Q: HOW SAFE IS NATRAFLEX VELVET ANTLER?
A: Velvet Antler has been clinically proven safe and effective, without the harmful side effects of many over-the-counter and prescription drugs. NATRAflex Premium Velvet Antler is processed in state-of-the-art, government-inspected facilities. And every batch is independently tested for purity and safety, unlike some other natural products. Potency is standardized using computerized procedures to guarantee consistency and maximum effectiveness. As with all products, pregnant women and those with serious medical conditions should consult their nutritionist or physician before using any supplement.

Q: HOW DOES NATRAFLEX VELVET ANTLER COMPARE TO OVER-THE-COUNTER AND PRESCRIPTION PAIN RELIEVERS?
A: Most over-the-counter and prescription joint-care products are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs known as NSAIDs. NSAIDs include acetaminophen, asprin, ibuprofen and many other pain relievers. NSAIDs only relieve pain and are ineffective on the underlying problems often associated with joint problems, such as cartilage degeneration. In fact, NSAIDs may actually contribute to joint degeneration, since they may prevent the growth of collagen, a necessary component for cartilage growth. NSAIDs can also produce serious drug side effects such as liver damage, kidney damage and deterioration of the gastrointestinal tract lining. While NSAIDs may temporarily relieve joint pain, with daily use over a period of at least two to four weeks, the compounds in Velvet Antler actually perform significantly better than conventional NSAIDs. Thatís because Velvet Antler contains compounds that actually help the body regenerate worn-away cartilage.

Q: ARE ANY ANIMALS HARMED IN THE PRODUCTION OF NATRAFLEX PREMIUM VELVET ANTLER?
A: No! Other “natural” joint-care products such as chondroitin and glucosamine are made from swine bones, cattle trachea, shark parts or shellfish remains, requiring the destruction of these animals. But NATRAflex Premium Velvet Antler is made from the antlers of ranch-raised elk and deer, without harming any animals. Just as sheep provide a renewable source of wool, elk and deer bulls naturally grow new antlers every year. Ranchers harvest the antlers in the spring, during the nutrition-rich “velvet” stage, enhancing the safety and comfort of the animals. Antler harvesting is actually beneficial to the animals, since the natural shedding process can be physically traumatic, and fully matured antlers may cause harm to other animals within the herd. NATRAflex ranchers adhere to strict standards that guarantee the quality of the antler and ensure the animals are treated safely, humanely and with respect and dignity.

Q: WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DAILY USE OF NATRAFLEX PREMIUM VELVET ANTLER?
A: NATRAflex’s high-grade velvet antler capsules are dosed to be taken daily as a complement to other multi-vitamins and supplements you consume. Through many research studies and decades of testimonials by regular users, velvet antler helps to strengthen weak joints, boost energy, aid muscle growth, balance cardiovascular activity, increase libido naturally, enhance bone density, and heighten general vitality. >>

Most “natural” joint care products that contain chondroitin and glucosamine are made from swine, cattle and shellfish remains, and require destruction of the animal source. However, Natraflex Premium Velvet Antler is a complete renewable, environmentally friendly product made without harming any animals. It is harvested from ranch-raised domestic elk and red deer raised under strict conditions that ensure the safety, comfort and dignity of these beautiful creatures.

RANCHING
Domesticated elk and deer have been raised to provide Velvet Antler products for centuries in other countries, and elk ranching is a growing industry in North America. In some ways elk ranching can be compared to the wool industry. The livestock provide a renewable product without threatening the animalís well-being. However, elk ranching provides an ecologically-conscious alternative to most common ranching practices that may result in over-grazing, ground water contamination or animal abuse.

Unlike many cattle ranches, which may use feedlot techniques, elk ranched under the American Elk Product Board and North American Elk Breeders Association standards are raised in free-range conditions, simulating their natural environment. These beautiful animals are typically healthier and better fed than elk found in the wild. These standards also ensure the animals are kept free from physical discomfort, pain, injury and disease. They even require that the elk be handled in a calm, quiet fashion to reduce animal anxiety. In addition, the guidelines mandate that the elk are raised in an environment that provides abundant feed thatís free from harmful chemicals, growth hormones or other harmful drugs. Natraflex producers must comply with strict North American Elk Breeders Association (NAEBA) or American Elk Products Board (AEPB) ranching and velvet antler collection standards. Natraflex maintains detailed ranch and material sourcing records for each batch of product made. These records are so meticulous, they can be traced from each bottleís lot number back to the ranch that produced the antlers.

HARVESTING ANTLER VELVET
Elk bulls naturally grow and shed their antlers each year. In the wild, antlers are used as weapons, but in a domestic environment, hard antlers can be a danger to other animals. Typically, antlers are removed in the spring, when the antlers are in the nutrient-rich “velvet” stage characterized by a fuzzy, velvet-like covering. Velvet Antler collection is performed annually in the spring using state of the art, humane procedures prescribed by NAEBA and AEPB to ensure minimum levels of stress or discomfort for the animals. The whole procedure takes less than 15 minutes, and the animals are released back to their normal free-range area to live virtually undisturbed for another year.

INTRODUCTION TO VELVET ANTLER

More than 50 million North Americans suffer from the debilitating pain of osteoarthritis and joint injuries, and many older household pets also experience joint inflammation and lack of mobility due to arthritic conditions. Ironically, most commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs actually contribute to joint degeneration, and also risk a host of other potentially dangerous side effects.

A review of literature related to the use of velvet antler products as an alternative to drugs provides compelling evidence to support the claim that compounds in antler velvet may be significantly more effective and longer-lasting than many conventional prescription and non-prescription drugs for relief of the symptoms of osteoarthritis. The literature also suggests that velvet antler may provide additional benefits such as increased vitality, enhanced cardiovascular health, improved mental health and relief of some conditions associated with aging. Other research indicates that velvet antler may assist in muscle growth and strength training. Furthermore, as a natural dietary supplement, velvet antler does not produce drug-related side effects and is therefore considered by many researchers to be safer for use than most conventional drugs.

The production of elk and deer velvet antler as a dietary supplement or medicinal substance constitutes a major industry in Asia, and the history of antler velvet use in Asian countries dates back more than 2,000 years.

In North America, domesticated North American elk constitute the primary source of velvet antler dietary supplements. Due to the size and overall quality of North American elk antler, velvet antler produced in the United States and Canada is generally considered to be a premium product in countries such as China, Japan and Korea, and a significant export market exists to support this claim.

Collection of North American elk antler is performed without endangering the host animals. Harvesting is a simple procedure performed once per year during the spring “velvet” stage of antler growth. During this period, the antlers are in a soft cartilaginous state, providing peak potency of the compounds associated with the claims made in numerous studies regarding velvet antler’s beneficial effects.

PHARMOCOLOGY

Elk antler is composed of a variety of different tissues, including cartilage, and is also rich in collagen, a crucial protein, and glycosaminoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans help form cartilage proteoglycans, which regulate water retention and cell differentiation. They also help proliferate chondrocytes in cartilaginous tissue.

Velvet antler contains nearly 40 key compounds including:

  • Chondroitin sulfate, a carbohydrate that attracts fluid into proteoglycan molecules and protects cartilage from destructive enzymes
  • Glucosamine sulfate, the building block of cartilage and a reported anti-inflammatory easily absorbed by the body
  • Lipids, to build cells and boost energy
  • Prostaglandins, powerful anti-inflammatory agents
  • Monoamine-oxidase inhibitors, which enhance mood
  • Selenium, which reduces infections, and protects blood cells, the heart, liver and lungs
  • Calcium, for bones, teeth, nerves, blood clotting and muscle contraction
  • Collagen, a major structural protein that binds joints together and serves as a main component of articular cartilage
  • Phosphorus, which helps build bones and teeth, and is a key component of metabolic reaction
  • Polysaccharides, which helps regulate blood clotting activity
  • All essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein
  • Potassium, for nerves and muscles
  • Magnesium, to help cells restore and release energy
  • Bone morphogenetic protein, which speeds bone growth
  • Growth factors, which aid in cartilage cell development.

CLINICAL RESEARCH

Although traditional Chinese medical literature dating back more than 2,000 years extols the benefits of antler velvet as a premium medicinal substance, recent studies provide compelling scientific evident supporting the use of velvet antler to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Additional research indicates velvet antler may provide beneficial effects in several other areas including cardiovascular health, mental health and growth and strength enhancement.

JOINT AND BONE HEALTH

Osteoarthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage in bone joints. In normal joints, cartilage serves as a buffer between bones. Usually the body replenishes cartilage as it wears away, but when osteoarthritis occurs, cartilage deteriorates faster than the body can replace it. Eventually, the bones begin to rub together, causing pain, swelling and loss of joint mobility.

Most treatments for osteoarthritis attempt to reduce pain and maintain joint function, but these treatments do little to restore joint health. In fact, many prescription and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs actually prevent the growth of collagen in joints, causing further cartilage degeneration.

These drugs can also produce other serious side effects such as deterioration of the gastrointestinal tract lining, and liver and kidney damage.

Researchers believe that the imbalance between cartilage erosion and regeneration in osteoarthritis suffers is caused by a lack of glycosaminoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans play a vital role in the structural integrity of cartilage.

Several studies indicate that velvet antler can reduce or even eliminate symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. Recent clinical tests suggest oral ingestion of glycosaminoglycan-peptide complex, or components such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate – both found in velvet antler – may help stimulate cartilage repair. Placebo-controlled double-masked studies of both humans and animals on the therapeutic effects of glycosaminoglycan-peptide complex appear to confirm these investigations. Researchers are now studying how these apparent effects occur.

Chondroitin sulfate, the most abundant glycosaminoglycan found in velvet antler, is used in surgery to stabilize tissue. Several studies on humans indicate regular oral ingestion of chondroitin sulfate can significantly reduce the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. The compound appears to inhibit enzymes that deplete cartilage nutrition. Chondroitin sulfate molecules are long chains of sugars and sulfur that create tiny spaces filled with fluid. These spaces protect and cushion joints.

Randomized studies of glucosamine indicate the compound not only inhibits cartilage degradation but also helps repair damaged cartilage. An eight-week double-blind trial of glucosamine on 40 osteoarthritis sufferers found that the compound had significantly longer-lasting benefits than the commonly prescribed pain killer ibuprofen.. Other studies indicate that the effects appear to continue as long as six to 12 weeks after subjects stop taking glucosamine.

Additional research is now under way at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta (Edmonton), Canada, to determine the efficacy of antler velvet on rheumatoid arthritis. Previous studies have already suggested that the cartilage compounds found in antler may be effective at relieving rheumatoid arthritis pain.

STRENGTH & MUSCLE GROWTH ENHANCEMENT

Elk antler grows as much as 50 pounds in less than a few months, making it the fastest-developing animal organism in the world.

This rapid development is caused by antler’s high content of bone morphogenetic proteins, which regulate bone growth, as well as growth factors I and II. These growth factors increase the rate of cell division during antler development, and may contribute to the medicinal effects of velvet antler. In addition, velvet antler contains amino acids that have been proven in studies to increase growth hormone levels in humans.

A study conducted by Suttie and Haines found that animals fed high levels of active antler velvet extract grew significantly faster and as much as 12 percent more than a control group. The animals also experienced increased liver weight and a higher bone calcium content. In addition, the researchers found that antler appeared to decrease calcium excretion. In another study by Takikawa, et al., researchers reported observing new bone formation following experimental whiplash injuries in rabbits.

Perhaps the most well-publicized study of antler’s strength and muscle-enhancing attributes involved a blind trial of New Zealand athletes. Volunteers were divided into two groups, with height, weight and age closely balanced.

