Deer antler velvet is the name given to deer antlers in their early stages of growth, before the antlers harden into bone.
It is named after the soft velvety fur that covers the antler during its rapid growth stage. Deer velvet is living tissue which can grow up to 1 inch per day. Harvested at the right time, deer velvet has strong tonic properties.
Deer antler is unique in that it grows each spring, is cast in winter and is replaced the following spring by the same natural process. Starting as cartilage, the antler will eventually mature into hard bone.
Male deer grow the antlers and if not removed at an early stage, these antlers harden and are used as weapons and territorial defence during the breeding season.
Other names for deer antler velvet are: deer antler, antler velvet, horns of gold, velvet deer antler, velvet antler, cornu cervi parvum, lu rong, nokyong and rokujo.
Oriental medicine shrouded in mystery and ancient beliefs, has been keeping Asians well for thousands of years.
Fundamental to its practice is the use of deer antler velvet.
The basis of this ancient medicine is the philosophy of Yin and Yang, cosmic forces which are said to control all natural phenomena and life processes. Both forces are dependant on each other and the ideal state within the body and within the universe is to have the forces in relative balance and harmony. Traditional Oriental medicine is used to keep the two in balance, preventing the ill health, which is said to result when severe imbalance occurs.
The most important animal to oriental medicine is the deer, because it is the animal with greatest Yang energy. And the most prized part of the deer is the antler velvet.
Dr Peter Yoon, a highly regarded doctor of Oriental medicine from Seoul South Korea, says the deer is recognized as a lucky animal, which brings health and longevity.
“Our Tradition has it that the God of longevity, who lived deep in the mountains, eats medicinal plants like Ginseng and is always accompanied by a spotted deer. We Koreans think that the spotted deer is one of the symbols of longevity, along with the turtle and crane” he says.
Samson Wong of the Tak Tai Ginseng Firm, Hong Kong, says Asians take velvet as a tonic to maintain good health, cure sickness and strengthen a weakened body. He says velvet is both a tradition and a medication because the Yin and Yang theory encompasses every aspect of Asian life.
Yin and Yang have their own domains within the human body, he says. Half the vital organs pertain to Yin and the other half is part of Yang. For example Yin governs blood and Yang controls “Qui” (energy). Blood carries nourishment through out the body to produce Qui, while Qui is the force which carries blood throughout the body.”
Oriental Medicine also differs from the scientific western approach in that it is based on the promotion of health and prevention of illness through righting the Yin and Yang balance, rather than concentrating on treating sicknesses.
Often a doctor is only paid when the patient is well, not sick – a practice which probably wouldn’t be greeted with enthusiasm by western medical professionals.
A 2,000 year old silk scroll is the oldest documentary evidence of the medicinal use of deer velvet. Discovered in a Han Dynasty tomb in the Hunan province, this ancient document listed 52 different ailments for which deer antler velvet is prescribed.
In The Pharmacopoeia of the Heavenly Husbandman (reputed to be written by the Emperor Shen Nong, the Divine Emperor, around 200 A.D.), deer antler velvet is classified as having sweet, salty and warm properties, and is connected with the functions of the liver and kidneys. This ancient work, one of the oldest surviving Chinese materia medica, is the foundation document for Chinese herbal medicine.
Pen Ts’ao Kang Mu (published in the 16th century) is the most authoritative materia medica of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is still used as the standard textbook of Chinese medicine to this day.
According to its author, the great naturalist-physician Li Shih Chen, deer antler velvet will increase the vital force, boost the will, strengthen the muscles and bones, cure general debility, impaired vision and hearing.
Deer antler velvet was called the “pearl in the brow of the deer”, in recognition of its medicinal value.
Deer antler velvet is a standard medicinal item in almost every Chinese materia medica written since ancient times. In dynastic times, deer velvet was called the “Emperor’s tonic” because of its wide-ranging restorative, nutritive and rejuvenative properties. Deer velvet is included in the latest official materia medica of the People’s Republic of China.
Deer velvet is also an important medicinal item in Korean and Japanese traditional medicine.