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What Is North American Elk Antler Velvet?

Elk antler velvet has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for over 2,000 years, being second to ginseng in importance to Chinese medicine practitioners. It comes from the cartilaginous antlers of elks, moose, deer or caribou, primarily the male species.

Velvet antlers are made of nutrient-dense material and are known to grow at an incredible rate of speed. It can grow back year after year, making it a renewable resource perfect for harvesting elk antler velvet.  For example, an elk bull may grow as much as 60 pounds of antler from the time its antlers begin to grow until the time it is harvested – we are just talking a time lapse of two to three months!


What is elk antler velvet?

Harvested from growing antlers of the male species of moose, elks and deer, velvet antlers are the whole cartilaginous antlers in a pre-calcified stage, rather than the velvety "skin" on growing antlers. Elk velvet covers the growing bone and cartilage that develops into elk antlers. Before antlers become bone, elk antler velvet is harvested and used in traditional medicine.

Elk antler velvet primarily has three sections, each with different medicinal purposes according to traditional Chinese medicine. The wax piece is located in the upper part and is used as a growth tonic for children. The middle part is called the blood piece, primarily used to treat arthritis and related disorders. The bottom part is used for calcium deficiency and geriatric therapies and is called as the bone piece. 

What are the uses of elk antler velvet?

Scientific studies on deer antler velvet are currently scarce but it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as treatment for infertility, joint inflammation, and hypertension. It has also been used to improve mental alertness and memory, boost immune system function, speed up wound healing and recovery, slow aging, balance iron levels and restore joint health.

The effects of elk antler velvet on health will depend on the animal from which it was taken (deer, caribou, moose or elk) and the diet of the animal. This is why, where, and how elk antler velvet is harvested play vital roles in its effectiveness. 

How is elk antler velvet harvested?

Farmers in China, and Russia have harvested elk antler velvet for hundreds of years. In recent years, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the United States and Canada have joined farming elks and stags and harvest as well. The main concern of people who are first exposed to the wonders of elk antler velvet is how safe harvesting is for the animals. Do not worry - the stags are not harmed or killed for the velvet antler. In some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, deer are subject to local anesthesia and restrained during antler removal, and licensed veterinarians supervise the procedure.

In a usual harvesting, the antler is cut off near the base after it is about two-thirds of its potential full size, between 55 to 65 days of growth, before bone calcification occurs. Elk velvet antler is harvested annually between a deer’s productive life usually between 2-15 years of age. 

How does the body take in elk antler velvet?

In Asian countries, elk antler velvet is consumed as tea. They are sold as slices and these are boiled in water together with other herbs and ingredients. In Western countries, it is consumed in capsule form as a dietary supplement.