of arthritis and heal stomach ulcers.

 It is the prime remedy for promoting endurance, stamina and strength, for combating the symptoms of stress and fatigue and for revitalizing the entire system.

Foremost Korean physician Dr Peter Yoon, prescribes it today for anemia, diabetes, to strengthen liver and kidney functions, to strengthen the immune system, for endocrine problems, improving the memory, arteriosclerosis and stress related problems. It is also clinically used for sterility, prostation, tinnitus, dizziness and blood discharge. But most importantly, it is used as a tonic to promote growth, appetite and as a restorative. It is held to restore energy, to nourish the blood and improve mental power.

 It is a remedy for the whole family from babies, who are often taken to the doctor soon after their first birthday for their first prescription of velvet, to the elderly where it helps to strengthen their bones and stave off the chills of winter. Men take it for sexual disorders such as impotence, premature ejaculation and watery semen. Women are prescribed it for infertility, menstrual and menopausal problems. "Also," says Dr Yoon, "when a pregnant woman takes velvet powder during childbirth, it is very helpful for an easy delivery."  


"With the results that are expected from scientific research, it is likely that velvet will become as accepted in western countries as vitamins and other dietary supplements." - NZ Game Industry Board

While the therapeutic claims for deer velvet in traditional medicine are extraordinarily wide ranging and comprehensive, the reputation of velvet as a panacea for many ills is also growing rapidly in the West. According to Life Extension Magazine from the USA... "deer velvet is poised to be one of the most versatile multipurpose natural remedies to arrive in the West".

But what is the scientific evidence behind such claims as this? While deer velvet can only be sold as a "dietary supplement" under existing health regulations, there is intense interest in the results of scientific studies which are providing exciting new insights into its pharmacological properties. Research reports are tending to support many of the traditional medicinal claims, and extensive research carried out in Russia, where deer velvet has been used clinically for decades, China, Korea, Japan and more recently in New Zealand has shown convincing evidence that velvet is indeed a complex substance with unique bioactive properties.

 At AgResearch Invermay in the South Island of New Zealand, studies into the composition and medical properties of velvet are beginning to reveal its closely held secrets.

 To date, these groundbreaking tests have shown deer antler velvet:

  • to stimulate the immune system, the body's main line of defence against infection and disease

  • to contain anti-inflammatory agents which may assist in reducing the pain and inflammation of a variety of degenerative diseases

  • to contain marked anabolic or growth stimulating properties

  • to increase muscular strength and endurance

  •  to significantly reduce the damaging side effects of chemotherapy drugs, while at the same time increasing their effectiveness

  • These are the results of preliminary testing by the New Zealand scientific team, and it can be seen here that the potential applications of antler velvet in Western medicine and natural health care are enormous.

  • Velvet is a rich source of all the nutrients our bodies need including the minerals calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium, potassium, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium and cobalt.

Also found in velvet in varying quantities are the major amino acids, collagen, anti inflammatory prostaglandins, glucosamines, chrondroitin sulfate A, gangliosides, erythropoietin (a glycoprotein produced in the kidney that stimulates red blood cell production in the bone marrow), natural sex hormones and steroids.

POWERFUL TONIC EFFECTS  Since the 1930s, Russian scientists have developed and extensively tested the extract from antler velvet known as pantocrin (from the Russian pantui 覧 the whole velvet antler) and clinical testing results show an overwhelming recurring theme 覧 there is no doubt that it has a powerful tonic and revitalizing effect on the individual, especially on a person weakened by illness or stress.

As resistance to disease is controlled by the immune system, any remedies that work to strengthen this defensive system are becoming much in demand, and with the results of New Zealand scientific research now backing up the claims of traditional Chinese medicine, velvet antler can now take its place in western healthcare as one of nature's most potent and effective immune boosters.



The success of Russian athletes has been attributed to the use of deer velvet in Olympic training programs, significantly increasing endurance and muscular strength, and attracting the attention of sports doctors and trainers around the world who are seeking safe and natural alternatives to synthetic steroids.

Dr Arkady Koltun, Chairman of the Medical Committee for the Russian Bodybuilding Federation, is one of the foremost Russian researchers into anabolic agents that can improve the performance of athletes. Working with kayakers, weightlifters, bodybuilders and power lifters, Dr Koltun found that deer velvet actually increases muscular strength 覧 a property which is termed myotropic. He also found that it had potent nerve strengthening, or neurotropic properties and is beneficial in treating infectious diseases, fatigue and hypertension.

