DEER ANTLERS are the racks of branched bone that stags hold proudly on their heads in the breeding season. During the growth phase antlers are covered in soft furry hair, hence the term ‘velvet’.
Each year the entire structure including blood vessels, skin, hair and glands appear then grow very rapidly ( up to 2 cm per day) and if not harvested as velvet antler, eventually calcify and turn into hard antler. Ultimately the support structures regress, the skin peels off, the stag sheds the antler and the cycle continues.
The cycle of antler growth, dropping off and regrowing the following year is a unique phenomenon amongst higher vertebrate animals. Although all mammals possess the ability to heal wounds, no other mammal has the capability to completely regenerate body tissues.
The fat and mineral analysis of red deer velvet antler is shown above. For analysis the antlers were separated into four major portions (tip, upper, mid and base). These portions differ in their chemical composition and are used by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine for different functions.
Broadly lipid and protein (nitrogen x 6.25) decrease from the tip to the base, while ash and calcium increase. This reflects the fact that mineralization of the velvet antler from the initial matrix of cartilage increases from the base to the tip. As most of the active ingredients of velvet are likely to be proteins or lipids this explains why upper parts of the velvet are more heavily prized for their efficacy.
What are the benefits of Deer Velvet?
Significant research has been conducted into the unique health benefits of deer velvet, including the following areas:
- Promotion of bone health
- Supporting the immune function
- Healthy joint function
- Aiding muscle recovery
- Liver protection
- Anti-ageing treatment
- Wound healing
- Enhancing athletic performance
Examples of this research can be found on the Endorsements page and more detailed information can be obtained from Deer Industry New Zealand, see their website at: www.velvet.org.nz