The first group received 70 mg of velvet antler extract per day for 10 weeks, while a control group received a placebo. Subjects underwent moderate flex and weight training, and were tested twice during the 10-week period and once following the 10 weeks. The athletes were also scanned with a Dual X-Ray Absorptiometry Scanner (DEXA) before and after the trial to determine any changes in body composition.

The researchers found that muscular endurance doubled among the velvet antler group, tending to support the assertion of previous studies that velvet antler improves muscle activity. At the same time, the athletes taking antler lost more body fat than those in the control group, but did not increase muscle size. The researchers speculate that antler use may boost muscle efficiency without increasing in muscle mass. Results of the DEXA scans also suggested that velvet antler may improve muscle dynamic activity. The New Zealand researchers theorized that the antler extract may improve blood supply to muscles or act as an anti-inflammatory, allowing athletes to recover faster from training sessions.

Athletes from New Zealand and other countries – swimmers and mountaineers to rugby players and golfers – have used velvet antler to increase strength, vitality and endurance. Other athletes and professionals requiring strength and endurance are also using antler as a legal substitute for anabolic steroids. Researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, tested antler’s ability to increase strength and endurance on cadets from the Edmonton police academy. The researchers found that use of velvet antler significantly increased blood plasma testosterone levels in the men participating in the study.

C.E. Broeder (Benedictine University), R. Percival & T. Wills (East Tennessee State University), J. Quindry (University of Florida), L. Panton (Florida State University), K.D. Browder (University of Idaho), C. Earnest (The Cooper Institute), A. Almada (Imagine Nutrition & MetaResponse Sciences), S.R. Haines & J. M. Suttie (AgResearch – Mosgiel, New Zealand)

ABSTRACT
— In the present study, we investigated the physiological and potential performance enhancing effects of New Zealand Deer Antler Velvet (NZDAV) supplementation in men. Thirty-two males between the ages of 18 and 35 with at least 4 years of weight lifting experience were randomly assigned using a double-blinded procedure into either a placebo or NZDAV treatment group. Placebo group members received sugar pills and the NZDAV group received 1500 mg NZDAV once in the morning and immediately prior to bed-time. Random assignment was done in matched pairs (1 placebo; 1 NZDAV). Prior to and immediately following the 10-week supplementation use, each subject participated in a series of measurements. These procedures included the measurement of maximal aerobic capacity ( Ý V O2max ), maximal power output on a cycle ergometer, a determination of maximal strength (1-RM) for the bench-press and squat, a comprehensive blood chemistry profile, body composition analyses (DEXA), and a 3-day dietary recall. Of the original 32 subjects recruited for this study, 56% of the subjects completed all aspects of the study properly which was evenly divided between the two treatment groups leaving the placebo group n = 9 and NZDAV group n = 9 subjects. At the start of the study, there were no significant differences between the groups in their respective body composition profile variables.

In the NZDAV group, DEXA % body fat (p = 0.04), DEXA Fat Wt (p = 0.07), and Trunk-to-limb Fat Wt ratio (p = 0.02) either significantly declined or neared significance. According to the results for the placebo group, only the 1-RM values for this group’s absolute bench (Pre: 123.2 ± 24.0 kg; Post: 128.3 ± 27.5 kg, 4.1% ; p = 0.04) and squat (Pre: 150.5 ± 28.2 kg; Post: 156.6 ± 30.4 kg, 4.1% ; p = 0.04) 1-RM improved after the intervention period. When normalized for kilogram of total body weight, the placebo group did not show any significant differences for the 1-RM measurement in both the bench and squat. In contrast, the NZDAV showed a significant improvement in the 1-RM values in absolute terms and relative to total body weight. In absolute terms, the 1-RM for the bench press increased 4.2% (Pre: 120.0 ± 23.6 kg; Post: 125.0 ± 25.7 kg; p = 0.02) while the squat 1-RM improved 9.9% (Pre: 159.3 ± 42.7 kg; Post: 175.0 ± 43.5kg; p = 0.002) in NZDAV group. In contrast to the placebo group, when 1-RM values were expressed relative to total body weight, the bench press and squat also significantly improved 4.0% and 10.1%, respectively (p = 0.02) in the NZDAV. One of the most interesting findings of this study was the fact that there was also a significant improvement in aerobic capacity in the NZDAV treatment group. In liters • min-1, Ý V O2max increased significantly by 9.8% from the pre- to posttreatment period (4.30 ± 0.45 to 4.72 ± 0.60 liter • min-1; p = 0.002). When expressed relative to total body weight in kilograms, Ý V O2max remained significantly elevated 9.4% (46.5 ± 8.1 to 50.0 ± 8.9 ml • kg-1 • min-1) following the training-supplement intervention. This study’s results suggest that NZDAV may have positive effects on body composition and strength/power in resistance training men.

I awoke in the middle of the night with a start. It was mid-December and I was sweating. “What in the world are you doing?” I asked myself. You are actually going to try to convince people that eating the antlers of a bull elk is going to make them feel better. I made myself some hot chocolate and sat down in the living room so I wouldnít wake up the whole house. As I pondered the elk business and the velvet antler industry in particular, I scratched the ears of my old Labrador, Chip. Chip was twelve years old and could barely move. Age and an active life were taking a toll on him. If only I could give him some medication for his deteriorating hips and elbows that would provide him with some relief and not destroy his liver and kidneys.

As a practicing veterinarian, I have watched thousands of dogs, cats and horses suffer from the crippling effects of osteoarthritis. This is a condition of the joints similar to the condition millions of people deal with daily. The production cartilaginous surfaces of the joints begin to erode and wear away. When this occurs, bone begins rubbing on bone and the pain can be excruciating. As this process progresses, the body attempts to heal the insulted joints by sending calcium to repair the damaged bone. These abnormal bone deposits deform the normal joints even more and increase the pain and discomfort of day-to-day activity.

I studied the literature on elk velvet antler and the claims made by people of many countries. As I researched the product, it seemed to me that it could cure most ailments, had no side effects and was perfectly natural. To say I was a doubting Thomas was an understatement. I knew many people in the elk business, and I knew the demand for velvet antler by the Koreans had fueled the fire of a burgeoning new livestock industry. The little voice in my head kept saying, “Ostrich, emus, exotic cattle.” Can this product produce the effects claimed in the literature? Can this product produce any of these effects? What can I do to prove to myself that this is not snake oil or smoke and mirrors?

As I visited with elk breeders on both sides of the Canadian border, it became apparent to me that the antler velvet industry in North America was indeed a lucrative but very fragile business. The industry was totally dependent upon the whims of the Asian market, primarily Korea. A North American market for velvet antler products needed to be developed and encouraged. To satisfy my skepticism, I had to see proof beyond a reasonable doubt that we were promoting a product that had more than a mystical, psychological effect Ė an effect or effects which could be reproduced in trials around the world.

I scratched Chip’s ears and looked at my old faithful friend. “If this product could improve Chip’s quality of life, it would be tremendous, ” I mused. Also, a dog could not be convinced he was going to feel better. He would either show and improvement, or he wouldn’t. It seemed very straightforward to me. Animals could be used to test the efficacy of the product, and the response of the animal to the treatment regimen could be qualitatively evaluated. Probably not a very scientific experiment, but certainly one that would produce some answers to the questions I had.

I bounced my idea off of some friends of mine in the industry, and I was strongly encouraged to initiate a study. I talked with several veterinarians and asked if they would like to participate, but I was met with a lot of doubt and skepticism. The veterinary profession was having a difficult time accepting the fact that alternative medicine may have a place among our arsenal of drugs and surgical procedures.

We have a very large mixed animal practice in northwest New Mexico, and we have many animals suffering from arthritis fractures and the ravages of old age. Would the average client be open to trying a radically different form of treatment on their beloved pets? The answer to this question was a resounding yes. People were excited to try a new form of treatment which may increase the quality of life of their animals. They were especially thrilled to know that a lack of response seemed to be the worst that could happen. To date, we have not documented any side effects with the use of this product. In some cases, a blood chemistry profile was established and checked after a period of time on the product, with special attention paid to the kidney and liver function tests.

Animals on trial have ranged from 6 months of age to 19 years of age, both canine and feline. Breeds range from Chihuahua to Newfoundland. Conditions being treated are various bone, ligament and tendon conditions, and various other conditions related to aging.

The effects of elk velvet on Chip were remarkable. After a period of time he moved with much greater ease and could go up and down stairs again, and his appetite and coat improved. Chipís quality of life improved greatly, and his life was extended for more than a year. Chip was the first of many animals I have watched respond favorably to elk velvet.

Three case studies follow:

POGO
Pogo was a male miniature dachshund with a variety of problems. He was 13 years old with a chronic, arthritic back and failing kidneys. Pogo had been on a variety of medications throughout his life, and he had been given the best of care by his owner. In March of 1998 on a cold, blustery day, Pogo’s owner came into the hospital on the verge of tears. Her own health was also failing, but she came in to discuss putting Pogo to sleep. As we talked about his conditions and the medications he was on, it was clear his prognosis was not good.

“I canít stand seeing him suffer like this, Doctor. He can barely get out of his bed, and he often drags his hind end. It is very difficult for me to take him outside, and he doesnít even want his favorite foods.”

I listened quietly to a scenario much too familiar to veterinarians who take care of companion animals. Because a petís life span is so much shorter than ours, we have to go through the pain of watching it age and die. Often, in the case of elderly clients, their pets are their best friends and faithful companions. I asked Pogoís owner if she would let us examine Pogo and consider trying another treatment on him. She was reluctant at first to consider prolonging Pogoís misery, but with tears streaming down her face, she decided she would try one more time. I explained velvet antler to her, and told her about the properties of the medication. I explained that the product is all natural and we know of no serious side effects. I told her that the worst thing that might happen was that we would see no response. I also suggested that we stop all of Pogoís other medications.

As Pogo was examined, he was found to be thin and to experience pain upon palpation of his back and hips. His temperature, pulse and respiration were within normal ranges. Radiographs showed progressive bony changes in his vertebrae and hips, and calcification of some of his lumbar intervertebral discs. His blood work showed elevated kidney and liver function tests. All in all, Pogo looked very much like many of the geriatric pets we see in our hospital on a regular basis.

Pogo was started on 600 mg of velvet antler daily for two weeks. He was placed on a highly digestible kidney diet and free choice bottled water. The owner was instructed to bring Pogo back in two weeks for a progress report and a re-evaluation.

Eight days after Pogo was started on velvet antler, I heard a loud commotion in the lobby. Standing at the desk was Pogoís beaming owner. “Doctor!” she exclaimed, “You have to look at Pogo. I canít believe what I am seeing.” She opened the door to the lobby and Pogo came flying in at a dead run. He jumped up on a bench and began barking out the window. I stared in utter amazement at this transformed little animal. A week ago he was ready to die, and now, with his tail wagging furiously, he was acting like a puppy again.

Pogoís owner took my hand in hers and asked, “How can I ever thank you?”†Pogo continued to improve, and his velvet antler dosage was reduced to 300 mg daily. His appetite was back to normal, and his hair coat gained back some of the luster it had lost. His mobility was greatly improved, and his temperament was like the Pogo of old.

Pogoís owner passed away in the spring of 1999, and Pogo died a short time later. The passing of both was difficult for our staff, but Pogoís quality of life was extended for a full year, and I am sure they are both in a better place, and Pogo is still barking and wagging his tail.

