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Deer Velvet

Deer velvet is a traditional Chinese medicine treatment. Other names for it include velvet antler and antler velvet. It is made from immature deer antlers, which are covered in velvet-like hair. At this stage, the antlers are made of cartilage. The antlers also contain protein, fat, minerals, and other chemical compounds.

Why do people take deer velvet?

This supplement is used or promoted as a treatment for many symptoms and medical conditions, such as:

  • Loss of interest in sex (low libido)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Arthritis pain
  • Injuries
  • Osteoporosis
  • Liver damage
  • Anemia

Some supporters also say that deer velvet can:

  • Improve performance in sports
  • Increase energy
  • Improve immune function
  • Help you better handle stress

However, little human research supports these claims. In one study of 38 men, antler velvet powder was linked to better muscle strength and endurance. However, the researchers thought this finding needed more research to verify that the supplement had this effect.

In another study, velvet antler didn’t seem to improve sexual function in middle-aged and older men.

Deer velvet might have an effect due to the hormones it may contain, including testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone. Research in rats, using elk velvet antler, suggested the substance may have an androgen-like effect. The antlers are ground into powder, which people take by mouth. The suggested dosage varies by brand, often 1 to 3 grams each day, which may be divided into two or three daily doses.  

It's important to talk to your doctor about any supplements you're considering taking, so that he or she can check on any side effects or interactions with any medications you may be taking.

Can you get deer velvet naturally from foods?

Deer velvet supplements are made from deer antlers that haven’t hardened. These are not normally used as food in America. However, deer antlers have long been used in Asia in medicinal soups.

What are the risks of taking deer velvet?

Side effects. Antler velvet may have an effect like male hormones, such as testosterone. In addition, Korean doctors also reported a case of an itchy skin outbreak in a woman that covered her entire body, which they linked to antler velvet.

Risks. Antler velvet may not be safe in people who should avoid supplemental estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone. The supplement may contain these hormones. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using this supplement. Experts know little about the safety of antler velvet in these women. However, the drugs that keep deer from feeling pain while their antlers are removed may make their way into the supplements. These drugs could harm a fetus.

Interactions. Experts don’t know of any harmful interactions between antler velvet and medications. Tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on December 01, 2012

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