Elk Antler Velvet: Uses and Scientific Studies

A Long History of Use

Velvet antler refers to the living tissue from the growing antler of the Cervus genus of deer, notably the red deer, Cervus elaphus, as well as elk. Chinese doctors have coveted velvet antler of male deer as a medicinal product for over 2000 years. The first written record of its use dates back to a scroll from the Han Dynasty of China, where medical use of antler was documented for 52 different illnesses.

A Naturally Renewable Resource

Much like wool is obtained from sheep, antler is obtained humanely from farmed deer or elk. Velvet antler is harvested by veterinarians or certified farmers during the peak of the growing season before the antler has a chance to ossify, or harden like bone. (In the wild, after antlers harden, they are used as grappling weapons during the mating season, then shed and re-grown the following year.) During the growing stage, the antler is cloaked with a velvety covering, and is richest in concentration of critical growth factors and cofactors. The highest quality antler is obtained during the peak of this growth stage.

Science and History Agree on Velvet Antler

Highlighted by groundbreaking research at Harvard University in the 1940’s and 1950’s by George Wislocki, velvet antler has long been studied internationally in Asia, New Zealand, Europe and North America. Richard J. Goss, Div. of Biology and Medicine at Brown University, wrote an article in “The Anatomical Record” in 1995, where he commented: “There hardly has been a year in the past century and a half that someone, somewhere has not been seriously studying deer antler.” He later stated: “The rewards for studying antler are that practically everything one finds out … is a new discovery.”

Research Confirms Velvet Antler’s Efficacy

Though much research has been done on velvet antler, in contrast to more abundant and commonly used herbs and nutraceuticals, there is currently more literature on the structure and physiology of velvet antler than on its clinical benefits. This is in the process of changing, as anti-aging has become a recognized subspecialty of medicine, and more research is being performed, including ongoing clinical studies. Clinical and experimental research with humans and animals continues to expand the growing list of conditions that can benefit from regular velvet antler use. From the attached partial list of available antler literature, there are three studies that are especially intriguing.

1. Anti-Aging

In order to assess velvet antler’s effects on longevity, anti-aging studies can be performed most practically on animals with short life spans. While velvet antler has long been revered as an anti-aging tonic in Chinese medicine, it took the work of Wang, et al., in 1988 (#2) to begin documenting this anti-aging effect and help pave the road to understanding why it occurs. Using specially bred mice vs. control mice, Wang’s researchers found that in the treated group, velvet antler increased RNA polymerase 2 activity, thereby increasing cellular protein synthesis. Antler actively decreased oxidative activity in the liver and increased plasma testosterone.

All of these diverse effects resulted in the treated animals living substantially longer than the control animals. Wang stated that these results were the best evidence to date for a “measurable restorative function” for velvet antler. More recent studies, including those by Clifford (#1), have confirmed these anti-aging effects. Current research looks to the presence of large amounts of diversified growth factors in velvet antler as one of the keys to its anti-aging benefits, which is now beginning to be documented in humans.

2. Athletic

Strength and athletic enhancement benefits of velvet antler have been observed in numerous research studies performed on three continents. A 1999 study by Fisher et al.. (#14) examined the effects of a velvet antler extract on healthy police recruits. This placebo-controlled study found that velvet antler exerts an anabolic effect, increasing muscle strength or mass when combined with strength training. Many Russian and New Zealand studies have reported similar findings, including dramatic aerobic benefits, which explains why so many of their well informed athletes use velvet antler as a safe, effective, performance enhancer.

3. Sexual

Sexual benefits of velvet antler have been well known to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine for millennia. In the twentieth century, hundreds of articles and textbooks have reported the sexual enhancement effects of velvet antler, beginning with initial clinical studies in Russia 70 years ago. Clinics throughout Russia and Asia have long used antler to improve sexual vitality. Antler is considered one of the most effective known remedies for impotence, as well as for increasing libido and general sexual performance.

Gotlib and Yag (#29), reported in their Moscow study that Pantocrin, an alcohol based extract of velvet antler, significantly increased sexual performance in treated men. Albov (#30) reported numerous benefits for menopausal women, including enhanced libido, plus significant stress reduction, which also improved intimacy. These benefits have been attributed to enhanced testosterone production brought about by the adaptogenic effects of velvet antler, as well as a possible vasodilatory effect for the sex organs, which some refer to as a “Viagra-like” effect.