ABIGAIL
Abigail is a 3-year-old basset hound. She is in excellent physical condition and belongs to a young lady who is a student at New Mexico State University. Abby was brought into our hospital in January of 1999. Upon examination, Abby was found to have an extremely painful left hind leg. The leg was non-weight bearing, and Abby snapped if you touched it. The owner said they were out for a walk and Abby took off chasing a rabbit. She said she heard Abby cry out, and the dog came back to her, carrying her leg. Abby was sedated and radiographs were taken. No fractures were noted, and upon palpation it was dislocated medially and the anterior cruciate ligament was stretched or torn.

As the injury was discussed with the owner, it became apparent that the young lady was not financially able to proceed with the recommended treatment. Normally, this condition requires surgical intervention. The ligaments are examined and repaired if necessary, and the patella is relocated and secured to prevent future dislocation. Few options were available; the owner elected to treat Abigail with manual replacement of the patella, a pressure wrap, and velvet antler. Abby was started on 900 mg velvet antler for two weeks, and then the dosage was adjusted down to 600 mg daily.

Since Abby was a college dog many miles from our hospital, she was not examined again for over six weeks. Upon re-examination, Abby had excellent mobility in her rear legs with only a slight change in gait of the injured limb. Her knee felt very stable upon palpation, and her temperament was as carefree as it had been before her injury. The owner reported that she had observed noticeable improvement in Abby’s condition within ten days and that within three weeks Abby was no longer limping and appeared to be completely pain free.

Abby continues to take her velvet antler daily and eats the capsules like a treat. This is a situation where money dictated the course of treatment. Offering an alternative solution to problems is not only necessary at times, but is greatly welcome by pet owners. Being trained in conventional medicine makes it difficult at times to consider alternatives, but the results we have observed makes it apparent that alternative therapy may be as good or better than conventional medical treatment.

Abby’s owner comments, “I am convinced velvet antler healed Abby’s leg, and I have recommended it to many of my friends. The problem is, people cannot find it and veterinarians are not familiar with its use.”

MAC
Mac is an 8-year-old, slightly overweight Labrador. He has been a patient since he was 10 weeks old. Mac, like many Labs, suffers from a degenerative condition of his hips known as dysplasia. Dysplasia is a congenital defect in the hip joints. The hip is a ball and socket joint. Due to indiscriminate breeding, the ball often does not fit snugly in the socket, creating abnormal wear and causing calcium deposits to build up as the body tries to repair the damage. The result is a painful life-long abnormality of the joints. Treatment of this condition is often palliative, and anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications are the most often prescribed. Recent uses of compounds to increase joint fluids or lubricants and repair cartilage damaged have been found to be effective in slowing down the progression of this disease. These compounds, chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate, are found in velvet antler. It is our opinion that the synergistic effect of these compounds and other healing factors found in velvet antler are much more effective than any of the compounds by themselves.

For several years Mac has experienced abnormal gait and pain due to dysplasia, especially after prolonged exercise such as hunting or playing ball. He was radiographically diagnosed with grade II dysplasia and has been on various forms of treatment for several years. Use of velvet antler was explained to Mac’s owner in early 1998, and the owner elected to try the product.

“I want Mac to enjoy the things he was bred to do, and that is a very active lifestyle. I am not comfortable with the pain medication and all of the side effects. If this stuff works and it is not harmful to him, I am all for it.” Mac was started on 900 mg of velvet antler daily for two weeks and then his dosage was lowered to 600 mg daily. He has remained pain free since starting on velvet antler, and his owner is extremely satisfied with the results. He stated, “I did not notice an immediate response with the medicine. I just noticed that Mac’s limp was gone, and he did not ‘sore up’ after hard exercise. I can also tell when I forget to give him his pills. This is good stuff, and I recommend it to anyone who loves their pet.”

Conclusion
These, and countless other case studies, have made it clear to me that velvet antler has a place on my shelf for treating a number of osteoarthritic and musculoskeletal conditions in animals. Not all animals respond, but then, an aspirin does not work on all headaches. Alternative treatments for many conditions are becoming more commonplace in both people and pets.

If North America used the product, it would forever eliminate the elk industry’s dependence on the volatility of the Asian market. Many producers in the industry have stepped forward to help support the work we have started. The people who have helped by supplying product and support were Elk Valley Processors, Dr. Ray Favero, Dr. Glen Zebarth, NATRAflex Brands, Colorado Genetics, Eric Falk, Rob Pek and other antler velvet producers.

The animal industry in North America is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Everything from medicine to nutraceuticals to designer collars and sweaters to pet Hiltons are available for pets. The equine industry is another large market area generating billions per year. These markets need to be accessed and encouraged. A demand far exceeding the supply of quality velvet could develop and have a positive impact on raw velvet prices and live animal prices.

Future Reports
A series of articles is being prepared for publication in the months to come, and some new and detailed studies are being planned for all species of animals. The animals I have treated over the past 18 months have proven to me that many of the claims made concerning the use of velvet antler as an alternative treatment are true. Each of us should take the time to share the benefits of this product with friends and neighbors. The honesty of animals has proven to this veterinarian that elk velvet antler is, in fact, more reality than myth.

A condition related to arthritis and characterized by the progressive loss of bone density and the thinning of bone tissue, osteoporosis is considered a major public threat for more than 28 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. Ten million Americans already suffer from the disease, while an additional 18 million have been diagnosed with low bone mass. It is estimated that one in two women and one in eight men over the age of 50 will have at least one osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

In order to understand osteoporosis, it is first necessary to recognize how the body regulates calcium levels and maintains mineral levels in the blood through a cycle of breaking down and building up bones. Bones are broken down by osteoclasts during a process called “resorption,” releasing minerals and proteins into the bloodstream. Osteoblasts then rebuild new bone by secreting a protein matrix featuring collagen, the body’s most common protein and a major participant in the formation of connective tissue and bones. This mechanism functions constantly, but when it goes awry and the body fails to form enough new bone, or too much old bone is reabsorbed, osteoporosis can result.

Some researchers believe that velvet antler may have the ability to rebuild bone in people with this degenerative disease. A study on the use of velvet antler for osteoporosis patients is currently underway at the University of Alberta (Canada).

Antlers are regenerative — they are grown each spring and cast in late winter, only to be replaced the following spring by the same natural process. Velvet antler, rich in calcium and phosphates, is an extremely fast-growing tissue comprised of fibroblasts, chondroblasts, and chondrocytes, required for healthy growing bones and tissue.

Because collagen (a natural ingredient in antler velvet dietary supplements) plays such an integral role in forming connective tissue and bone, researchers note that supplementation of pharmaceutical-grade collagen hydrolysate (PCH) may have a beneficial effect on cartilage metabolism(Semin Arthr and Rheum; 30(2):87-99, 2000).

At the 2000 International Symposium on Antler Science and Product Technology, Dr. Gregory Mundy of the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas, reported on his research with velvet antler and osteoporosis. Mundy stated that antler growth represents the most rapid bone formation in the animal kingdom. He noted that velvet antler could be a promising agent for increasing bone mass.

In the July 2001 issue of Vitamin Retailer Magazine, Liz Brown writes about antler velvet in an article entitled “Bricks & Mortar of Osteoporosis Prevention.” Brown states, “Since bone is constantly remodeled throughout life with the help of osteoblasts (which form bone), and osteoclasts (responsible for breaking down bone), optimal nutrition ensures that these processes maintain a healthy balance.” The article reviews research results supporting the value of supplements in bone health. Among these are calcium; vitamins D, C, & K; isoflavones; iprifavone; and velvet antler. Liz writes that although antler velvet is a relatively new ingredient being studied for bone health, researchers have concluded that bone fracture healing is accelerated by velvet antler. In a 1999 study published in Chung Kuo Yao Li Hsuch, Pao, rats injected with velvet antler had a higher rate of healing than that of the control group.

Ahn el all (1994) studied the effects of administration of a water extract of velvet antler to rats in which ovaries had been removed. This work showed that ovariectomized rats treated with antler velvet retained more mineralized bone than control ovariectomized rats which were not treated with velvet. In a follow-up study, also using a water extract of velvet antler, bone density was measured in ovary intact control rats, and rats which had been ovariectomized and treated orally with either antler velvet or saline (Shim and Ahn 1999). The velvet antler effectively maintained bone density after ovariectomy at a level close to that of the ovary intact control rats. In contrast, bone density fell in the ovariectomized rats which were not treated with velvet.

Antler velvet does not contain appreciable amounts of estrogen. Therefore, post menopausal women in whom hormone replacement therapy is contraindicated can take advantage of this opportunity to protect their skeletons against osteoporsis.

February 2004 Study by The University of Montreal (Quebec, Canada),
Maxim Moreau, Jacques Dupuis, Norbert H. Bonneau, Manon Lecuyer: The findings were published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, published by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, is the ‘voice of veterinary medicine in Canada’. This monthly, peer-reviewed general scientific publication features a wide variety of articles and regular columns intended for the veterinary practitioner.

Abstract
— A powder of elk velvet antler was evaluated on client-owned dogs with osteoarthrosis in a clinical, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study. Thirteen dogs received a placebo for 30 days and then velvet antler for 60 days. Twenty-five other dogs received velvet antler for 60 days. Gait analysis measured with a force plate, clinical signs assessed by an orthopedic surgeon, performances in daily life activities and vitality assessed by the owners, and complete blood analyses were obtained at days 0, after 30 days of placebo and/or 60 days of velvet antler On placebo, the 13 dogs did not show significant improvement (P > 0.05); however, their gait, their performances in daily life activities, and their vitality were significantly improved on elk velvet antler, based on changes in values exceeding those observed when placebo was administered. The 25 dogs on elk velvet antler for 60 days showed similar improvements. No clinical changes were revealed on blood analyses. Administration of velvet antler was effective in alleviating the condition in arthritic dogs.

Velvet Antler could simply be the most significant breakthrough for arthritis sufferers in the world today!
For more than 2000 years, a remarkable natural remedy called velvet antler has been prized by healers in various cultures around the world. Remarkably, velvet has gone virtually unnoticed by western nutritional supplement marketers . . . until now.

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.

What is Velvet?
Velvet or velvet antler is harvested annually from naturally farmed elk livestock. Male elk grow and naturally shed a set of antler every year. When elk antlers are “in velvet” it is the most “nutrient abundant” phase of the antlersí 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 Velvet is the name used to describe velvet antler products marketed by members or 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 have been developed and published by the international. nonprofit organization.

Osteo-Arthritis Breakthrough
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 breakdown, leading to significant pain and disability.

Recently, the ability for Nature’s Velvet 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 if 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 than 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 for arthritis.

What is Nature’s Velvet
The unique health benefits associated with Nature’s Velvet 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 Velvet 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 Velvet in studies associated with anti-aging, immune support, mood disorders, blood enrichment, chronic joint pain of osteo-arthrltis, 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 IGE studies in England – Nature’s Velvet 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 showing the anti-tumor activity of antler has been tested in mice.
  • 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 stroke, and improving general cardiovascular health.
  • 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 or Alberta football team have shown the levels of testosterone in certain dosages of Natures’ Velvet build and tone muscle.
  • Increased Energy studies in Russia – the velvet extract pantocrin has been shown to increase the work capacity of mice.

Good News for U.S. Consumers
Until recently, the Korean and Chinese markets were consuming the world supply of Nature’s Velvet. Producers of Nature’s Velvet 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 safe, gentle manner, with no side-effects.

Nature’s Velvet is an all-natural, regenerative, sustainable resource and a comprehensive nutrient. Nature’s Velvet supplements are currently marketed as encapsulated, 100% whole velvet antler, liquid extracts and powdered extracts. As Nature’s Velvet 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 Velvet.

