Antler (EVA) has been harvested annually for hundreds of
years by farmers in China, and Russia, and more recently in
New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the United States, and
Canada. Velvet antler grows at an incredible rate of speed.
In fact, of all living tissues, only some mushrooms grow
faster than antler. It is considered the perfect renewable
resource because of its ability to grow back year after
year. From the time the velvet antler begins to grow until
the time it is harvested is about two to three months. In
that short time period, an elk bull may grow as much as 60
pounds of antler! That kind of growth of nutrient - dense
material is almost magical.
EVA is harvested each year of a bull's productive life,
which lasts from age two to about age fifteen. Producers
watch carefully and record the date that each of a bulls'
antler "buttons" are shed. This usually happens in February
and March. The usual growth period before optimum harvest
date is 55 to 90 days. The target is maximum growth before
the antler begins to calcify, or turn into bone. Each bull
is different from the rest of the herd. Producers need to
keep excellent records, and get to know when to cut each
bull for best returns. On the right day, the bull is brought
into the handling facility and carefully restrained in a
hydraulic squeeze chute. The antlers are then quickly but
humanely removed. Typically, there is very little blood
loss. If the whole process is done quickly and calmly, the
elk do not get too excited. This reduces any stress effects,
keeps the heart rate low and ensures that bleeding stops
very quickly. The elk are released to their pasture, where
they usually shake their head a few times as they get used
to the feeling of having that weight missing, then resume
grazing and other normal behaviour. Removal of antlers does
not affect the bull's breeding ability in any way. The cows
still think he's handsome!
Antler is the fastest growing animal tissue - a totally
unique substance. This unique chemistry is captured by
carefully and humanely removing the antler near the end of
its rapid growth stage and carefully drying either the
entire antler or a slurry made by grinding the entire
structure minus the velvet hair. (The actual velvet is of no
value.) New food - grade processing methods ensure that
antler products are free of any dangerous bacteria or other
amazing growth rate of velvet antler (up to 3 cm. per day)
suggests the presence of valuable nutraceutical compounds:
Building blocks of cartilage and bone, including glucosamine
Traditional uses of velvet antler:
Restore damaged body tissues
function of the immune system
the symptoms of arthritis
Counteract the effects of stress
the aging process
is using Elk Velvet Antler (EVA)?
from Asia, or with that ethnic background, have
traditionally been the primary consumers of EVA
holistic medicine and nutraceuticals has become widespread
amongst North Americans of all ethnic origins -
estimated to be a $5 billion industry in NA last year
Products for the Treatment of Arthritis
Dr. Jeong S. Sim, and Dr. Hoon H. Sunwoo
Designer Food Research Program for Health (Antler Research
Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science,
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2P5
Ph: 403/492-7687, Fax: 403/492-9130, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Antler has been an essential ingredient in herbal medicine
for thousands of years. It is used for preventative and
curative purposes in the treatment of wounds, pain,
arthritis, inflammation, stress, and even to slow the aging
process. It is timely and of great importance to explore the
ancient medicinal claims from traditional medicine by using
modern scientific research tools and methodologies. The
immediate goal is to lay the foundation of a collaborative
Research and Development program between universities and
supportive groups from the North American antler industry.
The Canadian elk industry has contributed keen interest and
financial support to the University of Alberta research
group to explore the potential use of antler products in the
treatment of a variety of human illnesses. The purpose of
this article is to share some research progress made to
Chemical Characteristics of Antler:
antlers are composed of different types of tissues including
cartilage and bone - like tissues. Antlers contain collagen
as a major protein, and are rich in glycosaminoglycans (GAGs).
GAGs are composed of units of amino sugar like D-glucosamine
or D-galactosamine. Most glycosaminoglycans are attached to
core proteins to form proteoglycans. It is universally
understood that cartilage proteoglycans regulate water
retention, and differentiation and proliferation of
chondrocytes in the cartilaginous tissue. Chondroitin
sulfate is the major GAG in antler, accounting for more than
90% of total GAGs. Studies show a wide distribution of
chondroitin sulfate throughout the antler, with a
concentration of keratan sulfate in the cartilaginous
portions. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates are currently
widely used by arthritis sufferers, with substantial
North America's elk industries, a series of preliminary
investigations has been undertaken at the University of
Alberta (Product Technology Laboratory) since 1994.
Initially, our research group was approached by the Canadian
elk industry to describe the biochemical composition of
fresh antlers and to develop a food - grade drying process.