A Rich Source of Growth Factors and Vital Cofactors

The most exciting components of velvet antler are diversified growth factors, including IGF-1, IGF-2, epidermal, nerve, fibroblast, transforming, epithelial and others. These antler components exist in similar ratios that occur in the human body. Velvet antler has the highest concentration of growth factors of any mammalian structure, which helps explain how this remarkable tissue grows at such a phenomenal rate each year. Growth factors are critical for cellular repair and regeneration; and many anti-aging physicians believe that declining growth factors is a primary reason WHY the body ages.

Velvet antler also contains a plethora of vital cofactors that contribute to our health, performance and appearance. These cofactors include: glycosaminoglycans such as chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate (lubrication and rebuilding of joints), essential amino acids (structure and enzymes), phospholipids (cell membrane integrity), type 2 collagen (joint structural matrix), hypoxanthine and uridene (anti-aging nucleotides), anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, polyamines (RNA stimulants), gangliosides (enhancers of memory and learning), and numerous minerals (cofactors and structural support). The combination of these diverse cofactors and growth factors is what makes velvet antler so effective over a broad range of bodily systems and functions.

Scientific Advancements Make Velvet Antler More Effective

Several studies have indicated that heating can destroy or reduce the beneficial properties of velvet antler by denaturing the proteins; therefore it is vital that it not be heated during processing. Flash-freezing and freeze-drying preserves the antler compounds in pristine condition. The essential technological advancement required for effective delivery of velvet antler compounds into the human body, however, was a method of protecting and escorting it into the body without loss of potency. As a result of research at the Universities of Chicago and Colorado and elsewhere, a special protective envelope, called a “polymer matrix,” has been developed. It serves two functions:

First, it enables a normally short-lived extract or formula, such as velvet antler, to be suspended in liquid and retain its integrity and potency during its shelf life as a packaged liquid. Second, it is remarkably effective at allowing complex proteins to pass into the bloodstream directly through the mucous membranes of the mouth. This trans-membrane technology enables complex growth factors and cofactors, such as those found in velvet antler, to bypass the digestive system and avoid degradation of the potency and effectiveness of the formula. In contrast to this method, antler consumed as a tea, capsule or liquid will inevitably lose potency, first through the action of stomach acids during digestion and, second, through “first pass” metabolism in the liver.

Aging Vs. Anti-Aging

Just like a busy city has different operating systems, the cells within the human body have similar vital roles. These roles include protein synthesis/anabolism (manufacturing), nervous system (communication), circulation (transportation), immune system (safety and defense). During our lifespans, our body’s cells divide and replicate. As we age, our ability to grow, repair and regenerate these cells declines, much like an aging city can deteriorate, creating slums and poverty. The result is diminished bodily function and appearance, which is typically regarded as a natural consequence of aging.

The anti-aging medical community believes the progressive decline of function in the body as we age is not inevitable, and can be slowed. During our youth, our bodies produce large quantities of human growth hormone (HGH), which, in turn, stimulates liver and bone production of growth factors (protein polypeptides) that are the building blocks for growth at the cellular level. Once our bodies become fully grown and developed (typically by around age 20), our natural production of HGH declines dramatically with age. Some say this is WHY we age. Anti-aging physicians advocate compensating for declining growth factors with lifestyle improvements, nutritional supplements, and growth factor enhancement or replacement, in order to promote life extension and optimum health of the aging individual.