REFERENCES

    1. Ahn. B.H. Study on the nutritive value of velvet antler by major producing districts. Kor. J. An. Nutr. 18(3). 173-188. 1994.

Chen et al. Inhibitory effects of the extract of pilose antler on monoamine oxidase in aged mice. Ch. J. Chin. Mat. 17(2). 107-128.1992.

  • Clifford et al. Can an extract of deer antlers alter cardiovascular dynamics? Am. J. Ch. Med. 7(4). 345-350. 1979.
  • Conte et al. Biochemical and pharma cokinetic aspects or oral treatment with chondroitin sulfate. Arzneim. Forsch. 45. 918-925. 1995.
  • Huang. et al. A new monitoring system of cultured myocardial cell motion #9; effect or pilose antler extract and cardioactive agent on spontaneous beating of myocardial cell sheets. Chem Phar. Bul. 39(2). 383-387. 1991.
  • Ivankina et al. Prosaglandin-like activity, fatty acid and phospholipid composition of sika deer (Cervus nippon) antlers at different growth stages. Comp. Blo. Phys. 106(1). 159-162. 1993.
  • Kim et al. Anti-tumor activity of fer mented antler on sarcoma 180 in mice. Yathak Hoeji 38(6). 795-799. 1994. \
  • Morreale et al. Comparison of the anti-inflammatory efficacy of chondroitin sulfate and diclofenac sodium in patients with knee osteo-arthritis. J. Rheumatol. 23, 1385-1391. 1996.
  • Palmiera et al. Metabolic fate or exogenous chondriotin sulfate in the experimental animal. Arzneim. Forsch. 40. 319-323. 1990.
  • Price et al. Cells cultured from the growing tip of red deer antler express alkaline phosphatase and proliferate in response to insulin-like growth factor-I. Jour. End. 143(2). 916, 1994.
  • Sentikar et al. Pharmacokinetics of glucosamine in the dog and man. Arzneim, Forsch. 36, 729-735,1986.
  • Sentikar et al. Antiarthritic effects of glucosamine sulfate studied in animal models. Arzneim. Forsch. 41, 542-545, 1991.
  • Sentikar et al. Pharmacokinetics of glucosamine in man. Arzneim. Fotsch. 43. 1109-1113, 1993.
  • Sunwoo et al. Chemical composition of antlers from wapiti (Cervus elaphus). J. Agric. Food Chem 43. 2846-2849. 1995.
  • Sunwoo et al. Glycosaminoglycans from growing antlers or wapiti (Cervus elaphus). Can. J. Animal Sci. 77, 715-721. 1997.
  • Sunwoo et al. Isolation characterization and localization of glycoaaminoglycans in growing antlers or wapiti (Cervus elaphus). Comp. Biothem. Physiol B 120. 273-283. 1998.
  • Sunwoc et al. Isolation and characterization or proteoglycans from growing antlers or wapiti (Cervus elaphus). Comp. Biochem. Physlol B. in press. 1998
  • Suttie et at. The New Zealand Velvet Industry. Background and research findings. 1994.
  • Zhang et al. Purification and partial characterization of anti-inflammatory peptide from pilose antler or Cervus nippon Temminch. Acta Phar. Sin. 27(5), 321-324. 1992.
  • Zhang et al. Anti-inflammatory effects or pilose antler peptide. Acta .Phar. Sin. 15(3), 282-284, 1994.

Twenty-one million Americans suffer from arthritis, accounting for 7 million doctor visits each year. Arthritis and related conditions affect one in every six people. Yet traditional medicine has failed to find a treatment that is safe and effective for everyone. A leading cardiologist recently reported that two “breakthrough anti-arthritis drugs” could pose a small additional risk of heart attack and stroke. Most of the available medications taken for arthritis are intended to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Some of them work by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which trigger inflammation but also control the secretion of gastric juices and the mucus in the stomach lining. Prolonged use of these drugs can lead to ulcers and life-threatening gastric bleeding.

Amazingly enough, many Americans are finding relief in a natural product that has been safely used in health care for thousands of years. Velvet Antler dietary supplements are believed to work by repairing damage to cartilage, as well as by reducing inflammation. Pain is reduced because the cartilage regains some of its lost resiliency. Unlike the remedies of modern medicine, the natural antler velvet does not just mask damage by dulling pain; it actually improves the health of the joints! And it not only works without dangerous side effects, its synergistic combination of nutrients often surprises patients with side benefits of increased vitality and a renewed sense of well-being.

According to research at the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta, velvet antlers contain collagen as a major protein and are rich in glycosaminoglycans. Chondroitin sulfate is the major glycosaminoglycan in antler.

Velvet Antler dietary supplements contain nearly 40 key compounds, including:
– Collagen, a major structural protein that binds joints together and serves as a main component of articular cartilage
– Chondroitin sulfate, a carbohydrate that attracts fluid into proteoglycan molecules and protects cartilage from destructive enzymes
– Glucosamine sulfate, the building block of cartilage and a reported anti-inflammatory easily absorbed by the body
– Selenium, which reduces infections and protects blood cells, the heart, liver and lungs
– Potassium, for nerves and muscles
– Bone morphogenetic protein, which speeds bone growth
– Growth factors, which aid in cartilage cell development and promote the absorption of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate

(Source: American Elk Products Board)

Helen J. Batchelder, senior editor of content and research at MotherNature.Com, has served as senior writer and special products writer for Integrative Medicine Communications (I MC) in Newton, MA, and most currently worked on an expanded version of The Complete German Commission E Monographs for IMC and the American Botanical Council. Author of Everything You Need to Know About PMS, part of Prima Health’s Natural Pharmacy series, Ms. Batchelder was also the associate editor of Herbal Research Publication’s Protocol Journal of Botanical Medicine.

Introduction

In the United States, the North American elk and red deer, members of the Cervus species, are farmed to produce velvet antler teas, extracts, capsules and tablets for health related products. In 1999, velvet antler was scientifically substantiated by research and clinical studies, in compliance with FDA regulations, “to support healthy joint structure and function”. But its clinical applications do not stop there: due to its bioactivity and chemical components, velvet antler is likely to have much broader, and as significant, uses in the near future.

Velvet antler obtained from either the North American elk or red deer is chemically synonymous, and is utilized commercially for identical purposes. Many other countries have produced velvet antler for preparation as a traditional oriental medicine: New Zealand, Asian and European velvet antler farming produces a flourishing crop which is economically valuable, and which has been perpetuated for at least 2000 years. Currently, New Zealand produces about 450 tons of velvet antler yearly; China, about 400 tons; Russia, 80 tons, and the United States and Canada, about 20 tons each. Korea is currently the largest exporter of velvet antler, grossing up to 1.6 billion dollars (U.S.) in sales (Burgio).

Currently the use of reportedly tonic and rejuvenative medicines are enjoying increasing demand in international markets. The many conditions for which velvet antler has been used include anemia, arthritis, insomnia, amnesia, topical wounds, and pain.

In traditional medicine of the orient, red deer antler has been used to treat male impotence and female infertility. Emphasis on sexual and reproductive function has placed velvet antler in the category of aphrodisiacs. However, in traditional herbalists’ terms, an aphrodisiac is not necessarily an agent that promotes libido. It is instead an agent that aids the ability of men and women to reproduce. Velvet antler has also been used as an immune modulator, erythropoeitic agent, particularly in cases of anemia, and to improve blood circulation, muscle strength, and mental alertness. (Fisher et al., 1998).Velvet antler is not used solely by adults: it is estimated that about 10% of Korea’s velvet antler is used for preventive and restorative purposes in children (Church, 1999).

Traditionally, different regions of the antler are used for different conditions due to a nutrient profile specifically concentrated in different parts of the antler. The tip and the middle regions are used as pediatric tonics, the upper and middle section is applied to degenerative inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and osteo-myelitis, and the base is prepared for the elderly to increase calcium intake and reduce the likelihood that they will suffer from conditions exacerbated by calcium loss.

Empirical evidence and some clinical research suggests that velvet antler may have therapeutically valuable hypotensive, erythorpoeitic, immune stimulant, antiinflammatory, antiaging, metabolic, protective, and rejuvenative effects (Church, I 999). Today, velvet antler is regarded as a treatment for osteoarthritis, a possible tumor preventive, and for physical and athletic strength and endurance, in both the Orient and in western medicine.

Since the earliest velvet antler research in Russia in the 1930s, scientists and pharmacists have attempted to provide sound scientific reasoning for these purported therapeutic effects. As a result, over 250 articles have been published on the manufacture, composition, and biochemical effects of velvet antler. The information available has been recorded by Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian researchers, whose information often overlaps. This review of the literature should serve to close the language barriers and fragmentation that multicultural investigation sometimes incurs.

Multicultural Use

China

Velvet antler is regarded in China as preventive medicine. It is yang in property, and an androgenic agent. In order to understand the Chinese concept of yang and how it relates to health, it is important to note that so far Chinese medicine has differed from western medicine in that its emphasis is in prevention or restoration as opposed to the western emphasis on eliminating the offending agent. Because the Russian literature on velvet antler, as well as Japan’s and Korea’s, is based on Chinese concepts of health and medicine, a brief review is necessary.

Chinese medicine restores harmony between conflicting forces, in order to secure health. The practice is that of an intricate system based on complex philosophies that are thousands of years old. It utilizes herbs, physical therapies and exercises to promote health. Its primary focus is on the concept of qi, the life force, and the continual balance of the opposing natures of yin and yang within the unified system of nature.

In order to determine what is causing illness, a traditional Chinese practitioner looks for imbalances in heat/cold, moisture/dryness, and excess/deficiency of these three life forces. The causes of these imbalances are determined by five organ networks: the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. In TCM, when the organ networks are out of balance or are functioning in the absence of sufficient qi, illness ensues. Treatment aims to correct imbalance by providing complimentary balance in an approach similar to that of Hippocrates’, who taught that balancing the classical humors brought health. For example, if the disease is a cold condition, then the treatment uses substances such as herbs or physical therapies, to create warmth.

Chinese treatments are often used in complex and very specific formulas, taking into account the “flavors” of the ingredients and their corresponding properties and actions. The formulas are derived from plant, mineral, and animal extracts even though they are all called “herbs” and are used to treat every possible kind of ailment. In compounding them, herbal pharmacists take into account not only what disorder the medicines are to alleviate, but also how each ingredient affects others in the formula, and how the addition of certain substances can reduce or cause side effects.

The most respected medical text that contains these principles and philosophies, Pen Ts’ao Kang Mu, was written in the 16th century and discusses the use of elk and moose antler in the form of powders, pills, extracts, tinctures, and ointments. In many instances, the products were mixed with other herbs. Antler was considered a universal tonic, but also held an important place in the list of medicaments meant to produce sexual virility. Li Shih Chen, author of Pen Ts’ao Kang Mu, wrote of a pantui, or velvet antler potion, that:

If you never curbed the passions*,

And squandered the ocean**,

The magic potion of nine metamorphoses,

By concentrating slowly, will offer you heaven…

The spotted dragon***,

A pearl on his brow,

Will restore the lower cave–

The portals of the jasper palace

*sexual excess

**impotence

***spotted deer

The Chinese and Korean peoples have for centuries regarded the antlers of both the spotted and maral deer as being one of the most important medicinal substances available. In Korea, it is still considered valuable in the treatment of anemia, to stimulate the immune system, to treat infertility and impotence, to improve circulation in patients with heart disease, to improve muscular tone, glandular function, lung efficiency, and nerve function (Kamen, 1998).

