by P. S. McNeary
reprinted with permission of North American Elk Breeders Association
For more than 2000 years, a remarkable natural remedy called velvet antler has been prized by healers in various cultures around the world.
In China, Korea, Japan and Russia, velvet antler has reportedly been used to prevent, heal and relieve ailments and injuries. Today, a vast body of research conducted in those countries is now revealing an impressive array of reported abilities of velvet antler to reduce inflammation, influence body metabolism, support immune function, protect damaged tissues and affect blood, liver and kidney function and more. In fact, laboratory analyses now show that velvet contains an amazingly comprehensive nutritional profile including collagen, amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals, trace minerals, and other functional proteins, all vital components for human metabolic function.
Remarkably, velvet has gone virtually unnoticed by western nutritional supplement marketers…until now.
What is Velvet?
Velvet or velvet antler is harvested annually from naturally farmed elk livestock. Male elk grow and naturally shed a set of antlers every year.
When elk antlers are "in velvet" it is the most "nutrient abundant" phase of the antlers' incredibly prolific growth cycle. It is at this time every spring, that breeders of elk collect the velvet antler under hygienic supervision. This process is not harmful to the elk and the velvet antler is an annually renewable resource. Once the antler is removed, it is then processed, analyzed at a laboratory, encapsulated and ultimately packaged for the consumer as a nutritional supplement.
North American Elk Breeders Association and Nature's Velvet
Since its inception in 1990, the North American Elk Breeders Association (NAEBA) has sought to bring this highly renowned supplement to the American consumer. Nature's VelvetTM is the name used to describe velvet antler products marketed by members of the North American Elk Breeders Association. NAEBA's express purpose is to support the production of the highest quality elk and elk velvet products, and the processing and marketing of all North American velvet antler products. Best practices for management of North American elk and Quality Assurance Standards for elk products has been developed and published by the international, non-profit organization.
Osteo-arthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. Many factors can initiate osteo-arthritis, including injury to cartilage, as well as the aging process with or without injury. Osteo-arthritis occurs when the cartilage, which acts as a cushioning shock absorber between the bones in the joints of hands, hips, knees or back, begins to break down, leading to significant pain and disability.
Recently, the ability for Nature's VelvetTM to "support and restore joint structure and function" (as a result of osteo-arthritis) was substantiated by scientific evidence in compliance with FDA regulations. This means that validated scientific studies from around the world prove that velvet antler is a significant anti-inflammatory agent for the symptoms of osteo-arthritis and possibly other types of acute chronic inflammation as well.
Within the comprehensive network of velvet's nutrients, some, such as glycosamino glycans, calcium, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, certainly contribute to joint support and relieving inflammation. Recently however, research has established that the high level of chondroitin sulfate found in velvet antler acts like a "liquid magnet" attracting fluid into the proteoglycan molecules to ultimately help support human and animal cartilage. This is critical because this fluid acts as a spongy shock absorber and attracts nutrients into the cartilage. Without this fluid, cartilage becomes malnourished, drier and more fragile. In fact, there appears to be a correlation between joint cartilage affected by osteo-arthritis and reduced levels of chondroitin sulfate. Therefore, studies have definitively confirmed that the chondroitin sulfate in velvet antler actually "helps restore joint function" in people with osteo-arthritis. At the time of the writing of this publication, researchers are also evaluating of velvet antler will also be awarded additional health claim status for "supporting joint structure and function" resulting from rheumatoid arthritis. It is no wonder that health consultants are referring to velvet as a "comprehensive arthritis complex" of nutritional components.
A Bright Future for Nature's Velvet
Biochemical testing for native collagen in antler is expected to further verify that velvet "supports joint structure and function" resulting from common symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Collagen constitutes more that a quarter of the total fibrous protein which works together with the connective tissues of the human body. These tests could well validate velvet as one of the most scientifically substantiated nutritional materials associated with the treatment of symptoms of arthritis.
