Deer Antler Velvet
Deer velvet is comprised of the skin-like epidermal layer of tissue that covers growing antlers.  Deer velvet has been used in medicine for thousands of years; being first used in China over 2000 years ago. Reference to its use has been noted in scrolls recovered from this early time period. A relatively modern Chinese medical text (dating to the 16th century) lists deer velvet as a highly valuable therapeutic agent. Among it’s many uses in Chinese medicine include; general tonic (well-being) , anti-aging, sexual function enhancement, immune function boosting, and energy enhancement.
Modern science has unveiled many other potential uses and effects of deer velvet, as research continues today. It has undergone a rapid resurgence in interest over the last 10 years. Like many other uncommon dietary supplements, modern science has begun to unravel the medicinal secrets of historically used medicines like deer velvet.
Velvet is derived from the immature antlers of male deer from the deer family, which includes moose, caribou, elk, and deer. Supplemental velvet is most commonly harvested from elk. Antlers grow anew each year after they are dropped in the springtime. This antler growth is roughly 1 - 2 centimeters per day, taking approximately 3 to 4 months to fully mature. The velvet used for dietary supplements is removed from the animal at 2 months of growth, just before calcification has taken place. This velvet is then ground into a powder where it is either frozen or dried to be manufactured in a capsule or an liquid extract form.
Growing antlers consist of a mixture of bone and cartilage, 50% of which is amino acids.  The primary components (other than amino acids) of deer velvet include; sphingomylein, ganglioside, vitamin A, estrone, estradiol, and prostaglandins.  Additional constituents: collagen, amino acid-sugar combinations (known as proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans), and many different minerals; including magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Additionally, hormonal factors may be found in velvet as well, including testosterone, insulin-like growth factor-1, and epidermal growth factor. 
Deer Antler Uses
One of the main proven indications of deer velvet lies within its abilty to stimulate the growth of bodily tissues. This regenerative property explains, in part, why it has been used in conditions of weakened vitality in Chinese medicine. Deer velvet has been ascribed for improvements of fatigue in both the weakened elderly and child populations in China.
Deer velvet may also have several uses in the area of sports performance. A recent study, investigating the effects of deer antler on several parameters related to sports performance, showed that deer velvet was able to increase muscle strength and endurance when compared to placebo.  Another trial investigating the use of deer antler velvet in athletes supplied test subjects with either 1.5 grams of velvet or a placebo substance, per day for 14 days.  Study subjects were then put through an intensive running regimen designed to cause mild damage to the muscles of the legs. In the group treated with deer velvet, investigators noted slightly decreased levels of enzymes associated with muscular damage compared to the placebo group. Additionally, these athletes reported rapid returns to pain-free muscle status than those administered placebo.
In a separate study, researchers noted the ability of deer velvet to prevent some of the negative side effects of morphine treatment, namely a reduced ability to develop tolerance to the medicine.  This is useful in specific cases of chronic pain, in which strong medicines may be needed. A common problem is that these narcotic medications become ineffective over a period of time as the body develops tolerance to them. By slightly altering increases in drug tolerance, deer velvet may assist in the treatment of chronic pain conditions.
Deer velvet may have anti-aging properties as well. Using laboratory animals that are prone to early neurodegenerative changes, scientists have observed that when these animals are supplemented with deer velvet, levels of testosterone increased and certain enzymes that are associated with aging actually decreased.  Researchers also noticed that velvet was able to increase the reparation to tissues of the liver and kidneys (as evidenced by enhanced protein synthesis). An elevation in the powerful antioxidant known as superoxide dismutase were also noted.
Russian scientists have explored the effects of deer velvet on blood pressure as well. Interestingly, velvet acts to treat both high and low blood pressure. There are several other herbs in various literary journals of medicine that exhibit similar effects; either increasing or decreasing a physiological function in order to bring a particular organism back into balance. In one documented study, 81% of test subjects experienced a decrease in blood pressure after supplementing with deer velvet for 20 to 30 days.  In addition, 84% of patients with low blood pressure who were treated with velvet displayed an increase in blood pressure after 20 days of treatment.
Other uses of deer velvet include enhanced wound healing, fatigue reduction, improved appetite, and better sleep patterns. Deer velvet has many possible health benefits; many of which are currently being studied in order to further quantify the use of this natural medicine on both acute and chronic health conditions. As with other natural products, it is highly unlikely that the medicinal effects of deer velvet can be attributed to one single ingredients. The multiple constituents, act in concert to elicit therapeutic effects on varying health conditions.
The standard oral dosage of deer velvet is approximately 0.9 to 2.4 grams in the powdered form. Other traditional forms of dose/preparations call for the velvet to be soaked in wine, or to be made of a 20% alcoholic tincture in wine. 
At this time, no interactions have been reported between deer velvet and any other herbs or supplements, pharmaceutical medications, foods, or laboratory tests.  The safety of deer velvet in pregnancy and lactation has not been established, therefore its use should be avoided in these conditions. Due to the possible estrogen- and testosterone-like effects of deer velvet, people with estrogen or testosterone sensitive conditions (i.e. breast, cervical, testicular, or prostate cancers) should avoid the use of this deer velvet-containing products.
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