How Velvet Antler Works

Velvet antler contains the same growth factors that are stimulated by human growth hormone in the human body during youth. Ingested sublingually, velvet antler growth factors (and cofactors) do not have to stimulate any further production by the body – they able to be received directly by the body and go right to work, promoting cellular growth, repair and regeneration. While some benefits of velvet antler are visible externally, most of the benefits occur internally, in both men and women. Some benefits manifest themselves rapidly, while others develop cumulatively over time. Velvet antler has five major areas of benefits:

Mental: Improved energy, mood, ambition, sleep, memory and focus
Athletic: Strength, aerobic output, flexibility and healing of injuries
Cosmetic: Weight and fat loss, better hair quality and skin tone
Sexual: Enhanced libido and performance and gonadal regulation
Systemic: Better digestion, improved immunity, reduction of pain and stiffness, supporting a healthy heart and blood pressure, enhancing internal organ function, and many other effects

Modern Physicians See Results With Velvet Antler

Internists, physicians and anti-aging doctors who have used the latest form of sublingual spray velvet antler in their practice (in both healthy and ailing patients) are seeing with their own eyes subjective and objective clinical improvements in their patients. They are seeing many patients with recalcitrant conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome respond to regular use of velvet antler. They have been able to document patient reports of more energy, better memory, more initiative, improved sex life, greater stamina and strength, and many other benefits. The enthusiasm of these clinicians about positive patient results is sparking more research to help the medical community better understand how velvet antler has so many beneficial effects on the human body.

Velvet Antler vs. Other Anti-Aging Supplements

While velvet antler has been used throughout centuries for a variety of health benefits, the creation of the “polymer matrix” envelope has recently improved velvet antler’s effectiveness and spurred its use as a specific anti-aging supplement. How do other anti-aging products compare? Artificial “growth hormone” (somatotropin) was developed as a treatment for individuals suffering from growth deficiency or recovering from serious injury. Though its use has expanded to include anti-aging intervention, it is a physician-administered drug with considerations of injection, inconvenience, and especially high cost that are prohibitive for most people. Oral and sublingual growth hormones have been developed, but have obstacles such as controversial over-the-counter availability as well as suspect absorption into the body. Bovine colostrum, which does contain growth factors, is primarily an immune supporter, and not well established as an anti-aging supplement.

Many newer supplements fall into a category of HGH “activators” that attempt to stimulate the body to produce more HGH. These are likely to be more effective on younger people, since the body’s natural ability to produce HGH declines drastically after age 20, therefore the body has diminished ability to respond to activators as it ages. Homeopathics, by definition, are weaker concentrations of ingredients intended to work in synergy with the body. Homeopathics tend to be aimed at specific aspects of bodily function rather than addressing cellular repair and regeneration throughout the body’s systems. This also tends to be the case with many nutraceuticals that have anti-aging “properties,” though they may have higher concentrations of purpose-specific ingredients. It should be noted that the typical strategy of “anti-aging” homeopathics and nutraceuticals is to achieve anti-aging benefits indirectly rather than serving as a direct source of growth factors such IGF-1, a benchmark for cellular health and aging.


Anti-Aging Effects

1. Clifford, et al.. “Inhibitory effects of the extract of pilose antler on monoamine oxidase aged mice” Ch J Chin Mat 17 (2) 107-128 1992

2. Wang, BX, et al.. “Effects of repeated administration of deer antler extract on biochemical changes related aging in senescence accelerated mice” Chem Pharm Bull 1988: 38 2587-92

3. Wang, BX, et al.. “Advances in research of chemistry, pharmacology and clinical application of pilose antler” Proceedings of the 1996 International Symposium on Deer Science and Deer Products 1996: 14-31

Anti-Arthritic Effects

4. “Alberta Universities Begin Clinical Trials on Elk Velvet as Arthritis Relief Medicine” Wapiti Review, July/August 1998, p.13

5. Hansen, T.J. “Claims of Velvet Antler and Chondroitin Sulfate” Watertown, MA; North American Trade Experts, 1998

6. Sim, J.S. and H.H. Sunwoo. “Canadian Scientists Study Velvet Antler for Arthritis Treatment” Canadian Elk and Deer Farmer, Winter, 1999 39-40

7. Sunwoo, H.H. et al. “Glycosaminoglycans from growing antlers of wapiti (Cervus elaphus) Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B 1998: 273-283

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

8. “Evaluation of New Zealand Velvet Antler – Efficacy and Diagnostic Testing, Varnz Document, 1997

9. “Velvet Antler Under the Microscope” Wang, BX 1996

10. Gavrilenk, V.S. “Pantocrin in Combined Treatment of Patients with Tubercular Lungs.” In: Pantocrin: A Publication of Articles on Studies of Curative Properties of Pantocrin. Pavlenko, S.M. (ed). Moscow: V/O