Since then, our research has progressed beyond
characterizing the chemical composition and physical
properties of velvet antlers to the development of
procedures for extracting and purifying glycosaminoglycan-rich
fractions which include chondroitin sulfate as a major
glycosaminoglycan, and keratan sulfate, dermatan sulfate,
heparan sulfate and hyaluronic acid as minor components.
Further characterization of glycosaminoglycan-rich antler (GAGRA,
or Glycosant) showed a potent growth-promoting effect.
Feeding Glycosant to growing rats stimulates bone
development by increasing femur length, thickness and
mineral content. Research findings on Glycosant and related
basic research to date have been published in peer-reviewed
scientific journals. A simple and economical procedure to
extract glycosaminoglycan-rich antler (Glycosant) product
from fresh velvet antlers has been developed and now is
available for commercial production. This technology is
capable of producing large industrial quantities of uniform
quality food and nutraceutical grade Glycosant.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of cartilaginous tissue
that affects over 50 million North Americans. Natural
osteoarthritis occurs in human and a variety of animal
species including horses, pigs, dogs and rabbits. It is
characterized by a loss of proteoglycans, damage to the
cartilage surface, and eventually loss of the collagenous
matrix to expose underlying bone. Proteoglycans consist of a
protein core to which are bound long chains of
glycosaminoglycans (GAG), mostly chondroitin sulfate and
keratan sulfate. Matrix proteoglycans play an important role
in the structural integrity of cartilage. Recently, a new
concept for treating OA patients by oral ingestion of
glycosaminoglycan complex has been suggested, in which the
treatment aim is to stimulate cartilage repair and, at the
same time, inhibit cartilage breakdown. This concept has
been termed "chondroprotection" and one potentially
effective source of these chondroprotective agents is antler
GAGs and their breakdown components like glucosamine sulfate.
Chondroprotective Therapeutic Function:
Current therapy for patients with OA is primarily aimed at
reducing pain, retarding inflammation, and maintaining joint
function. Treatments currently in use have not been shown to
modify the destructive processes that occur in the tissue.
Recently, a new concept has been advocated, in which the aim
of treatment is to stimulate cartilage repair and, at the
same time, inhibit cartilage breakdown by using
chondroprotective agents. Glucosamine sulfate, a major
component of Glycosant, is orally administered to stimulate
biosynthesis of cartilaginous tissue and to inhibit its
degradation. Efficacy and safety of these agents have been
repeatedly proven in randomized, placebo-controlled
double-masked studies in the treatment of OA. Therapeutic
treatment with glycosaminoglycan-peptide complex also showed
favorable chondroprotective effects on OA in both animal and
human models. But the mechanism by which GAGs exert their
chondroprotective effects on OA has not been fully
investigated. The metabolic fate of orally ingested GAGs at
the four different metabolic compartments (intestinal
absorption site, serum, urine and fecal excreta) must be
investigated using sensitive techniques.
are currently undertaking a series of experiments:
to determine the metabolic fate and bioavailability of
orally administered Glycosant products in rats.
to assess the chondroprotective efficacy of orally
administered Glycosant products to surgically induced
osteoarthritis in rabbits.
to conduct a randomized placebo controlled clinical trial of
Glycosant product in the treatment of osteoarthritis
patients in collaboration with University Hospital
We will provide status reports to the antler industry and
the medical communities as results become available. Thank
you all for your continuing support.
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W. J. 1974. The ossification process of the developing
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H. H., T. Nakano, R. J. Hudson, and J. S. Sim. 1995.
Chemical composition of antlers from wapiti (Cervus elaphus).
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Sunwoo, H. H., L. Y. M. Sim, T. Nakano, R. J. Hudson, and J.
S. Sim. 1997. Glycosaminoglycans from growing antlers of
wapiti (Cervus elaphus). Can. J. Anim. Sci. 77:715-721.
Sunwoo, H. H., T. Nakano, R. J. Hudson, and J. S. Sim.
1998. Characterization, isolation, and localization of
glycosaminoglycans in growing antler. Comp. Biochem.
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J. Med. 80:24-28.
Doege, K. J., M. Sasaki, T. Kimura, and Y. Yamada. 1991.
Complete coding sequence and deduced primary structure of
the human cartilage large aggregating proteoglycan, aggrecan-human
specific repeats, and additional alternatively spliced
forms. J. Biol. Chem. 266(2):894-902.
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and J. F. Woessner Jr. 1987. Levels of metalloproteases and
tissue inhibitor of metalloproteases in human osteoarthritic
cartilage. J. Rheum. 14:43-44.
