Deer Velvet or Elk Antler Print Page

Common Names: elk antler, velvet antler, deer velvet

Scientific NamesCervus nippon, Cervus elaphus

Bottom Line

Effectiveness: There is little evidence for use in osteoarthritis. More research would be needed in this area. Likely not effective for use in rheumatoid arthritis.

Safety: Possibly safe when used orally and at studied doses for up to 12 weeks.

What is Deer Velvet?

  • Deer velvet is the soft hair that covers the growing bone and cartilage that develops into deer antlers.
  • The antlers are removed, dried, and ground into powder. This powder is used in medicines.

What it is it used for in people with rheumatic conditions?

  • Deer velvet has been used to reduce muscle aches and pains, improve the way the immune system works, and decrease inflammation.
  • Deer velvet has also been used in people with osteoarthritis to reduce joint pain and improve function.

How is it thought to work?

  • It is thought to have healing and rejuvenating properties in traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Deer velvet is made up of substances that may help cells grow and function (including amino acids, vitamin A, estradiol, sphingomyelin, prostaglandins, and epidermal growth factor).
  • How deer velvet might work to treat rheumatic conditions is unknown.

Does it Work? What the Science Says:

Cervusen® 2 x 350mg:

  • A randomised, double blinded, placebo controlled study of 54 patients with osteoarthritis. Cervusen® 700mg for 6 months improved pain (¯11 points on 100 point VAS), patient global assessment (¯16 points) and WOMAC stiffness (¯25 points) compared to baseline. There was no difference on the WOMAC questionnaire, version 3. Adverse effects were not reported.
  • A small, reasonably well conducted study showed deer velvet may decrease pain, but not improve function, in patients with OA.

Elk velvet antler 4x 250 mg:

  • A randomized, triple blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 168 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had residual symptoms on DMARD therapy. Elk velvet antler 1000 mg for 6 months did not significantly change scores on the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scale (AIMS2), health assessment questionnaire (AHQ), tender/swollen joint counts or pain scale (VAS) compared with placebo. Although this was a well-designed study, it was underpowered and ~20% did not complete the study. Adverse effects were reported by 31% & 26% of patients in each group (details not reported).
  • Small trial did not show benefit for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

What are possible side effects and what can I do about them?

  • It is unknown what side effects might occur with deer velvet.
  • There were no specific side effects reported in short-term studies.


With drugs:

  • Deer velvet may act like the hormone estrogen. It likely should not be used with birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.

With Other Diseases:

  • Deer velvet may act like the hormone estrogen. It likely should not be used by women with hormone sensitive conditions or cancers (such as breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer).


For more information about Deer Velvet, consult your physician and pharmacist.

What is Rheumatology?

Rheumatologists see over 100 different types of diseases. We are known for seeing arthritis, however, we also see many other conditions.

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