In the early 1980’s, an estimated 200,000-300,000 spotted and red deer were farmed to make medicinal products in China, with a yield of approximately 100 tons of dried deer velvet annually. Half of this was exported, and the remainder was prepared at pharmaceutical companies into products that were dispensed throughout rural and urban hospitals. In the 1980s, velvet antler was considered the second most important ingredient in TCM (the first is ginseng).

Russia

The use of velvet antler in Russian medicine dates back to the late 1400s.There, the antlers were referred to as horns of gold. The reputed use and effect of most animal horns, including velvet antler, as aphrodisiacs goes much farther back in Eastern history, and stimulated a demand for production, which necessitated the advent of deer farming. Deer farming was introduced to Russia in the 1840s, with the Caspian red deer being the favored species for antler production. Generally, the three species used are: spotted deer (Cervus nippon hortulorus Swinhoe), maral deer (Cervus elaphus sibiricus Sev.) and Canadian deer (Cervus elaphus xanthopygus Milne-Eds., or wapiti). Systematic study of antler as a medicinal raw material began in the Soviet Union in 1931 when pantocrin, an extract prepared from velvet antler, was first discovered.

Pantocrin

Pantocrin is an alcohol extract that is light yellow, or whitish gray in pill form. It is also available as 1ml or 2ml ampules. Tablets contain 1% of extract; a 0.15g tablet is equal to 20 drops of pantocrin. Pantocrin has been prescribed internally in doses of 25-40 drops, 1-2 tablets twice daily, taken one half hour before eating. A typical course of treatment lasts from 2 to 3 weeks, but usually 3 courses are given, with 7-10 day break periods observed between courses. Dosage recommendations vary according to indication and whether or not the product is being used adjunctively.

Japan

Lu jung is a Japanese medicine made from velvet antler that is used to rejuvenate the body and provide individuals with added energy. In the late 1960s, rulondin, a Japanese version of the pantocrin extract, was prepared by the Taiho Pharmaceutical Company (TPC) and was used as an injectable treatment for male sexual disorders. Later, the company began to manufacture pantocrin under the trade name Pantocrine, and conclusions from research performed by TPC led to the formulation of three products, pantocrin injection, pantocrin capsule, and pantocrin drink, which are used as cardiovascular agents. (Fisher et al., 1999).

Velvet Antler Processing and Composition

Velvet antler is soft growing antler tissue which is cast off every year and re-grown by Cervus spp (deer). In Latin, the word from which antler is derived, anteoculae, means “in front of the eyes,” and this is where they grow, from thick, bony cores that rise from skin covered pedicals. Antlers differ from horns in that horns are permanent (Church, 1999).

Harvest

In the wild, stags grow and cast off a set of antlers every year. Approximately 8 weeks after the antlers begin the growth cycle, they reach the most nutrient abundant growth stage and are ready to be harvested. To do this, the stags are brought into indoor pens. The deer are minimally restrained and the new antler growth is hygienically removed, cooled and frozen. (Suttie et al., 1994). Genetics is the most common cause of variation in these time tables. Velvet yield is subject to a number of intrusions, including parasites, nerve supply injury, and season (Burgio).

Drying

Velvet antler is dried prior to its manufacture into various medicinal forms. The method of drying used to involve boiling the antlers and then allowing them to dry 60-700C, and is sometimes referred to as preservation. In 1963, one investigator noted that the drying process increased active substances, and that the active principles in pantocrin are the phosphates, biogenic bases, amino acids and their by-products, produced in the process of preservation (Fisher et al., 1999). Studies reported by Russian chemists in 1974 (Yudin and Dubryakov, 1974) suggest that boiling antler tips destroys bioactive potential, however, and newer methods of extraction used today involve a freeze-drying process that does not include boiling water (Suttie and Haines, 1996). Additionally, a food-grade drying process has been developed by researchers at the University of Alberta (Sim and Sunwoo, 1999). Such a process is currently sought after as a means of preserving the collagen content of velvet antler, which is therapeutically active but destroyed in the heating phase of most drying methods.

Composition & Quality Assessment

Dried velvet antler is composed of approximately 34% ash, 12% moisture, 54% organic material, of which 10% is nitrogen and 3% fat. Composition varies from species to species and with antler maturity and region of antler studies (tip, upper, middle, base) (Church, 1999).

The growing antler contains a number of necessary cells, including fibroblasts, chondroblasts, chondocytes and osteocytes. The tips of the antlers begin as undifferentiated mesenchymal cells which are transformed into cartilage. Later, the cartilage is turned to bone, due to the effects of testosterone. Velvet antler is antler that is still in its cartilaginous stage. So far, it has been rather difficult to ensure the cartilage-versus-bone content of harvested antlers. Food, climate, time of year, age of stag and the various concentrations of substances in different regions of the antler itself, are factors that have yet to be harnessed with assurance.

Calcification and Lipid Levels

Researchers are currently formulating specific chemical markers for the quality control of cartilaginous velvet antler products. Heavy calcification means that the antlers had begun maturing into bone, and products made from these are downgraded pharmaceutically. Lipid levels in the velvet antler are also an important consideration in velvet antler quality, and change as the antlers mature and on the region of the antler that is under evaluation. The tip section, or wax piece, contains higher lipid, uronic acid, sulfated glycosaminoglycan, and sialic acid levels than other regions of the antler. These levels decrease moving down the antler to the middle region, which is also called the blood piece, to the bottom (bone or base) region. (Church, 1999.)

Of the bioactive substances contained in velvet antler, collagen, glycosaminoglycans, lipids (specifically polysaccharides), growth hormone and prostaglandins are of increasing interest to pharmacists and physicians.

Collagen

The level of collagen present in harvested velvet antler is a determining factor in the age and therapeutic value of the antler. As stated earlier, lesser amounts of cartilage indicate that the antler has advanced from its pliant, growing stage into its hard, bony, mature phase. Cartilage is a visco-elastic material that has an extracellular matrix of collagen fibers, which are contained in proteoglycan aggregates. Collagen, therefore, is a primary component of cartilage, responsible for about half of the dry weight of cartilage. (Yasui and Nimni, 1988.)

The cells that make up cartilage, the chondrocytes, are fed by the distribution of nutrients through the collagenous network. Chondrocytes are highly differentiated cells that are used to synthesize a specific mix of collagen and proteoglycans to make cartilage. The material that they help to produce includes chondroitin sulfates and other glycosaminoglycans, as well as type II collagen. (Yasui and Nimni, 1988.)

Type II collagen is identified as a cartilage-specific molecule and is associated with hyaline cartilage, the most common type of cartilage. It is also necessary to the formation of elastic cartilage, the type of cartilage around the ear. In humans, hyaline cartilage comprises the transitional skeleton of embryos, which is later replaced with bone. It also covers the articular surface of the trachea, larynx, and the sides of ribs (Yasui and Nimni, 1988).

Particular chronic degenerative conditions are attributed to alterations in collagen synthesis and to changes in cellular metabolism that could precipitate such alterations. These conditions include both osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).The degeneration in either case has been postulated to be caused by changes in endogenous cellular environments which inhibit human production of type II collagen, or in which the collagen itself contributes to the degeneration.

In-vitro and histologic examination of degenerating chondrocytes reveal that they produce type I collagen, a collagen associated with the formation of fibrocartilage, which is a hybrid of hyaline cartilage and connective tissue. Where hyaline cartilage and type II cartilage decrease, fibrocartilage and type I collagen tend to increase (Yasui and Nimni, 1988). As an auto-antigen, type II collagen exerts significant effects when given to RA patients. It assists T-cell production of T-helper cell-inhibiting cytokines to decrease inflammation (Kalden and Sieper, 1998).This is discussed below, in regard to the use of velvet antler in the treatment of RA.

In velvet antler, type II collagen is the primary collagen type involved in the formation of cartilaginous antler. Through a microscope, it looks like a mesh of fine fibrils. It contains high levels of hydroxylisine and also has a high glucosylation rate. (Yasui and Nimni, 1988.) Types I and X collagen also occur in velvet antler, but as with the cartilage of most vertebrates, type II is the major type (Price, et al., 1996). It is important to note that the heat involved with drying the antlers destroys velvet antler cartilage.

GAGs

Antlers grow by endochondral ossification, the same way that long bones do. A major non-collagenous protein, proteoglycan, a protein substituted with glycosaminoglycan chains, occurs in the cartilaginous tissue of antler. While its use in the antler is not understood, it has been shown that proteoglycan in cartilage, also called aggrecan, regulates differentiation of chondrocytes and may control calcium concentration in the growth plates where endochondral ossification occurs. Immunohistochemical techniques have isolated decorin, a proteoglycan, in wapiti antler, which has a glucuronate-rich glycosaminoglycan chain. (Sunwoo et al., 1998.)

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), and specifically, chondroitin sulfate (CS), are of particular interest to physicians and pharmacists. Made from units of amino sugar, including D-glucosamine and Dgalactosamine, GAGs bond to core proteins and form proteoglycans. Cartilage proteoglycans regulate water retention and are integral to the differentiation and proliferation of chondrocytes. The most prominent GAG in velvet antler tissue is chondroitin sulfate. As potent antunflammatory agents, CS and glucosamine are used today by patients who have arthritis, with excellent results (Sim and Sun-woo, 1999). Other significant types of GAG in velvet antler include keratin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, dermatan sulfate, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan and decorin (Sunwoo et al., 1997).

Glycosaminoglycans were isolated from the tip, upper, middle and base of growing antlers. Using cellulose acetate electrophoresis, chondroitin sulfate was determined to be the major glycosaminoglycan occurring densely in the cartilaginous tip and upper sections of the antler, along with small amounts of hyaluronic acid. The bone and bone-marrow containing middle and base antler sections also contain these compounds, and, in addition, chondroitinase-ACI resistant materials. Chondroitin sulfate in the middle and base sections of antler are of larger molecular weight than CS found in the upper section and tip of the antler (Sunwoo et al., 1997.) The average molecular size is greater in 40% ethanol, versus 50% ethanol, fraction. Finally, bone tissue, as opposed to cartilage, contains CS with larger molecular size. (Sunwoo et al., 1998.)

CS Absorption

In the rat and the dog, plasma levels of CS rapidly increase following oral administration. Peak levels are reached at the 14th hour in the rat, and at the 28th hour in the dog. In tests, atropism of the radioactivity was observed toward glycosaminoglycan-rich tissues, such as joint cartilage. Analysis of molecular weight of radioactive material showed that compounds with a molecular weight corresponding to CS, poly-, oligo- and monosaccharides as well as of tritiated water, were present in the plasma, urine, synovial fluid and cartilage. High molecular weight fraction represented at least 10% of orally administered CS.

Some authors have noted a marked absorption of GAGs following oral administration; others describe the absorption as negligible. Negligible absorption was observed when GAGs with a high degree of sulfation were used. Heparin, the most sulfated GAG, loses its anticoagulant activity when it is administered orally. CS has a lower sulfation degree; its absorption following oral administration is more significant (Palmieri et al., 1990).

Growth Hormone and Prostaglandins

Elk velvet antler contains significant concentrations of growth hormone precursors and prostaglandins (Fisher et al., 1998).

IGF-l

Both insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-l) and its receptors have been isolated from deer blood during periods of antler growth. In tests, IGF-1 and IGF-2 have been found to assist cell division in undifferentiated cells, and to speed antler growth in fibroblasts and cartilage. IGF-1 increases alkaline phosphatase and cell growth in red deer antler tips. It has been postulated that velvet antler may be a valuable source of unrefined IGF-l, and while the implications of these findings require further elucidation, IGF-l levels decline in humans as we age, with detrimental effects on muscle tissue, thus supplemental IGF-1 may have therapeutically beneficial effects in humans.

