Deer antler velvet is commonly sold in capsule form as an herbal supplement for a variety of ailments, such as arthritis and high blood pressure. Due to the lack of scientific studies, deer antler velvet side effects are still yet to be determined; however, allergic reactions and stomach upset have been reported. The main concern with deer antler velvet is chronic wasting disease (CWD), a neurological disease that deer can contract. Although no cases of deer-to-human transmission of the disease have been reported, the possibility remains a concern.
Every year, certain species of deer and elk develop new antlers. The growing bone and cartilage are covered with a soft, fuzzy epidermis layer referred to as velvet. While the antlers are also used in alternative medicine, the velvet has more purported beneficial uses. When the antlers are in their velvet state, they are removed with the velvet and processed for medicinal purposes. The host animal re-grows a new set the following season.
Deer antler velvet can also be purchased in powder form and as an ingredient found in herbal teas. A spray, which is sprayed under the tongue, has become one of the more popular products made available to consumers. It should not be assumed that these products are safe, however, even though a limited number of side effects have been reported.
A number of natural medicine practitioners claim that this supplement can improve certain illnesses and ailments such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, asthma, and arthritis. Deer velvet contains estrone and estradiol, giving it unique properties that may help with the side effects of menopause and other female disorders, like premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In men, deer antler velvet reportedly increases stamina, fertility, and sexual performance issues. The velvet's estrogen-type properties may cause negative side effects in some people.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal disease of the brain and nervous system that can affect North American deer. It is similar to, but not related to, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also referred to as mad cow disease. Although there is no scientific evidence that CWD is a risk to the human population, experts recommend that humans not consume deer or parts of a deer if the animal shows signs of the disease. Signs of CWD in deer include abnormal body functions and behavior, excessive salivation, and increased water intake.
For more than 2,000 years, the velvet from deer antlers has been used in Asian cultures for medicinal purposes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it has been used as a cure for everything from impotence to amnesia. Very few side effects have been reported even during its earliest use, and those that were reported were generally mild. Due to the lack of scientific studies on its use in humans, however, neither the positive nor negative deer antler velvet side effects are completely known.