Deer antler velvet is used for its purported ability to raise testosterone levels to treat decreased libido (low sex drive), infertility, and erectile dysfunction in men. It is used in combination with other herbs to treat sexual dysfunction and hormonal dysfunction in men and women. It is used to treat conditions resulting from deficient kidneys. Some people use it because of its reputed benefit as an aphrodisiac and muscle strength enhancer. It is also sometimes prescribed to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms in the treatment of morphine addiction.
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In Chinese medicine, deer velvet has been used to treat impotence, female disorders, urinary problems, skin ailments, and knee weakness. It is also employed as a tonic in children with learning disabilities or insufficient growth.16 Koreans use antler velvet to treat anemia and impotence and to stimulate the immune system, treat impotence, improve heart function, muscle tone, lung efficiency, and nerve function.17
Osteoarthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage in bone joints. In normal joints, cartilage serves as a buffer between bones. Usually the body replenishes cartilage as it wears away, but when osteoarthritis occurs, cartilage deteriorates faster than the body can replace it. Eventually, the bones begin to rub together, causing pain, swelling and loss of joint mobility. Most treatments for osteoarthritis attempt to reduce pain and maintain joint function, but these treatments do little to restore joint health.
An acute dose of 2,000mg/kg Deer Velvet Antler to rats (human equivalent dose of 320mg/kg) has failed to show toxic signs over 14 subsequent days of observation, and a 90 day trial with daily dosing of 1,000mg/kg did not show any significant toxicological symptoms of haemotological signs; a decrease in liver weight was noted in males, but under histological examination it appeared to be benign. Another rat toxicological study using 10% of the diet as Deer Velvet Antler during gestation and after birth noted that there were no apparent teratogenic effects on the rat pups and that serum AST (indicative of liver damage) was actually decreased 50% relative to control with no effect on γ-GT (another liver enzyme).
Much of the research and its conclusions on deer antler velvet has been done 15 to 70 years ago in many other countries around the world. There are experts with relevant degrees in nutrition and doctors who have spent a great deal of time researching this supplement to better understand its benefits for their own clients and patients. As well as educating us about the many reasons to use it.
The harvesting of deer antler velvet can be a painful process, as the velvet tissue contains an abundance of nerves and bleeds profusely if cut or removed. Dr. Low Dog says she has no problem with harvesting velvet from deer killed for food, but is concerned that shortcuts will be taken should demand for the supplements continue to grow. She notes that the United Kingdom has banned the removal of deer antler velvet under its welfare-of-livestock regulations, unless the antlers have been damaged or most of the velvet has been shed.
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.