Prostaglandins

Prostaglandins are substances with varying physiologic effects, including vasodepression, smooth muscle contraction or relaxation, inflammation and uterine stimulation. As components of velvet antler, prostaglandins may assist in the capacity of the extract to reduce the swelling associated with arthritis and injury, and with physiological responses in lipid metabolism, as seen in the cholesterol-lowering effects of velvet antler on laboratory animals and in the ability of velvet antler polysaccharides to reduce blood clotting (Church, 1999).

Indications For Use

Osteoarthritis (OA)

An estimated 50 million North Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, a progressive disease of cartilaginous tissue. It involves the loss of proteoglycans and deterioration of cartilage. Both the collagenous matrix and bone degrade. Taking oral glycosaminoglycan-peptides (GAG-p), a therapy termed chondroprotection, may help to prevent both cartilage and bone loss by supplementing the body with proteoglycans.

It has been proposed by researchers that therapies for OA, which include anodynes and antiinflammatory agents, should include glucosamine sulfate (GS), or other GAGs – particularly chondroitin sulfate (CS). In humans, GS is a glucosamine prodrug. Following intravenous, intramuscular and oral administration, GS is distributed into bone and articular cartilage. When ingested orally, up to 90% of GS is absorbed. (Setnikar et al., 1993.)

Chondroitin sulfate has demonstrated slow but gradually increasing reduction in clinical symptoms, lasting up to three months past the end of a controlled study which followed the progress of 146 patients with knee osteoarthritis. Patients were given either diclofenac sodium, an NSAID, or CS. Clinical symptom scores were based on the assessment of the Lesqesne Index, Huskissson visual analog scale of spontaneous pain 4-point ordinal scale for pain on load, and paracetamol consumption. (Morreal et al., 1996.)

The absolute bioavailability of chondroitin sulfate after oral administration is 13.2%. This level of bioavailability in both man and laboratory animals is consistent with other glycosaminoglycans with low sulfation. After intravenous administration of 0.5g CS to healthy volunteers, plasma level of CS decreased, according to a two-compartmental open model. Studies indicate that the metabolic fate of exogenous CS is the same for humans as is the fate of tritiated CS used in experimental animals. Intestinal absorption of both CS and high and low molecular weight polysaccharides derived from its partial depolymerization and/or desulfation has been confirmed in man.Absorption reaches its peak between the 3rd and 4th hour. (Conte et al., 1991.)

Placebo-controlled, double blind studies that demonstrate GS and CS induced benefits to OA, however, have not determined mechanisms of action. Nevertheless, as a source of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate, velvet antler is worthy of consideration in OA therapy (Sim and Sunwoo, 1999).A glycosaminoglycan-rich antler product, GAGRA, is available for commercial use relative to the treatment of OA and arthritis (Sim and Sunwoo, 1999).

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

In RA, the synovial membrane of multiple joints are inflamed; fibroblasts in the synovium invade and damage both cartilage and bone. In addition to these synovial fibroblasts, T-helper cells may also add to a rheumatoid inflammatory response. T-helper cells are inhibited by interleukin (IL)-4, IL-b, and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), but require the administration of antigens in order to enhance the secretion of these T-helper inhibiting factors while simultaneously causing oral tolerance (Kalden and Sieper, 1998).

As an antigen, collagen type II was used with success in both experimental animal trials and an open study against collagen type II RA (Trentham et al., 1994). Use was based on the fact that orally-administered collagen type II stimulates T-cell production of IL-4, IL-10, and TGF-beta and precipitates oral tolerance (Kalden and Sieper, I 998). One trial involved 60 RA patients in a double-blind setting; those given chicken type II collagen for 3 months enjoyed significant reductions in joint swelling and pain, and 4 patients claimed complete remission. The patients receiving placebo reported neither symptom reductions nor remission (Trentham et al., 1993). Collagen type II was also of significant note in the treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JVA): after 3 months of therapy, 8 of 10 patients given oral chicken type II collagen had less pain, swelling and morning stiffness, and increased grip strength and ambulatory endurance (Barnett et al., 1996).

Oral tolerance models have been used as a method of creating antigenspecific tolerance in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and uveitis (Trentham et al., 1993). The theory and application of oral tolerance parallels those of allergic desensitization: the allergic patient little by little, through carefully controlled exposure, becomes desensitized to the allergen until the allergy finally abates. As an autoantigen in the etiology of the autoimmune aspect of RA and the primary protein in articular cartilage, type II collagen activates T-cells and also the chronic degeneration of joint cartilage of bones. In reaction to its oral administration, T-cells generated by the immune response contain cytokines that can suppress part of the degenerative response that occurs in RA (Kalden and Sieper, I 998).

Velvet antler is a significant source of type II collagen and worthy of serious consideration in the treatment of RA. Future clinical trials conducted to determine the effects of velvet antler on T-cell production and the autoimmune factors of RA will likely support the use of velvet antler in RA.

Immune Stimulant and Antitumor Effects

Monocytes in rats given velvet antler extracts reportedly increase (Church, 1999). Monocytes represent 3-7% of leukocytes Iin blood and are necessary to the immune function of lymph, spleen, bone marrow, and loose connective tissue.

Their increase may serve to enhance immune function. In subsequent studies, immune stimulant activity was ascertained. Intraperitoneal injection of pantocrin (0.5-2 mg/kg) enhanced phagocytosis and immunoglobulin levels in mice (Wang, 1996). After analysis of 8 New Zealand red deer extracts, it was determined that extracts prepared from freeze dried antlers that were harvested from the deer at days 60 or 85 had significant immune stimulant activity (Suttie and Haines, 1996). The studies of the 8 extracts used two dosage ranges, the first entailing extracts that were diluted from 500mg/ml to 62mg/ml; the second, extracts ranging from 62mg/ml to 15mg/ml. The investigators found that all extracts in the first set of dilutions carried some immune stimulant capacity, as did those in the second set, even in dilutions as low as 15mg/ml. The extracts used, however, underwent various types of processing and were obtained from various regions of the antler, so their effects were different. The extract designated as Extract E was freeze-dried and from the antler base, and was both immune stimulant and antiinflamatory, for example. The study had numerous parameters and statistical factors and investigators were unable to say which extract was the most active, nor were they able to conclude the specific mechanism underlying velvet antler’s immune effects. However, it is postulated that due to cytokines in the antlers, the response is humoral, involving antibody stimulation, as opposed to being a cell-mediated response. And because of the potential for side effects pursuant to the use of any drug or supplement, it was significant to determine that even at the lowest dilution, immune enhancement was still observed. (Suttie and Haines, 1996).

Myotropic and Neurotropic Effects

Pantocrin was observed in the late 1960s and early 1970s to have a positive effect on the endurance of laboratory animals. Pantocrin extracts increased the working capacity of mice (Brekhman et al., 1969), and these early findings led to experiments designed to study the effects of pantocrin on athletes.

In Russia, tests included one study in which subjects were given either pantocrin or rantarin (reindeer antler); results were compared to the physical exertions of a control groups of athletes. Athletes given pantocrin exhibited 74kg/m dynamic work potential on an exercise bicycle; those given rantocrine, 103kg/m. The control group performed at 15kg/m. (Yudin and Dubryakov, 1974.)

Spurred on by studies like this, Dr. Arkady Koltun, MD, chair of the Medical Committee for the Russian Bodybuilding Federation, included velvet antler in his studies of anabolic agents and their effects on muscle composition, endurance and strength. Early theorists suggested that the elevated performance levels arose from velvet antler increases in muscle restoration following exertion, and from adaptogenic properties of the velvet antler preparations, which help the body to recoup following physical, external, or biochemical challenge (Fulder, 1980). DrArkady’s research demonstrated that velvet antler was both myotropic and neurotropic in effect.

Because these effects serve to increase muscle and nerve strength, they do tend to support early theories. Also, pantocrin enables rats and rabbits to recover quickly from whiplash-like injuries. The effect is thought to be due to increases in glycolosis, which is a necessary process in the maintenance of healthy nerve tissue. Humans with cervical injuries reportedly heal faster when administered pantocrin, as well (Church, 1999).

Despite these indications that velvet antler is myotropic and neurotropic, a 1998 study in which the strength training of the Edmonton (Canada) police recruits was supplemented with elk velvet antler (EVA) demonstrated significant increases in neither endurance nor performance. The study did show, however, that the EVA supplement significantly increased testosterone levels in blood plasma.

The nine week study intended to provide support for the hypothesis that EVA increases muscle mass and strength through anabolic effects. The rigorous training program involved both strength and endurance exercises, and recruits received either placebo or EVA. Venous blood samples were analyzed for cortisol, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-l), and various approved physical markers were recorded before and after the 9 week period.

EVA was chosen as a trial substance in strength and endurance training because of its protein content, as athletes have increased protein needs. The proteins in EVA stay in their original form and are not degraded by heat and acids during processing. It is also a rich source of undenatured, intact branched chain amino acids, which may stimulate the increased testosterone levels noted in the results of this study. It is postulated that these amino acids, some of which are branched chain amino acids, stimulate testosterone release from Leydig cells in the testes, due to EVA-prodded signals from luteinizing hormone. Other theories suggest that EVA may block the release of testosterone from the kidneys while raising testosterone half-life, or it may bind with sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). (Fisher, et al. 1998.)

Antler extract preparations rantarin and pantocrin both exert androgenic effects, which means that they increase the production of testosterone and its metabolites. In this capacity, velvet antler may function in a way that is similar to the supplement androstenedione, which was made famous at the end of the 1998 baseball season by record-holding batter Mark McGwire. Androstenedione is a steroid precursor produced normally by the adrenal glands and gonads, and is converted to testosterone in the liver. While no long term studies on the performance-enhancement use of androstenedione exist, manufacturers and users say that the steroid precursor helps to build muscle mass and reduce recovery time following injury (‘osephson, 1998).

Furthermore, a discussion included in a report of similar study, in which velvet antler was given to male university athletes, postulates that the dosages used in tests so far may be too low (Gerrard et al.).The male university athletes received 70mg daily for 10 weeks; the dose of the EVA supplements given to the Edmonton police recruits were not included in the report of the study.

In the university athlete trial, researchers report that while results were not statistically significant in this study, there was a positive trend toward increasing athletic strength. While the study did not firmly demonstrate strength and endurance enhancement, the investigators involved note that velvet antler-induced erythropoiesis should stimulate increases in muscle mass. Further, they suggested that this effect, combined with antunflammatory effects of velvet antler and reported lactic acid removal efficiency, should enhance muscle composition, and exertional stamina and recovery time. (Gerrard et al.)

Hypotensive

A Japanese study in which 8 out of 10 patients received pantocrin resulted in significant and transient reductions in arterial blood pressure. The systolic reading was lowered by 20 to 70 points, and the diastolic by as much as 10 to 20mmHg.Taking into account all the objective and subjective indices, pantocrin was 80% effective. Another study showed that that intravenous administration of alcohol extract from Siberian deer antler at 0.85m1/kg lowers arterial blood pressure by and average of 20-23mmHg, for 126 seconds in cats and 123 seconds in rabbits. (Fisher et al., I 998).

Used intravenously at doses of 0.5-Smg/kg in cats anesthetized with 25mg Na-pentabarbital/kg, pantocrin caused an immediate drop in blood pressure, which returned to normal after two minutes. Given intravenously to rabbits that had been previously treated with atropine and physostigmine, pantocrin’s effects were found to be blocked by atropine and enhanced by physostigmine. Further, cervical vagus nerve amputation did not change the effects of pantocrin on blood pressure, neither did electrical stimulation of the right peripheral vagus nerve. (Fisher et al., I 998).

