Deer velvet is the common name of a product made from growing antlers of deer, during a stage when they are covered in soft velvety hair. New Zealand is a major exporter of deer velvet, shipping tens of millions of dollars worth to Asia and the U.S. each year.
According to Asian tradition, deer velvet has “tonic” properties, meaning that it tends to enhance energy and vitality. More recently, it has been called an “
.” This term, invented by early Soviet scientists, refers to a hypothetical treatment that can be described as follows: An adaptogen should help the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychological stress. Furthermore, an adaptogen should cause no side effects, be effective in treating a wide variety of illnesses, and help return an organism toward balance no matter what may have gone wrong.
The only indisputable example of an adaptogen is a healthful lifestyle. By eating right, exercising regularly, and generally living a life of balance and moderation, you will increase your physical fitness and ability to resist illnesses of all types. The herb
is widely said to have adaptogenic properties. However, there is no reliable evidence that any herb or supplement actually has adaptogenic properties, and the term is not accepted by conventional medicine.
Other than occasional allergic reactions, deer velvet does not appear to cause many obvious, immediate side effects. However, there are concerns based on contamination with the tranquilizers and anesthetics used during the process of removing the horn from the deer. One of these substances used, xylazine, is carcinogenic, and studies have found that low but potentially dangerous levels of xylazine are contained in deer antler product.
Another set of risks derives from the proposed effects of deer velvet: raising male hormone levels. If deer velvet did in fact increase male hormones as it is advertised to do, this could lead to a range of potential problems; however, as noted above, there is no real evidence that deer velvet actually does raise such hormones.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
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