The word antler is derived from the Latin Anteoculae, meaning "in front of the eyes." Antlers are present in almost all members of the deer family Cervidae. The first documented evidence of deer velvet as a medicinal was found on a scroll recovered from a tomb in Hunan China dating back 2000 years. The use of antler dates back to the Han Dynasty 206 BC to 220 AD. A 16th century medical text, Pen Ts'ao Kang Mu, lists several antler preparations including pills, tinctures, and ointments. In traditional Chinese medicine, velvet antler has been used for over 2000 years as a tonic, to improve bone health, to nourish the blood, reduce swelling, and to treat impotence. Later research on deer antler dates back to the 1980s in Russia. Hundreds of articles have since been published including those documented by Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scientists.14, 15
Deer antlers are the only mammalian bone structures to regenerate completely every year.1 Deer antler velvet is the epidermis covering the inner structure of the growing bone and cartilage, which develops into antlers.2 This tissue grows each spring on male Cervus sp. (North American elk and red deer) and should be removed by a veterinarian or certified farmer. The ethics, including use of local anesthetics, and procedures of harvesting antler velvet have been reported.3, 4, 5, 6 Velvet yield depends on several factors, including season, parasites, or injury.7 After removal of the deer velvet, it is collected and then frozen or dried prior to its manufacture into various "medicinal" forms including powders, extracts, teas, capsules, and tablets. Each part of elk velvet contains varying compounds, but the deer antler velvet contains the largest concentrations of those found to be beneficial. (Antler also has been sold by the slice). Heating during processing may reduce or destroy the purported beneficial effects of velvet antler. Various preparation methods, including freeze-drying and non-heat-producing methods have been reported.8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
The movie The Raging Bull was inspired by the true life story of boxing legend and middle weight champion of the world, Jake Lamotta. He was known as the Raging Bull and the Bronx Bull. His character was depicted by Academy award winner Robert Deniro and went on to win 2 oscars under the direction of Martin Scorsese. Jake Lamotta was known as one of the toughest fighters in the world. He fought Sugar Ray Robinson 6 times in his career, the last fight being remembered as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.
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.
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Dr. Low Dog also reports that a chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose is the only recognized prion (infectious protein) disease of wild animals and has been found in 15 states and two provinces in Canada. (Prion diseases in wild animals are similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease, in cattle.) No known cases of neurological disease have been seen in humans who have taken deer antler velvet supplements, but a 2009 study sponsored by the National Institutes of Neurological Diseases and Stroke and the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that the possibility remains.
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.
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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).