In Russia, Korea and China, deer antler velvet is widely used by athletes to enhance performance. In the United States, more and more athletes are looking to deer antler velvet as a training aid, a promoter of recovery after physical activity and injury, and possibly an injury preventative. Deer velvet could improve athletic performance in many ways, for example by assisting strength and endurance, by supporting the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, by facilitating minor tissue damage, and by boosting the immune system.
Russian and Japanese researchers have conducted experiments using deer antler extract and found that it appears to lower blood pressure in both human subjects and laboratory animals. A series of clinical case studies (Albov, 1969) were conducted in which the effects of Pantocrin on cardiac patients were assessed. In one test involving 32 subjects with high blood pressure caused by cardiac disease, early onset menopause or obesity, blood pressure was lowered in 81% of patients. In another study involving 13 patients with hypotension caused by disorders of heart muscle activity, blood pressure was lowered for 84% of patients.
In 168 persons with stable Rheumatoid Arthritis but present pain (25-100mm on the VAS rating scale) given either 1g of Velvet Antler from Elk or placebo for 6 months noted that there were no significant differences between placebo and Velvet Antler in regards to pain. Another study by the same research group using a smaller sample (n=40) and graded doses of 430mg, 860mg, and 1290mg daily noted that there was a dose-dependent trend towards reduced pain symptoms but this was not statistically significant.
Powdered velvet antler is available in capsule form from health shops. As a general tonic and to fight fatigue, the recommended dosage is usually 1 or 2 capsules (250 to 350 milligrams each) per day. For conditions such as osteoarthritis, higher doses may be used under supervision of a health practitioner. The effects of velvet antler gradually accumulate and are typically seen 8 to 12 weeks.
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In Asia, velvet antler is dried and sold as slices, or as a powder which may be boiled in water, usually with other herbs and ingredients, and consumed as a medicinal soup. In the traditional commercial trade of Korea and China, whole stick antler velvet is divided into three sections based upon their supposed properties. Although there is an absence of uniform standardization, these sections are known as the wax piece (uppers or tips), the blood piece (middles), and the bone piece (bottoms): the wax piece may be marketed as a growth tonic for children, the blood piece supposedly for joint and bone health, and the bone piece supposedly for calcium deficiency and geriatric needs. Early commercial activity in Russia between the 1930s and 1980s led to the production of an alcohol extract from deer antler velvet marketed under the Russian drug trade name Pantocrin (also pantocrine or pantokrin).