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Deer Antler, Velvet Antler
Principal Proposed Uses
Other Proposed Uses
Deer velvet is the common name of a product made from growing antlers of deer, during a stage when they are covered in soft velvety hair. New Zealand is a major exporter of deer velvet, shipping tens of millions of dollars worth to Asia and the U.S. each year.
According to Asian tradition, deer velvet has “tonic” properties, meaning that it tends to enhance energy and vitality. More recently, it has been called an “ adaptogen.” This term, invented by early Soviet scientists, refers to a hypothetical treatment that can be described as follows: An adaptogen should help the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychological stress. Furthermore, an adaptogen should cause no side effects, be effective in treating a wide variety of illnesses, and help return an organism toward balance no matter what may have gone wrong.
The only indisputable example of an adaptogen is a healthful lifestyle. By eating right, exercising regularly, and generally living a life of balance and moderation, you will increase your physical fitness and ability to resist illnesses of all types. The herb ginseng is widely said to have adaptogenic properties. However, there is no reliable evidence that any herb or supplement actually has adaptogenic properties, and the term is not accepted by conventional medicine.
In the 1960s, an injectable form of deer velvet was used by Japanese physicians to treat male sexual dysfunction. Deer velvet first began to become popular in the U.S. beginning in the late 1990s. Today, numerous books and websites claim that deer velvet can enhance sexual performance by increasing levels of male hormones. However, these claims are based on extremely preliminary research. Only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can actually prove a treatment effective, and the one study of this type reported for deer antler failed to find evidence of benefit. (For information on why double-blind studies are essential, seeWhy Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?)
In this study, 32 healthy men age 45–60 were given either deer velvet (1 gram daily) or placebo for 12 weeks.1 The results showed no significant change in sexual function or male hormone levels in the treated group as compared to the placebo group.
A 6-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 168 people with rheumatoid arthritis failed to find that elk velvet antler enhanced the effectiveness of conventional treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.13
Deer antler contains cartilage. On this basis, as well as one study in dogs, it has been promoted as a treatment forosteoarthritis2; however, cartilage is not a proven treatment for this condition. Numerous other proposed benefits of deer velvet are based on test-tube studies or other forms of evidence that are too preliminary to rely upon at all. These include cancer prevention, drug addiction support, immune support, liver protection, osteoporosis treatment, pain control, sports performance, and bodybuilding enhancement.3-11
Last reviewedSeptember 2014by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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