D. D., O. E. Muniz, I. Rodriquez, M. R. Carreno, S. Morales,
A. Agundez, M. E. Madan, R. D. Altman, M. Annefeld, and D.
S. Howell. 1991. Amelioration of lapine osteoarthritis by
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(Rumalon). Arthritis and Rheumatism. 34:304-313.
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1981. Glucosamine sulphate: a controlled clinical
investigation in arthrosis. Pharmath. 2:504-508.
Palmieri, L., A. Conte, L. Giovannini, P. Lualdi, and G.
Ronca. 1990. Metabolic fate of exogenous chondroitin sulfate
in the experimental animal. Arzneim. Forsch. 40:319-23.
Conte, A., M. de Bernardi, L. Palmieri, P. Lualdi, G.
Mautone, and G. Ronca. 1991. Metabolic fate of exogenous
chondroitin sulfate in man. Arzneim. Forsch. 41:768-772.
Sunwoo, H. H., T. Nakano, and J. S. Sim. 1997. Effect of
water-soluble extract from antler of wapiti (Cervus elaphus)
on the growth of fibroblasts. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 77:343-345.
study of American weight-lifters taking velvet antler
supplements showed positive results. The subjects in the
Benedictine University study were 34 men from 18 to 35 years
of age. Each had at least four years of weight lifting
In this double-blind study, the experimental group was given
1,350 mg of velvet antler powder twice a day while the
placebo group was given an inert substance. Before and
immediately after the ten-week experiment, the subjects were
put through a series of tests and measurements.
At the end of the research trial, the weight lifters that
had been taking the velvet antler had:
Less fat on their torsos
Lower LDG cholesterol levels
Greater aerobic capacity
Less muscle damage
The researchers found that by the end of the trial, the
athletes on velvet antler had reduced the trunk to limb fat
ratio from 104.7 to 101.0. There was no measured effect on
weight or body mass indices. The significance of this,
according to Dr. Craig Broeder the lead researcher, lies in
the influence of fat deposition patterns on the risk of
heart disease. Increased fat around the trunk is a major
cardiovascular risk factor.
The group taking velvet antler also showed a significant
decline in LDL cholesterol concentrations by 12.2 per cent.
As a result, the LDL/HDL (good/bad cholesterol) ratio also
declined 8.4 per cent. This would reduce the group's risk of
cardiovascular disease. There was also some evidence that
the velvet antler was effective in lowering blood pressure.
There were no negative effects observed for the liver and
kidney enzyme markers.
In terms of muscle strength, the group taking the velvet
antler showed a significant improvement in bench press (4.2
per cent) and squat exercise (9.9 per cent) performance. The
placebo group showed no change.
The peak power of the velvet antler group reduced only 0.5
per cent during the anaerobic trials, compared with 3.2 per
cent reduction in the placebos. Their average power reduced
by 2.1 per cent compared with 5 per cent. They were also
about 60 per cent quicker in reaching peak power.
A particularly interesting result was the effect of velvet
antler on aerobic capacity. In absolute terms and relative
to body weight, it increased significantly 9.8 per cent and
9.4 per cent respectively. There was no change in the
placebo group. Additionally, during a maximal treadmill
test, most subjects in the velvet antler group had a reduced
heart response of 5 to 8 beats per minute.
Other benefits of velvet antler were reduced muscle damage
and a dramatic improvement in the rate of repair of any
muscle damage that did occur. Muscle damage was measured by
blood levels of creatine kinase (CK). CK is an enzyme found
in cells which helps them source energy during exercise.
During anaerobic exercise, some muscle cells break open and
their contents find their way into the bloodstream. A rise
in CK levels in the blood indicates that muscle damage has
occurred, or is occurring. In the velvet antler group, CK
levels were 25 per cent lower than the baseline, compared
with 11 per cent with the placebos. Two days later, CK
levels in the experimental group were 45 per cent below the
A side finding of this study was that velvet antler may have
a potential for the prevention of osteoporosis. The placebo
group appeared to lose bone density during the study, which
indicated they were over-training. The experimental group
retained bone density.
Dr. Broeder says that all the results are very significant
differences, especially for athletes who were already
extremely fit and training at a high level. Although it was
a double-blind study, the ones taking velvet antler knew
within two or three weeks that they were taking something
According to Dr. Broeder, more studies are needed to confirm
these benefits in athletes and average adults. He is
particularly interested in seeing whether velvet antler
could help reduce weight and risks of cardiovascular
diseases among middle-aged couch potatoes and non-athletes.
[Source: NZ The Deer Farmer April 2004]