What is Deer Antler Velvet?
Antler velvet is the name given to “young” antlers because they are covered in soft fury velvet. These newly forming antlers are made up of cartilage and contain blood vessels and nerves. It takes around 16 weeks for antlers to reach full maturity, and at the end of this growth cycle antlers will have become actual bone. Deer will scrape the velvet off of their antlers once fully grown to expose the hard bone.
Deer cast off and regenerate new antlers every year. Antlers are typically cast off at the end of winter with regrowth beginning in early spring. Antlers are the only mammalian organ that regenerates annually, unlike horns, which are permanent. Only members of the deer family, or cervids, have antlers. This includes elk, caribou, reindeer, and moose.
Harvesting Antler Velvet
Antler velvet is harvested by clipping off the tips of the antlers. This clipping takes place about half way through their growth cycle. Harvesting the antler velvet is a humane process that doesn’t cause harm or stress to the animal. The clipped antler portions are cut into four pieces, each with its own unique health promoting qualities. The very tip of the antler contains the most magic, or health promoting substances, and the larger the antlers, the higher the potency.
The majority of the antler velvet found in the marketplace today is harvested from deer farms in New Zealand and China. Other countries that produce antler velvet include Russia, the United States, and Canada. The best antler velvet product I’ve taken is from elk antler velvet, which is formulated from elk antlers procured in the United States. For more information, see my Elk Antler Velvet article.
Antler Velvet Formulation
Most antler velvet products on the market today are formulated by extracting the health promoting substances using alcohol. There’s actually an extraction method that was clinically developed by the Russians, aptly named the “Russian Method”. The resulting alcohol extract is known as a tincture, and is the most potent and effective form of antler velvet you can consume.
Typically, you take a tincture by using a dropper to squirt under your tongue, holding for around 90 seconds, then swallowing. Some companies have gotten creative and turned the liquid extract into a simple oral spray.
Antler velvet can also be powdered down and encapsulated. Deer antler velvet pills provide a lot of good benefits, but aren’t quite as strong as a tincture.
What’s in Deer Antler Velvet that makes it so Special?
In order for deer to regrow new antlers every year there are some pretty powerful substances involved. The various biologically active components of antler velvet are listed below with a brief description of each. In isolation, each of these ingredients carries its own benefits, but with deer antler velvet the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
Extracellular proteins abundant in the skin, bone, cartilage, tendon, and teeth. Strong fibers that serve as connective tissue between cells. Think of collagen as the glue that holds everything (cells) together.
The building blocks of cartilage (chondro = cartilage). Helps repair damaged cartilage, regrow new cartilage, and maintain healthy joints. Found abundantly in deer antler velvet.
A component of chondroitin sulfate. Very important factor in rebuilding and maintaining connective tissue throughout the body. Glucosamine supplements marketed to help ease joint problems have become very popular.
Growth Hormones and Growth Factors
Insulin-like growth factors IGF-1 and IGF-2. Deer antler velvet contains these two growth factors, but more importantly provides the body with the raw materials and precursors necessary to increase its own growth hormone production. Studies have revealed that IGF-1 improves the absorption of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate.
Major structural fats most of our cellular membranes are made of.
Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sulphur, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and cobalt.
Amino Acids (including all 8 essential)
Linolenic Acid (essential fatty acid)
The impressive list of substances found in deer antler velvet work synergistically to help the body regenerate and revitalize itself. While you could supplement with each substance listed above on its own, consuming them in the combination nature intended provides the most healing benefits and results.
I hope you now have a good understanding of what deer antler velvet is and the various substances that it’s made of. Feel free to explore other articles on deer antler velvet and learn how you might benefit from the tremendous health and longevity promoting properties it imparts.