What is Velvet Elk Antler?
Antler and various animal bones have been used throughout history by various medicinal systems, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine. Velvet elk antler, is the soft, fuzzy, protective hair that covers the bone and cartilage of newly grown antlers that haven’t yet calcified, or hardened. In fact, elk shed and regrow their antlers every year. This is likely why young elk antler velvet supplements are revered by many traditional medicine practices.
To make antler velvet supplements, young, uncalcified deer or elk antlers are surgically removed while the animal is under anesthesia. Then, the velvet is removed from the antler bone, dried, and ground into a fine powder. The powder is sometimes sold in bulk or capsule form.
Benefits of Velvet Elk Antler
Traditionally, elk antler velvet has been used to strengthen bones, improve immunity, and treat ailments including toothaches and tissue damage. More specifically, elk velvet extracts and powders — have been gaining popularity among bodybuilders and athletes looking to increase their strength and endurance. The supplement is also thought to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promote youthfulness, improve fertility, and more.
To date very few studies have been done in humans, but based on historical use and the nutrient content of velvet elk antler we can infer the potential health benefits. When the composition of the antler was analyzed, it was found to contain multiple enzymes with antioxidant properties. These included superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPX).
One review found that elk antler velvet may have some medicinal properties due to their content of amino acids and peptides. Newer research has also attributed elk antler velvet’s health benefits to its protein content. Multiple recent test-tube studies also support the notion that protein peptides from antler velvet could have anti-inflammatory, immune-regulating, and heart-health-promoting properties. Also, elk velvet contains organic molecules called nucleosides, which are the building blocks of DNA. These might be responsible for antler velvet’s touted anti-fatigue effects.
Currently, there are no known adverse side effects of taking elk antler velvet supplements. However, it’s important to note that the supplements can contain insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which has several known side effects. These include:
- joint pain
- edema, or swelling
- low blood sugar levels
Furthermore, keep in mind that IGF-1 is banned by many sports leagues and athletic associations. Thus, if you’re an athlete, using these supplements could be prohibited. If symptoms do develop then consulting with a health care practitioner may be a good idea.