In anaesthetized dogs, 1mg/kg pantocrin injection to the left femoral artery lowered blood pressure comparably to that caused by 0.2mg/kg acetylcholine. Effects were only in the left femoral artery; at 3mg/kg blood pressure lowering effects extended to the right femoral artery. Pantocrin also stimulated an increase in blood flow. Intravenous administration lowered blood pressure in both arteries, and was somewhat blocked by atropine, but did not stimulate an increase in blood flow. The researchers concluded that pantocrin acted directly on blood vessels and on the parasympathetic nervous system due to cholinergic effects. (Fisher et al., 1998.)

The extent of hypotensive effects exerted by pantocrin on humans has been reported by some investigators to be negligible if pantocrin is given in doses prescribed in Chinese medicine (0.5-1mg/kg body weight), and that at high doses (0.15g/kg) precipitate only a mild reduction in blood pressure. Discrepancies in the hypotensive response in humans to pantocrin led to an analysis of the influence of temperature in the production of the velvet antler extract. The product that had the most influential effect on blood pressure was reported to have undergone a 50% ethanol extraction at 121C for 16 hours, and the entire process included centrifuging and vacuum drying the extract. The residue was then dissolved in an NaCI solution .85m1/kg caused a 20mgHg fall in blood pressure in anaesthetized rats. (Church, 1999.)

Because freeze dried rump steak had similar effects on blood pressure, it was theorized that hypotensive effects of protein extracts are not caused by cholinergic receptor activity. Instead, it was theorized that hypotensive results obtained from intravenous administration stems from an pantocrin-induced weakening of the cells in vascular walls, due to hyperpolarization. Most researchers agree that hypotensive effects are due to choline compounds (Church, 1999).

Antishock

Velvet antler also demonstrates an ability to prevent or reduce both shock and stress responses. Rats given velvet antler prior to exposure to extreme temperatures and to electric shock demonstrated quicker recovery times than those that did not receive antler treatment (Kang, 1970). Tests also show that in laboratory animals, velvet antler may prevent stress-stimulated hypertrophy of the adrenal glands and involution of the thymus (Yudin and Dubryakov, 1974).

Miscellaneous Effects

Many other effects exerted by velvet antler on physiological processes have been described and require further, follow-up research. The polysaccharides in velvet antler may play a role in observed antiulcer effects (Wang et al., 1985). Rantarin administered before gastrointestinal surgery aided recovery (Kim and Lim, 1977). Velvet antler extracts protected the liver from carbon tetrachloride toxicity in rats (Church, 1999). Cholesterol levels were reduced in rats given velvet antler in their diets (Church, 1999).

Velvet antler may also help to treat inflammatory liver and kidney diseases in a manner similar to steroid-based pharmaceuticals. Due to its androgenic activity, velvet antler was used to determine its effects on the liver and kidney. Liver tissue already damaged with chloroform was able to recover following velvet antler treatment. It was observed in follow-up studies that protein formation in both the liver and kidney was enhanced, due to effects of velvet antler on RNS polymerase activity. (Wang et al., 1990.)

In chickens, velvet antler increased growth rate slightly, enhanced food conversion, increased weight of testes and reduced the weight of the thyroid (Church, 1999). Tip section preparations have also been observed to stimulate wound healing (Church, 1999). Erythrpoiesis, increased red blood cell production, has been observed in anemic rats and rabbits given velvet antler products (Church, 1999); this finding supports the empirical use of velvet antler for anemia in humans.

Velvet extracts also slow tumor growth and demonstrate antitumor activity against Bacillus P-92, a tumor cell line, in mice (Suttie et al., 1994). Fermented velvet antler increases the survival rate of mice that have tumors, from 25-40% (Church, 1999). Polysaccharides in velvet antler may be responsible for the antiinflammatory actions of a fraction isolated from antler in the treatment of mammary hyperplasia (Suttie and Haines, 1996).

Velvet antler may also benefit the elderly through protective effects against senility. In mice, senescence-accelerated mice (SAM) given a hot water extract of velvet antler for 8 days demonstrated improvements in parameters that convey the progression of senility, compared to control mice in whom parameters remained unchanged (Wang et al., 1988).

Summary Of Biochemical Effects & Implications For Research

Research so far supports a therapeutic role for velvet antler in a number of conditions. Biological effects have been reproduced in some clinical experiments, but further research is necessary in order to determine modes of action, adverse effects, drug interactions and contraindications.

Velvet antler polysaccharides have been associated with antiulcer effects, the choline compounds to hypotensive actions. Glucosaminoglycans, glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, have potent antiinflammatory effects and significant clinical implications in the treatment of osteoarthritis and other degenerative muscle, bone and joint conditions.

In addition, studies suggest that pep-tide growth factors, such as epidermal growth factor (EGF), may have a role in wound healing, and may be useful in the estrogen replacement therapies, since EGF supplants estrogen in genital tract development. IGF- I, luteinizing hormones and prostaglandins alter inflammatory events, muscular atrophy and androgen formation. Oxygen metabolism, blood cell formation and muscle tissue enhancement may stimulate rejuvenative and tonic actions that benefit athletes, the elderly and cardiovascular disease patients alike.

Velvet antler awaits scientific determination of its clinical efficacy in the treatment of RA. However, its collagen content indicates that its effects would be beneficial. In light of the collagen and GAG research that has been performed in clinical settings, and due to their concentrations in quality velvet antler products, velvet antler has received scientific substantiation to be marketed as dietary supplement for the support of healthy joint function.

Velvet Antler Is Reputed To Be Extremely Safe.

Citations

Archer, R. H., and P J. Palfreyman. 1983. Properties of New Zealand DeerVelvet, Part I: Search of the Literature Vol I.Massey University and Wrightson NMA Ltd.

Barnett, M.L.; D. Gombitchi; D.E. Trentham. A pilot trial of oral type II collagen in the treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 1996; 39 (4): 623-628.

Brekhman, J.T;Y.L. Dubryakov; A.L. Taneyeva. The biological activity of the antlers of deer and other deer species. lvestio Sibirskogo Orderlemia Akalemi Nank SISR, Biological Series No 10(2): 112-115.

Burgio, PA. Velvet: Factors Affecting Growth, Biochemical Analysis, and the Medicinal Application.

Church, J.S. Velvet Antler: Its historical medical use, performance enhancing effects and pharmacology. Elk Tech International Research Centre, http:/www.elktech.com/research.htm. 1999.

Conte, A.; M. de Bernardi; L. Palmieri; P Lualdi; G. Mautone; G. Ronca. Metabolic fate of exogenous chondroitin sulfate in man. Arzneim-Forsch./Drug Res 1991; 41(11): 76~77 I.

Fisher, B.D.; M. Gilpin; D. Wiles. Strength training parameters in Edmonton police recruits folliwng supplementation with elk velvet antler (EVA). University of Alberta. I 998.

Fulder, S. The drug that builds Russians. New Scientist 1980b;87 (1215):516-519.

Gerrard, D.F; G.G. Sleivert; A. Goulding; S.R. Haines: J. M. Suttie. Clinical evaluation of New Zealand deer velvet antler on muscle strength and endurance in healthy male university athletes.

Josephson, D. Concern raised about performance enhancing drugs in the US. BMJ I 998;3 17:702 (12 September).

Kalden,J.R., and J. Sieper. Oral collagen in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.Arthritis and Rheumatism, 1998; 41(2): 191-194.

Kamen, B. Red Deer AntlerVelvet: Growth Hormone Connection, and More! Health Sciences Institute. 1998; 2(8): 1-2.

Kang, W S.. Influence of antler (deer horn) on the mesenteric mast cells of rates exposed to heat, cold or electric shock. J. Cathol. Med. College 1970; 19:1-9.

Kim,Y E., and D. K. Lim. Biochemical studies on antler (Cervus nippon taiouanus) V:A study of glycolipids and phosholipids of antler velvet layer and pantocrin. Korean Biochem.J. 1977; 10:153-164.

Morreal, P; R. Manopulo; M. Galati; L. Boccanera; G. Saponati; L. Bocchi. Comparison of the antiinflammatory efficacy of chondroitin sulfate and diclofenac sodium in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Rheumatol 1996; 23:1 385-I 391.

Palmieri, L.;A. Conte; L. Giovannini; P Lualdi; G. Ronca. Metabolic fate of exogenous chondroitin sulfate in the experimental animal. Arzneim-Forsch Drug Res I 990; 40

(l):319-323.

Price, J.S.; B.O. Oyajobi; A.M. Nalin, et al. Chondrogenesis in the regenerating antler tip in red deer: expression of collagen types I, hA, IIB, and X demonstrated by in situ nucleic acid hybridization and immunocytochemistry. Dev Dyn 1996; 205(3): 332-347.

Setnikar, I.; C. Giacchetti; G. Zanolo. Pharmacokinetics of glucosamine in dog and in man.Arzneim.-Forsch. Drug Res 1986; 36 (I): 729-735.

Setnikar, I.; R. Palumbo; S. Canali; G. Zanolo. Pharmacokinetics of glucosamine in man.Arzneim.-Forsch. Drug Res 1993;43(l I): 1109-1113.

Sim,J.S., and H. H. Sunwoo. Canadian scientists study velvet antler for arthritis treatment. Canadian Elk & Deer Farmer, Winter 1999 39~0.

Sunwoo, H.H.; L.YM. Sim; T. Nakano; R.J. Hudson; J.S. Sim. Glycosaminoglycans from growing antlers of wapiti (Cervus elaphus). Canadian Journal of Animal Science. 1997; 77:

7l5-21.

Sunwoo, H.H.;T. Nakano; RJ. Hudson; J.S. Sim. Isolation, characterization and localization of glycosamines in growing antlers of wapiti (Cervus elephus). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B 1998:273-283.

Suttie,J. M.; I. D. Corson, et al. Insulin-like growth factor I, growth and body composition in red deer stags. Anim. Prod. 1991;53:237-242.

Suttie, J.M.; P D. Gluckman, et al. Insulin like growth factor I: antler stimulating hormone? Endocrinol. 1986; 116: 846-848.

Suttie, J.M.; P F Fennessy, et al. Antler growth in deer. Proc. Deer Course for Veterinarians (Deer Branch, NZ Vet Assoc) 1991;8: 155-168.

Suttie, J. M.; P F Fennessy, et al. Pulsatile growth hormone, insulin-like growth factors and antler development in red deer (Cervus elaphus scoticus) stags. J. Endocrinol. 1989; 121:351-360.

Suttie, J.M.; PF Fennessy; S.R. Haines; M. Sadighi; D.R. Kerr; C. lssacs.The New Zealand velvet antler industry: Background and research findings. International symposium

on Cervi Parvum Cornu. KSP Proceedings. 1994; 86-I 35.

Suttie,J.M., and S. Haines. 1996. G.I.B. component of velvet antler programme: evaluation of velvet antler. New Zealand: VARNz Ltd.

Trentham, D.E.; RA. Dynesius-Trentham; F.J. Orav; et al. Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. Science 1993; 261:1 727-1730.

Wang, B. Advances in research of chemistry, pharmacology and clinical application of pilose antler. Proceedings of the 1996 International Symposium on Deer Science and Deer Products. 1996; I4-31.

Wang, B. X.; X. H. Zhao, et al. Effects of repeated administration of deer antler extract on biochemical changes related to aging in senescence-accelerated mice. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1988; 36: 2593-2598.

