During the early stages of antler development, a soft layer of velvet-like tissue covers the antlers to provide them with extra nutrients and blood flow which stimulate growth. This process happens annually for all male deer species (female caribou as well) after they've shed their old antlers and began growing new ones. Once the antlers are completely developed, the velvet will begin to naturally fall off until the cycle happens again the following year.
You may not realize it, but people have been harvesting and ingesting deer antler velvet for thousands of years. To this day, it's one of the oldest and most widespread traditional Chinese medicines used by millions of people. In fact, ancient Chinese scrolls dating back over 2,000 years listed some of the medical benefits associated with deer antler velvet. While medical studies and research continue to be performed on it, scientists are reporting some positive results. If you're interested in the deer antler velvet and the possible benefits it provides, keep reading as we uncover the truth regarding this ancient Chinese medicine.
How Is Deer Antler Velvet Harvested?
You're probably wondering just how in the world antler velvet is turned into a medicine for people to take. It's a common misconception that deer antler velvet products, such as sprays and supplements, consist only of the soft velvety tissue that's shown in the picture above. In order to create the powdered antler velvet extract used in such products, the antlers are removed around the base BEFORE they've had time to solidify into hard calcium. After the antlers are removed, they're left to dry and then crushed down into a very find powder which can then be used to create supplements, sprays and other products.
The powder left behind from the crushed velvet antlers is essentially where all of the beneficial nutrients and compounds are. Any authentic (there are plenty of fakes out there) velvet extract product is made using this valuable powder. Some companies fill gelatin capsules with it to create supplements, while others turn it into sprays.
Benefits of Taking Deer Antler Velvet Extract
As with most supplements and traditional medicine, you have to be skeptical of the claims on a lot of these products. With that said, the Chinese have been using it to treat a host of medical conditions, including impotence, arthritis, knee pain, urinary tract infections, infertility, hypertension and increased blood circulation. Whether deer antler velvet extract is effective at treating these conditions or not remains to be seen. China wasn't the only country to take notice of this natural remedy. Korea, Japan, the US, UK and many other nations also use antler velvet extract as a traditional medicine.
Of course modern day athletes and trainers have also noted benefits and improvements in their strength, stamina and mental clarity after taking antler velvet extract. New Orleans Saints fullback Heath Evans is one of the many professional athletes who has admitted to taking an antler velvet supplement to help him recover from strenuous workouts. More recently, the Baltimore Raven's future hall-of-famer Ray Lewis was also reported to have used it. Although the supplements themselves aren't banned by the NFL, one of the growth hormones it contains is (IGF-1), leading to a full-blown controversy over whether or not antler velvet products should be allowed in sport.
Contents of Deer Antler Velvet Extract
One of the most notable ingredients in antler velvet extract is a growth hormone known as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This hormone is produced by the liver as a response to human growth hormone stimulation and may help aid in recovery, tissue repair and muscle growth, which is why the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB have banned players from using the substance. Even so, many players risk their career, and essentially their paychecks, for the ability to use antler velvet.
In addition to IGF-1, antler velvet extract also contains a number of other beneficial nutrients, including glucosamine, chondroitin and collagen. Studies have shown these three ingredients useful in aiding joint pain and inflammation caused from arthritis.
To recap, here's some of the notable beneficial ingredients found in deer antler velvet:
- Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
Should I Take a Deer Antler Velvet Supplement?
Before taking any supplement, first consult with a licensed medical practitioner. Only they can offer you guidance as to what supplements are safe and which ones are dangerous for you to take. Unlike other supplements, though, reports of negative side effects from taking deer antler velvet are extremely rare. People using too much of the supplement may experience headaches, nausea, upset stomach and other minor side effects. If you notice any of these unwanted side effects, discontinue using the product immediately.
Unfortunately, there are some companies out there who only want to make a buck off of peoples' ignorance by selling low-quality antler velvet supplements. They may use very little actual extract and dilute it down with filler products like sugar. While you may think you are getting the real deal, you could be taking a supplement containing little-to-no velvet extract. So, how do you know if a product is made with the real thing? Do your research before purchasing any product to find reviews from previous customers. A quick 5-minute internet search could save you both time and money in the long run.
If you're interested in giving it a try, be sure to follow the instructions listed on the label and only take the recommended dose. Continue taking it and keep a journal of your energy levels, fatigue, muscle repair, clarity, etc. After a couple weeks, go through your journal to see how well you've improved. This isn't exactly a sure-fire medical study, but it will give you an idea as to how effective it is for you. Chances are you'll be hooked on this energy-improving supplement after just a week or so of using it.