In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the deer antler, the young, non-ossifying, and pilose antler on the head of deer, is known as Lu Rong. It is a prized and highly sought after commodity and thus an ideal X-mas present for TCM-fans. Deer antler has been used for hundreds of years for health and longevity and is considered a yang tonic. The most expensive deer antler is harvested in Alaska; prices range from $100 to $ 500 per 100 gram.
TCM knows three main treasures – deer antler velvet (Lu Rong), Ginseng (Ren Shen), and carex meyeriana grass (Wu La Cao). Among them deer velvet antler is the most precious. It is used for curing all deficiency syndromes, especially deficiency of the kidney, weak constitution, premature aging, deficiency of qi, blood, and semen. Reportedly, deer antlers contain 25 kinds of amino acids and a variety of vitamins that can improve the body’s immune system and promote hematopoietic function. In his “Compendium of Materia Medica”, Li Shizhen stated that deer antler is for reinforcing kidney to strengthen yang, promoting essence production, enriching blood, supplementing marrow, and invigorating bone.
Does deer antler work? TCM-practitioners seem to have little doubt. They claim it can:
- enhance immunity,
- increase body resistance to disease
- delay aging,
- sharpen the brain,
- and strengthen memory,
- treat infertility,
- cure deficient cold,
- treat postpartum weakness,
- cure metrorrhagia,
- treat metrostaxis,
- treat paediatric liver and kidney deficiency,
- remedy slow growth,
- help with delayed walking of children,
- help with delayed eruption of teeth, delayed closure of the anterior fontanelle, soft bone condition, and more.
And what about any evidence for all this extraordinary claims and assumptions?
A 2013 review concluded that deer antler base has emerged as a good source of traditional medicine. However, further investigations are needed to explore individual bioactive compounds responsible for these in vitro and in vivo pharmacological effects and its mechanism of actions. Further safety assessments and clinical trials in humans need to be performed before it can be integrated into medicinal practices. The present review has provided preliminary information for further studies and commercial exploitations of deer antler base.
In plain language: there is no evidence that deer antler has any health effects whatsoever.
If you are nevertheless interested, you can very easily buy deer antler as a supplement.
But PLEASE, don’t let Rudolph hear about it; he empathises with his relatives who detest being harvested for useless TCM.
Hopefully most deer will have shed their antlers by this time of year, though I did see a reindeer yesterday with a very sorry-looking single antler. We buy them from the pet shop for the dog to chew. I had no idea she was getting all those other benefits.