Researchers believe that the imbalance between cartilage erosion and regeneration in osteoarthritis suffers is caused by a lack of glycosaminoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans play a vital role in the structural integrity of cartilage. The compound appears to inhibit enzymes that deplete cartilage nutrition. Chondroitin sulfate molecules are long chains of sugars and sulfur that create tiny spaces filled with fluid. These spaces protect and cushion joints.
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Deer velvet might have an effect due to the hormones it may contain, including testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone. Research in rats, using elk velvet antler, suggested the substance may have an androgen-like effect. The antlers are ground into powder, which people take by mouth. Dosage varies by brand, but a recent study used 215 mg per day. Some distributers, though, recommend dosages ranging from 250 mg to as high as 3000 mg (3 g) per day. So talk with your doctor before you start using deer velvet.
Velvet Antler is a supplement derived from powdered or crushed antlers, most commonly from deer (and thus referred to as Deer Velvet Antler) although Elk have also been used. They have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The base of the antler is referred to as Cervus (in reference to deers), Lu Jiao Pan, Zhen Zhu Pan, as well as Lu Hua Pan and appears to have been traditionally used for cardiovascular disease, gynecological problems, immunological deficiencies, blood cancers, tissue repair and health promotion. The specific part used is the antler base; when the antler is sawed off the base temporarily remains until the regeneration of the new antler pushes it off which occurrs occasionally in the wild. Traditional usage involves using the base and macerating it in wine or decocting it with water for oral consumption.
Data is limited. Two studies (n=40 and 168) investigating the efficacy of elk velvet antler supplementation on rheumatoid arthritis found no effect, while a study conducted in people with osteoarthritis (n=53) reported symptomatic relief among participants. The small sample sizes may result in the trials being underpowered to detect effects.25, 28, 29
A systemic review on human interventions makes note of a study conducted on patients of osteoarthritis (Edelman et al. 2000; cannot be located online) which found improvements in joint pain symptoms relative to baseline in the Velvet Antler group and not placebo, although a lack of information on blinding and randomization precludes results that can be drawn from this study.