and Deer Velvet Antler
Dr. John Church, MSc, PhD, Game Farm
Rocky Mountain Ranch, (403) 201-3417
Box 54, RR 8, Site 5, Calgary Alberta, T2J 2T9
prelimadcadsfasinary results of ground breaking research that has taken
place at the University of Alberta by sports medicine researcher Brian
Fisher have been reported in both the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary
Herald and CFRN television in Edmonton Alberta. The results look very
promising for the future of the elk industry. Analysis of blood from
city police recruits and University of Alberta football players showed
that they had as much testosterone in their blood as if they had been
taking anabolic steroids. In fact, their testosterone levels were five
or six times higher than normal. Even more fascinating was that the
velvet capsules were independently tested to make sure they themselves
didn't contain anabolic steroids. Dr. Fisher is optimistic that the
results may show that taking velvet may be a way of boosting strength
and endurance without using anabolic steroids or other artificial chemicals.
This research is among the first conducted by scientists in the west.
Researchers in eastern countries like Russia and Korea; however, have
been investigating the performance enhancing effects of velvet
preparations for years.
Enhancing Effects of Velvet Antler
antler has often been regarded as having performance enhancing effects
on the human body. There is scientific evidence from a number of studies
which have revealed such effects in both animals and humans. For example,
Brekhman et al. (1969) showed that pantocrin (a preparation of elk antler)
increased the working capacity of mice. Russian scientists Yudin and
Dubryakov (1974) have reported that control athletes on an exercise
cycle performed 15 kg/m of dynamic work whereas those given pantocrin
increased this considerably to 74 kg/m and those given rantarin (a preparation
of reindeer antler) increased to 103 kg/m. In a like manner, the athletic
performance in a 3000m run was enhanced following patocrin administration
(Brekhman et al. 1969). According to Russian scientist Korobkov (1974,
cited by Fulder 1980b) with regards to the use of velvet antler in athletes,
the action is primarily aimed at accelerating the restorative processes
after intensive activity and at increasing the body's resistance to
unfavorable external influences. In essence, pantocrin and other naturally
occurring substances in velvet antler have served to accelerate the
body's natural restorative processes.
over a decade, Dr. Arkady Koltun, MD, Ph. D., Chairman of the Medical
Committee for the Russian Bodybuilding Federation, has conducted research
into anabolic agents that are known to improve performance, strength,
and musculature in athletes. In studies with Russian kayakers, weightlifters,
bodybuilders and powerlifters, Dr. Koltun found that velvet antler has
both myotropic (increases muscular strength) and neurotropic (nerve
strengthening) properties. He also found properties in antler that are
beneficial in treating infectious disease, fatigue and hypertension.
effects of velvet antler have been demonstrated in numerous experiments
(Kim and Park 1992). Preparations of velvet antler have been shown to
stimulate red blood cell synthesis and increase erythropoietic activity
in cases of drug induced anemia in rabbits and rats (Yoon 1989). It
seems likely that such erythropoietic activity may well be responsible
for at least part of the stamina-improving effects of velvet antler
preparations in distance runners. In this sense, the responses would
be similar to those ascribed to blood-doping where an athlete in re-transfused
with his own blood prior to competition.
enhancing effects of velvet antler are likely the results of increasing
the circulating levels of androgens (testosterone and its metabolites)
in the blood of these athletes. There is now considerable evidence for
the gonadotrophic effects of velvet antler (Fennessy 1991). Androgens
are known to stimulate the development of seminal vesicles and the prostate
gland of sexually immature neonate rats, or retard the degeneration
of these organs in newly castrated animals. Velvet antler preparations
pantocrine and rantarin have all been shown to have androgenic effects
in castrated rats.
