Velvet Antler Health Benefits

Health experts are intrigued by an emerging supplement with a 2,000-year tradition

| September/October 2000


Joanne Luce/Hindsite Red Deer Farm

Humans and the European red deer have had a long relationship—sometimes mutually beneficial, sometimes stormy. For now, it looks as if the 2,000-year saga has a happy ending for both. And humans may get a potent medicine out of the deal.

In New Zealand in the early 1970s, the deer population explosion threatened to become an environmental disaster. Then, inspired by successful deer farming in Scotland, New Zealanders began a conscious effort to domesticate the deer. Now, instead of ravaging native vegetation, the red deer plays a starring role in an agricultural success story.

Of the many products that the deer provide, one of the most exciting—and least traumatic to the deer—is a natural medicine called velvet antler (also called pilose deer antler). For thousands of years, the Chinese and other Asians have used velvet antler in a variety of ways, ranging from restorative tonics to tumor treatments. More recently, research has been conducted on the chemistry, pharmacology, and use of velvet antler extracts in Korea, China, and Russia.

Although widely accepted in traditional Asian medical systems, velvet antler has only recently attracted the attention of the West. More chemical, pharmacological, and clinical studies will be needed to ferret out its true benefits as a dietary supplement. In the meantime, you will find velvet antler products sitting on the shelf next to echinacea and other immune-system stimulants and tonic herbs at your local health-food store.

Is it really an herb?

Animal-derived “herbs” have always been a part of traditional medicine systems, even in the United States. Traditional Chinese Medicine includes more than 5,000 ingredients, including plants, minerals, and animal parts. About 500 are commonly used today and are listed as official drugs in the 1995 Chinese Pharmacopeia.

Velvet antler is one of the most widely used animal items, not only in China but also in other Asian countries, particularly Korea. The Chinese have used velvet antler as a traditional medicine for at least 2,000 years; it is thought to promote virility, replenish vital essence and blood, and strengthen bones and tendons.

3/11/2014 1:37:00 AM

Deer antler velvet is known as lu rong in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is the second most popular ingredient in TCM (ginseng is #1). Deer antler velvet is used to tonify the kidney and liver, improve blood circulation and quality, strengthen tendons and bones, and promote healing. The best deer antler velvet is made in New Zealand and is available through

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