What is Nature's Velvet?
The unique health benefits associated with Nature's VelvetTM are attributed to the biochemicals that regulate its cell physiology and make it the most rapidly growing organ in the adult animal kingdom. When the elk antler is "in velvet", it contains the maximum possible levels of healing properties. Nature's VelvetTM is humanely and hygienically removed in late spring. If it is not removed at this time, the antler will begin to harden and calcify. In the fall, during rutting season, the antler, if it has not been removed, can actually become dangerous to the livestock animal and the herd.
North American elk antlers are shed naturally every winter and begin the growth process all over again in early spring. In fact, within the first 70 days of growth, the antlers of North American elk can grow to over 40 pounds.
Elk have the ability to rapidly heal their own broken bones, torn muscles and severed tendons. The elk is the only animal that is known to utilize self-healing powers to regenerate bone, muscle and tissue. It is these properties that, in fact, produce the antlers annually.
Nature's Velvet and Research
It is noteworthy that velvet antler has historically been the subject of numerous studies conducted at universities, hospitals, and institutes, etc. Currently, researchers are investigating the role of Nature's VelvetTM in studies associated with anti-aging, immune support, mood disorders, blood enrichment, chronic joint pain of osteo-arthritis, the side effects of chemotherapy, bone and muscle growth, joint restoration, healthy sexual function in men and women, and increased energy levels. The following represent a sampling of research studies associated with the potential health benefits of velvet antler:
- Increased IGF studies in England - Nature's VelvetTM is high in IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor. A study at Oxford University has linked this rapid growth to increased medicinal value in humans for promoting muscular development, preventing muscular atrophy, and slowing the deteriorating effects of aging.
- Anti-tumor effects studied in New Zealand - studies on mice have shown anti-tumor activity in velvet antler.
- Blood benefits studied in China - studies with velvet antler have shown positive results in improving blood parameters and an increase in the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin in blood.
- Heart benefits reported - various studies report an increase in heart strength and the volume of blood pumped through the heart.
- Improved circulation studies in China - the polysaccharides in velvet antler have been linked to biological activities, such as improving circulation, reducing the blood's tendency to clot, decreasing risk of stoke, and improving general cardiovascular heath.
- Improved mood support widely studied - the inhibitory effect of velvet antler on monoamine oxidase activity has been associated with an increased availability of neuro-transmitters to the brain, resulting in enhanced mood.
- Steroidal tendencies studied in Canada - recent clinical studies from the University of Alberta in Canada with the Alberta Police Department and the University of Alberta football team have shown the levels of testosterone in certain dosages of velvet build and tone muscle.
- Increased energy studies in Russia - the velvet extract pantocirn has been shown to increase the work capacity in mice.
Good News for U.S. Consumers
Until recently, the Korean and Chinese markets were consuming the world supply of Nature's VelvetTM. Producers of Nature's VelvetTM have known its powerful abilities and have been attempting to introduce it to the Western world but the Asian market was insatiable. The recent Asian financial crisis has caused the foreign market to collapse, leaving, for the first time, an opportunity for this extraordinary product to be processed here in North America. The fact that elk antler is used to treat a wide variety of health conditions does not mean it is a wonder cure. However, because many illnesses are the result of nutritional deficiencies, it appears that the wide spectrum of nutritional components in velvet positively address these imbalances in a save, gentle manner, with no side-effects.
Nature's VelvetTM is an all-natural, regenerative, sustainable resource and a comprehensive nutrient. Nature's VelvetTM supplements are currently marketed as encapsulated, 100% whole velvet antler, liquid extracts and powdered extracts. As Nature's VelvetTM marketers expand their product lines, consumers will find velvet antler sold in a variety of other health-related products.
The North American Elk Breeders Association, the American Elk Products Board, and the Elk Research Council are supporting further research in the United States into the extensive reported health attributes of Nature's VelvetTM.
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