Wang, B.X.;AJ. Liu; X.J. Cheng; Q.G.Wang; G. R.Wei; J.C.Cui. Anti-ulcer action of the polysaccharides isolated from pilose antler. [Article in Chinese] Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pa

I 985;20(5):32 1-325

Wang, B.X.; X.G. Chen; W Zhang. Influence of the active compounds isolated from pilose antler on syntheses of protein and RNA in mouse liver. [Article in Chinese] Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pao 1990;25(5):321-325.

Yasui, N., and M.E. Nimni. 1998. Cartilage collagens. In: Collagen, Volume I. M.E. Nimmi, ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 225-24 I.

Yudin, A. M. and Y L. Dubryakov 1974.A guide for the preparation and storage of uncalcified male antlers as a medicinal raw material. In: Reindeer Antlers, Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Vladivostock: Far East Science Center.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NATURAL HEALTH (An Anti-Aging Manual)
    By Joseph B. Marion
Excerpt from Page 314:

DEER ANTLER VELVET: Called Lu Rong in China where it has been used 2000 years for circulation, building Red blood cells countering anemia; and empowering the kidneys, understood as an energy reserve for reproduction, growth, increases cell replication 300%, builds the skeleton, lungs, and endocrine glands. Velvet Antler enhances muscle development with its Insulin-like growth hormone IGF-1; has Pantocrin improving athletic strength and performance; anti-aging, restores damaged nerves, improves mental function, anti-stress, counters fatigue, hypertension, inhibits PMS, impotence, precurses Luteinizing hormone spurring Testosterone; lowers stroke and heart attack risk 400%. Deer Antler is anti-viral, resists infections, has anti-inflammatory Chondroitin-Sulfate A reversing atherosclerosis, arthritis, joint and cartilage degeneration, anti-tumor. Velvet Antler contains lipids, Proteins, Minerals, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, and Selenium; Glucosamine, N-Acetyl Glucosamine for wound healing, Glyeosaminoglycans, Prostaglandins, antibiotic Velvatin nucleotides used against cancer and A.I.D.S., and Cartilage for bone joint health and anti-cancer.

Marion, Joseph B. Anti-Aging Manual: The Encyclopedia of Natural Health. Revised Second Edition, Woodstock, CT: Information Pioneers, 1999 

So what?s this buzz about ancient Chinese medicines made from deer and elk antlers?   How can a few daily pills revive energy, strengthen bones, and sooth arthritic joints?  It all sounds like some wacky New Age bunk.  These doubts enter the minds of nearly every first-time user of velvet antler.  Velvet antler is an all-natural product.  No big-name university with a pharmaceutical research grant engineered it.  No medical laboratory spent millions to develop it.  So, can a dietary supplement direct from nature really be effective?   A growing number of Americans are becoming believers.  Jack Matthias, a resort owner in Northern Michigan, is one of thousands of NATRAflex customers benefiting from velvet antler.  Here is his story.

For over 30 years, Jack had led a sedentary lifestyle.  He continually battled weight gain, high cholesterol, early signs of arthritis, and mild coronary artery disease.   Jack also suffered from sleep apnea, a condition that prevents one from gaining a full night?s rest.   Jack’s health caused a constant lack of energy and even mild depression.  Each year’s physical brought new recommendations for a variety of prescription drugs.

Jack, and his wife Jan, run the Thunder Bay Golf Resort (www.ThunderBayResort.com) in Hillman, Michigan.  Jack has owned the resort for the past 30 years.  The resort contains a 160-acre Elk Reserve with protected elk.  During the fall and winter seasons, the resort offers guests a special sleigh or wagon ride to view the roaming elk.  Trail guides relay the history of elk in Michigan and across the country.   The ride ends at the resort’s Elk Antler Log Cabin.  Here, guests enjoy five course gourmet dinner cooked in antique wood-fired stoves.  During dinner, Jack and the other guides continue the discussion about elk antlers and describe their regrowth each year.  They talk about the use of velvet antler in Traditional Chinese & Korean Medicine (TCM).

“When we began, both Jan and I were very skeptical about the Velvet Antler stories,” remembered Jack. “But it was interesting, and part of the lore that makes Elk such fascinating animals. Until the late 1990’s, velvet antler was very hard to find in the United States. However, people began asking our guides how they could get it. We directed them to NATRAflex and the Internet, and asked them to let us know how it works. The feedback began slowly, but became very positive.”

For Jack, now 61, the last straw came when he read that his arthritis medication only provided joint pain relief. His joints were continuing to deteriorate. This, combined with declining energy levels, hindered his ability to do physical work at the resort. He decided to try NATRAflex Premium Velvet Antler for himself.

Jack took three 250mg capsules of NATRAflex Premium Velvet Antler each day. Within 90 days, his joint pain had ceased and he had revitalized energy. He was once again able to perform physical tasks that had previously been extremely difficult. Most surprisingly, Jack began dreaming again, which signaled control of his sleep apnea. Jack had experienced sleep apnea for years. Sleep apnea is a medical disorder causing sufferers to stop breathing from a few seconds to a full minute, several times during each hour of sleep. This breathing pause can last anywhere from a few seconds to a full minute. This condition prevents a person from reaching the deeper levels of sleep where dreaming occurs.

People with sleep apnea often arise more tired than when they went to bed. The stress causes increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. There is supposedly no known cure for sleep apnea. Doctors usually prescribe weight loss and exercise. Many patients sleep with a mask hooked to a blower to keep the airways open, which helps restore normal breathing. Jack refused the C-PAP blower and mask treatment. Within 90 days of beginning a daily regiment of NATRAflex Premium Velvet Antler, Jack’s sleep apnea was gone.

Jack’s rejuvenated vitality, and his success over sleep apnea, gave him confidence to battle his weight. He weighed 275 pounds. He began the Atkins Diet, while increasing his treadmill workouts. In the next four months, Jack shed 35 pounds. His current goal is to drop another 45 pounds to get under 200 pounds.

Today, 10 months since he started taking NATRAflex Premium Velvet Antler, Jack is living a revitalized life. His new health regiment has diminished his reliance on expensive medical and allergy prescriptions.

“I feel better than I have in 30 years,” expressed Jack. “I never realized how much the allergies and sleep apnea had affected my productivity. I’ve already phased out four prescription drugs. My cholesterol has fallen from 180 to 138, while good to bad ratios have greatly increased and triglycerides have dropped to 50. Dosage on my cholesterol drug has been reduced by two-thirds, and I hope to eliminate it entirely soon.”

“The cost of NATRAflex Premium Velvet Antler is far less than my insurance co-pay,” continued Jack. “Health care costs are out of control. More people are losing coverage and drug prices are becoming obscene. People need to take responsibility and gain control of your own health. I am really enjoying depriving the drug companies of my $3,000 to $4,000 yearly contribution. As a result of the positive feedback from our resort guests, my own experience, and similar experiences of our staff, we began to offer NATRAflex Premium Velvet Antler at the Thunder Bay Golf Resort,” stated Jack.”It’s a great feeling to help other people regain some control over their own health.”

For many of us, we are content to spend a snowy winter day sipping hot chocolate in the comfort of a warm fire. Dori Hollingsworth has a different perspective. Dori is a World Champion in the rugged sport of sled dog racing. She and her dogs brave Alaska’s frigid temperatures, steep mountain inclines, and blinding snow for miles at a time. Together, they have thrived in this punishing environment.

Dori’s team has set track records and claimed multiple championships, including the 2001 IFSS World Championship.   Dori has continued to set important benchmarks for competitors.  An important edge for Dori is her training program, which includes NATRAflex’s SUPERflex Pet Formula velvet antler supplements.

Dori and her husband, Daryl, live in Seward, Alaska.  They have two daughters.  The idea of sled dog racing grew from a simple concept.  “I asked Daryl to make a sled for the girls,” reflected Dori.  “The idea was that the family pet, a Golden Retreiver, would pull the girls around. One thing led to another.  Pretty soon we had 25 dogs in the yard and were heavy into racing.”

Dori competes in several race classes, including 6-dog, 8-dog, and the open class. The open class allows a racer flexibility, and the ability to stock the team with any number of dogs.  Dori typically uses 12-14 dogs in open class races.  The 6-dog races are usually 6-8 miles in distance.  Most Championship races are more than one day.  For example, the 2001 IIFSS World Championships went three days of 8 mile legs each day.

THE EFFECTS OF VELVET ANTLER
Dori first learned about velvet antler by accident.  She found it while looking for something to extend the racing life span of her older dogs.   The sport can be especially hard on larger male dogs.  They tend to suffer from joint deterioration sooner than normal, which can contribute to injury, slower speed, and lower endurance.

“The real clincher was with a big male named Ruffian,” explained Dori.  “He was suffering from a wrist injury.  I started him on NATRAflex’s SUPERflex Pet Formula, which really helped his recovery.  Then, we ran out just before traveling to one of our big races.  But, since he was doing fine, I didn’t bother to get any more.  Right after the first race he came in with a swollen wrist.  I figured he was out for the rest of the season, until I remembered the velvet antler connection.  I called NATRAflex, and got some more.  After a week, the swelling had gone down, and Ruffian was back to running with the race team.  He finished out the season without another problem.”

The dogs get one SUPERflex Pet Formula tablet in the morning and one at night.  “If one of the dogs need it, we will increase the dosage during the racing season,” explained Dori.  The dogs are on a high quality dry food in the summer.  Dori adds meat to the food during Fall training.   By the time the main racing season starts in February and March, the dogs are getting two-thirds meat and only one-third dry food.

THE FAMILY HOBBY
Sled dog racing is a hobby for Dori and Daryl. Both have full-time jobs. However, they take racing very seriously. ?We are not doing this for the money,” joked Dori. “Our goal each year is to win enough races that we can at least pay the dog food bill. Sometimes we actually do. We do this because we love spending time outdoors with the dogs. It’s also a great sport that our whole family can participate in, especially training and taking care of the dogs.”

Training is year-round in sled dog racing. In the summer, Dori and family takes the dogs out four at a time, and lets them run free about once a week. Starting in September, the dogs begin a conditioning program. “We will hook them up in front of the ATV & keep the speed slower than they would normally run,” explained Dori. “We seldom run faster than 15-17 mph on the ATV, but we race at 20+ mph. Fall training is much like weight lifting. We start out a couple of times a week at 3 miles, then increase to four times a week at 6 miles. When the snow starts falling, we switch to the sled. We increase the mileage to whatever race we are working towards. We seldom run more than 16 miles. We are very consistent with our training schedule.”

VELVET ANTLER NOT JUST FOR THE DOGS
The most noticeable impact of the velvet antler on the dog team was the lack of injuries. Dori also noticed that their joints responded much better to wear and tear of the racing season. “We were so impressed with the results of SUPERflex Pet Formula on the dogs, we decided try NATRAflex’s product for men and women, Premium Velvet Antler, for ourselves,” expressed Dori. “I first got it for my husband, Daryl. He is a professional jazz musician, and plays the string bass. So, it’s important for his hands and joints stay in good shape. I started taking it myself shortly after Daryl.”

Dori and Daryl were both impressed with NATRAflex’s Premium Velvet Antler. “I had an energized, overall good feeling,” commented Dori. “An unexpected thing happened too. About a week after I started taking the velvet antler, I noticed that a rash that I developed prior suddenly disappeared. I have found it to be much better than regular glucosamine, so I would highly recommend it to anyone that is using that. Seriously, I think you could probably reduce the vitamin pile with this one product!” Dori and Daryl continue to take three capsules daily.

MORE TESTIMONIALS FROM THE NEIGHBORS
Following her own positive experiences, Dori convinced an elderly friend to try NATRAflex?s Premium Velvet Antler. “Now he is raving about how his arthritis is not bothering him any more,” responded Dori.

Stay updated on Dori’s race progress at www.SledDogCentral.com.