 More recent scientific studies carried out in New Zealand have been adding weight to the earlier Russian research. Tests carried out at Otago University in 1998 showed physical education students using deer velvet had almost twice the improvement in a strength test as those taking a placebo. And New Zealand athletes sponsored by the Game Industry Board to test deer velvet as a safe and legal performance enhancer have had stunning success, including world record rower Rob Waddell, champion tri athlete Hamish Carter, and Australian surf lifesaving queen Janene Harker.

 Another veteran who takes velvet daily is top golfer Bob Charles. At the British Open two years ago he said along with healthy eating habits and vitamins, two deer velvet capsules a day kept him feeling young. "I don't feel a day over 30," he said. "I'm 60, going on 30."



The nutrient rich, fast growing cartilage also contains many growth factors that are under close investigation at AgResearch. During preliminary 'in vitro' studies, velvet extracts were found to not only improve cell growth, but also demonstrated anti-tumor and anti-viral properties.

During their investigations, the Invermay team measured high levels of a natural hormone called "insulin-like growth factor-1" or "IGF-1". Dr Suttie's group discovered that IGF-1 and a related hormone IGF-2, promoted growth in laboratory cells. More recent discoveries from the team have shown that antler cells are capable of producing IGF themselves.

As reported in Life Extension magazine, when we are young the concentration of human growth hormone is relatively high which promotes good musculature and low body fat. However as the body ages, our growth hormone levels decrease along with IGF-1 and the muscles tend to atrophy. As a natural source of IGF-1, it's claimed that deer velvet can help to keep the body lean and the muscles well-developed, of great interest to athletes and body builders.


 Deer velvet's reputation as an aphrodisiac is widespread, but is this reputation deserved? The effects of velvet and velvet extract on patients with sexual disorders has been widely documented, especially by Russian clinical researchers, with the result that it is regarded as one of the most effective known remedies for impotence and other sexual problems. It increases the libido and the general sexual function and is found to normalize menstruation and the symptoms of menopause.

Velvet demonstrates androgenic and gonadotrophic effects, meaning that it helps to regulate the activity of the sex organs. The sex hormones estrone, testosterone and a substance similar to progesterone have been identified at low levels and together with the high levels of amino acids present in higher graded velvet may help to explain the belief throughout the Orient that consuming velvet invigorates the sexual energy.


Antler velvet has long been recognized as being effective for increasing both the volume and the circulation of blood through the body. As a specific remedy in traditional medicine for anemia it has been shown in experiments to have a potent erythropoetic effect, meaning that it stimulates the formation of red blood cells.

Velvet not only builds blood but research has shown that it also has a strong influence on blood pressure 末 one of its major properties is the lowering of blood pressure, and since it is so easily demonstrated is widely used as a test for its biological activity. Velvet has also been shown to restore blood pressure to normal in both hypo- and hypertensive patients.


Experimental research has demonstrated that velvet preparations can protect the body from stress such as heat, cold and electric shock. Russian studies report that patients treated with velvet extract prior to surgery had significantly lower levels of stress indicators in the blood. According to another Russian researcher, Dr Korobkov, velvet extract acts "by accelerating the body's natural restorative processes and by increasing the body's resistance to unfavorable external influence."

 Recent Chinese research suggests that velvet preparations showed anti-aging effects by reducing signs of senility, very possibly due to its hormonal effects.


One of the outstanding properties of antler velvet is its ability to alleviate the pain of inflammation, such as joint pain, swelling and tissue injury. In other studies from Japan, velvet extract has been shown to speed up the healing of damaged nerve tissue, and also aids in the recovery of patients suffering from cervical and whiplash injuries.

It has been suggested that the high concentrations of hormone-like substances in deer velvet are responsible for the rapid tissue repair after injury, or even the cartilaginous concentration of the antler itself. Over 35 years ago Dr John F. Prudden and other researchers discovered such elements in cartilage as N-Acetyl-Glucosamine, glycosaminoglycans and synoviocytes that have all been associated with accelerated wound healing. These elements may well be one of the primary reasons why arthritics are helped so much by such substances as shark cartilage and deer velvet.


 While there is no evidence to date showing that velvet actually cures cancer, Russian experiments have shown it to increase the survival rate, and in some instances, to inhibit the spread of tumor cells. Present clinical trials run by AgResearch in Korea are showing positive results, with the velvet extract increasing the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs while at the same time reducing their side effects.

 As an immune enhancer for patients with HIV, velvet is also undergoing studies at the Institute for Traditional Medicine in California.

To list all of the therapeutic claims for this precious substance of the deer is far beyond the scope of this article. But as the potency of velvet, "the greatest source of yang energy" and its attributes become better known, many Westerners will surely become converts to this wonderfully safe and natural remedy.

 Alison Davidson, is the author of Nature痴 Superior Tonic, available on this website Order-Online