Testosterone, And Their Effects On The Human Body
is a member of an important class of hormones, the steroid sex hormones,
which are all derived via complex metabolic pathways from a parent substance
called cholesterol. The reproductive endocrine glands form targets for
a stimulatory chain of hormonal actions involving two quite different
classes of hormone, the protein trophic hormones of the pituitary, and
the structurally simple releasing hormones which are secreted by the
brain and effectively link it with the endocrine glands.
case of testosterone, the stimulatory route involves a hormone called
gonadotrophin releasing hormone secreted by cells in the ventral hypothalamic
areas of the brain which acts, via a special blood system in the brain
(the hypophyseal portal system), on the adenohypophysis of the pituitary,
to stimulate the secretion into the general vascular system of the gonadotrophic
hormone called the interstitial cells stimulating hormone. This hormone
in turn induces the secretion and release of the male hormone, testosterone,
from the interstitial cells of the testis. We do not yet know at what
point velvet antler is causing an increase in testosterone in human
subjects, but it could be mimicking or stimulating hormonal action in
a number of different places. Hopefully research in the future will
help elucidate the effects of velvet antler on the body.
feedback system controls levels of testosterone in the blood; a rise
in blood level of testosterone is monitored by special cells in the
hypothalamus, and quickly results in a depression of secretion of first
the gonadotrophin releasing hormone, second the interstitial cell stimulating
hormone, and finally a diminished secretion of testosterone. Negative
feedback was why the University of Alberta football players blood levels
of testosterone would have quickly returned to normal once they stopped
taking velvet antler.
is thought to have two main effects in the body, androgenic (masculinizing)
and anabolic effects. The androgenic action produces more maleness,
broader features, more hair, deeper voice, and larger sex organs. Anabolic
refers to promoting anabolism, which is the actual building process
of tissues, mainly muscle, in the body. This might occur through the
body's own natural reactions to muscular work and proper nutrition or
through the introduction of drugs. Anabolism occurs by taking substances
from the blood that are essential for growth and repair and using them
to stimulate reactions which produce tissue synthesis. The anabolic
action of testosterone produces larger muscles and greater strength.
The muscle building effects of testosterone are well known by scientists,
and work at least as well as synthetic anabolic steroids. In a study
by Dr. Gilbert Forbes and colleagues (1992) at the University of Rochester,
New York, normal subjects gained an average of 16.5 lbs of lean body
mass in 12 weeks.
patients have been prescribed transdermal testosterone. The latest development
is testosterone patches. These were first made by Alza Pharmaceuticals
of Palo Alto, California in 1985 as an experimental treatment for aging
men with low testosterone levels, and for men who had lost their testicles
by accident or surgery. The 2" square patch is stuck on the scrotum,
or anywhere on the body, and releases testosterone slowly, evenly, and
painlessly through the skin. Transdermal delivery of testosterone is
still undergoing testing but all medical indications so far are very
positive, and bode well for the use of the patches in treating the elderly
that velvet antler naturally boosts testosterone production in the body
is a very exciting development. Testosterone may become the next great
body building supplement in the gym like creatine monohydrate, or be
found to be a " fountain of youth" for an aging population of baby boomers.
Either way, research initiatives must continue to receive our industry's
fullest support, both in kind and financially to help make velvet antler
the nutritional supplement of choice for the next millennium!
J. T., Y. L Dubryakov and A. L. Taneyeva. 1969. The biological activity
of the antlers of deer and other deer species. Ivestio Sibirskogo Ordelemia
Akalemi Nank SISR. Biological Series No. 10 (2):112-115
P F 1991 Velvet antler: the product and pharmacology. Proc. Deer Course
for Veterinarians (Deer Branch of the NZ Vet Assoc). 8 169-180
G. B., et al. 1992. Sequence of changes in body composition induced
by testosterone and reversal of changes after drug is stopped. J Amer
Med Assoc. 267: 397-399
S. 1980b. The drug that builds Russians. New Scientist 87 (1215): 516-519.
W. and S. W. Park. 1982. A study of the hemopoietic action of deer horn
extract. Korean Biochem. J. 15: 151-157.
J. 1992. Testosterone patches boost hormone levels and improve function
in elderly. Medical Tribune. 33: 3.
1989. The effect of deer horn on the experimental anemia of rabbits.
Journal Pharmaochemical Society Korea. 8: 6-11.
A. M. and Y. L. Dubryakov 1974. A guide for the preparation and storage
of uncalcified male antlers as a medicinal raw material. In Reindeer
antlers, Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Far East Science Center. Vladivostock.
from the Canadian
Elk and Deer Farmer, Winter 1999, page 41.
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