What is Deer Antler Velvet?
Deer antler velvet refers to the soft, velvety covering on the growing antlers of male deer, specifically the red deer or elk, before the antlers fully calcify. During this stage, the antlers are still soft, covered in velvet, and contain blood vessels. Deer antler velvet is highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine as a supplement for nourishment and strength, particularly effective for conditions such as weakness and nervous exhaustion.
Deer have been revered as precious medicinal animals in traditional Chinese culture, with historical references like “deer’s body, a hundred treasures” dating back to the Han Dynasty. The early growth stage of deer antlers, known as deer antler velvet, is considered a “treasure among treasures” and classified as a second-grade herb in the “Shennong Ben Cao Jing.” The velvet is categorized into wax pieces (considered the most potent), blood pieces (containing a small amount of deer blood, with decreased value), and horn pieces (completely ossified antler sections, more affordable)     .
Deer antler velvet is characterized as warm without causing dryness. It is believed to invigorate and enhance overall bodily functions, particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing general weakness or prolonged illnesses. Li Shizhen, in the “Compendium of Materia Medica,” describes deer antler velvet as having the ability to “nourish the kidneys, strengthen yang, generate essence, enrich the blood, and strengthen the bones”     .
What are the Recommended Evidence-Based Effects and Benefits of Deer Antler Velvet?
Promotes Overall Strength and Vitality
Deer antler velvet, as a comprehensive tonic, is known to improve sleep, appetite, and reduce muscle fatigue. Orally consumed, it has a strengthening effect on overall weakness, post-illness fatigue, and fatigue     .
Enhances Wound Healing Abilities
Increases Strength and Endurance
Deer antler velvet is used to improve strength and endurance, modulate the immune system, combat stress, and facilitate quick recovery from illnesses. It is also employed for various purposes such as treating high cholesterol, hypertension, migraines, muscle soreness, asthma, indigestion, osteoporosis, headaches, liver and kidney disorders, cold extremities, lower back, and knee pain     .
Enhances Libido and Improves Male Sexual Dysfunction
Some individuals use deer antler velvet to increase levels of certain sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone), improve fertility, boost interest in sexual activity (as an aphrodisiac), and treat male erectile dysfunction    .
Alleviates Menopausal Symptoms in Women
Women use deer antler velvet to reduce the estrogen dosage required for hormone replacement therapy and address issues related to menstruation, menopause, vaginal discharge, and uterine bleeding.
Slows Down the Aging Process
While aging is inevitable, deer antler velvet serves as a traditional Chinese medicine to support joint function, blood health, cholesterol levels, and tissue repair in the elderly. It is also used as a supplement to help improve strength in older individuals. In traditional Chinese medicine, deer antler velvet is employed to promote wound healing. Herbal combinations, including deer antler velvet, are also used to increase blood circulation to the brain, slow down or reduce signs of aging such as tissue, bone, and muscle degeneration, and prevent cognitive decline     .
Does Deer Antler Velvet Have Side Effects?
- Deer antler velvet has the potential to improve blood circulation, and some people in Korea use it during winter to feel warm. However, this warming effect might lead to side effects such as nosebleeds and headaches in some individuals.
- If pregnant or breastfeeding, there is insufficient reliable information to determine the safety of using deer antler velvet, so caution should be exercised, and its use should be avoided.
- For individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, deer antler velvet may have estrogen-like effects. It should not be used if there are any conditions that could worsen with exposure to estrogen   .