11. Medexport Suttie, J.M., and S. Haines. “Evaluation of Velvet Antler: The Effect of Aqueous Velvet Extracts on the Immune System.” Report to Varnz, Nov 1996

Athletic Enhancement – Aerobic and Strength Improvement

12. Anderson, D. “Velvet Boost for Athletes.” Rural News. In: The New Zealand Game Industry Board Media Statement, Feb 18, 1998

13. Church, J. Velvet Antler: It’s Historical Medical Use, Performance Enhancing Effects and Pharmacology. For Elk Tech International, 1998 Fisher, B.D., and D. Wiles.

14. Strength Training Parameters in Edmonton Police Recruits Following Supplementation with Elk Velvet Antler (EVA). University of Alberta, 1998

15. Gerrard, D.F., G.G. Sleivert, A. Goulding, S.R. Haines and J.M. Suttie. Clinical Evaluation of New Zealand Deer Velvet Antler on Muscle Strength & Endurance in Healthy Male University Athletes

16. “Velvet Research Gets International Attention!” Sports Illustrated, Jun 22, 1998, In: Wapiti Review, July/August 1998, p. 19

Cardiovascular Benefits

17. Albov, N.A., V.A. Borovskaya and I.E. Kofanov. “Clinical Observations on the Influence of Pantocrin on Cardiac Patients.” In: Pantocrin: A Publication of Articles on Studies of Curative Properties of Pantocrin. Pavlenko, S.M. (ed). Moscow: V/O Medexport

18. Tsjuibo, et al. “Hypotensive Activity of Velvet Antler” 1987

19. Albov, et al. “Cases of treatment of high and low blood pressure” 1969

Immune Enhancing Effects

20. Buchan, G. “Effects of Various Velvet Extracts on the Immune System.” Research Report on AgResearch Contract No. 4109

21. “Evaluation of New Zealand Velvet Antler – Efficacy and Diagnostic Testing” Varnz Document, 1997

22. Arapov, N.A. “Some Data on Using Pantocrin in Surgical Practice.” In: Pantocrin: A Publication of Articles on Studies of Curative Properties of Pantocrin. Pavlenko, S.M. (ed). Moscow: V/O Medexport, Date Unknown.

23. Gavrilenk, V.S. “Pantocrin in Combined Treatment of Patients with Tubercular Lungs.” In: Pantocrin: A Publication of Articles on Studies of Curative Properties of Pantocrin. Pavlenko, S.M. (ed). Moscow: V/O Medexport

24. Pavlenko, S.M., A.B. Silayev, L.A. Filippova and V.S. Kiselyov. “Some Data on the Chemical Properties of Unossified Horns and Pantocrin.” In: Pantocrin: A Publication of Articles on Studies of Curative Properties of Pantocrin. Pavlenko, S.M. (ed). Moscow: V/O Medexport

25. Suttie, J.M., and S. Haines. “Evaluation of Velvet Antler: The Effect of Aqueous Velvet Extracts on the Immune System.” Report to Varnz, Nov 1996

Memory and Learning

26. Archer, R.H. and P.J. Palfreyman. “Properties of New Zealand Deer Velvet – Part I. Search of Literature – Vol. I

27. Duarte, A. The Benefits of Velvet Antler: The 2000-Year-Old Health Food For All Reasons. Self Published, 1995

28. Holubitsky, J. “Science Takes a Serious Look at Ancient Oriental Tradition: Properties of Elk Antler Under Microscope.” The Edmonton Journal, In: North American Elk, Spring 1998, p. 49

Sexual Enhancement

29. Gotlib, Yag. “The Use of Pantocrin in Treating Some Sexual Disorders in Men.” In: Pantocrin: A Publication of Articles on Studies of Curative Properties of Pantocrin. Pavlenko, S.M. (ed). Moscow: V/O Medexport

30. Albov, N.A., and L.F. Krupennikov. “The Influence of Pantocrin on Menopause.” In: Pantocrin: A Publication of Articles on Studies of Curative Properties of Pantocrin. Pavlenko, S.M. (ed). Moscow: V/O Medexport

Author: Life Enthusiast Staff