Velvet antler may prevent acute lung injury

Taking velvet antler as a dietary supplement can protect your lungs from sustaining acute injuries, reported Taiwanese researchers in a NutraIngredients-USA article. Their recently published study identified antioxidant effects in the potential functional food that can prevent destructive inflammation in lung tissue.

Acute lung injury (ALI) is a clinical condition where lung tissue is deprived of oxygen by conditions not involving hypertension in the left atrium. The most widespread form of acute respiratory failure, its symptoms include the leakage of lung proteins, the concentration of inflammatory cells in lung tissue, and inflammation-causing cytokines and mediators flooding the organs.

Patients with ALI have a higher chance of getting additional sicknesses or dying. The disease can cause severe clinical disorders that include major trauma, sepsis, and shock.

Searching for natural ways of preventing the onset of ALI, China Medical University (CMU) researchers investigated velvet antler as a possible functional food. They published their findings in the scientific journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (Related: Nanoparticles made from tea leaves halted the growth of up to 80% of lung cancer cells, new study shows.)

Velvet antler, a traditional East Asian supplement

Velvet antler is the underdeveloped cartilaginous antler of a deer such as the red deer (Cervus elpahus). Covered in a velvety skin, the immature organ is harvested from the animals before it calcifies and hardens in preparation for the mating season.

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The harvesting process is relatively harmless to the animals, which will naturally shed antlers after the mating season and regrow a new set in a few months.

For centuries, velvet antler has been employed as a traditional medicine in China and Korea. It reportedly stimulates the immune system and increases the physical strength of those who consume it.

The CMU researchers studied the possible protective effect of an aqueous extract derived from velvet antler. They tested the extract on mice that were given toxic bacterial lipopolysaccharides to simulate acute lung injury.

Velvet antler extract stops harmful oxidants that damage lung cells

In their paper, they reported that mice pre-treated with aqueous velvet antler for five days were protected from the toxic effects of lipopolysaccharides. The extract prevented changes to the lung tissues and improved the activity of antioxidant enzymes.

Upon analyzing bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from the right lung of the mice, the researchers found that pre-treated mice showed far fewer cells and proteins than untreated mice. Furthermore, they remarked that the extract stopped lipopolysaccharide-affected macrophages and ALI from undergoing harmful processes.

The extract prevented the expression of the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), enzymes that produce damaging toxic radicals and trigger inflammation in tissue. It also stopped the phosphate-based activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) proteins, which controls cell responses to stimuli such as inflammation caused by iNOS and COX-2.

The findings suggested that aqueous velvet antler can suppress inflammation in vivo. Its effects could serve as a future model for functional foods that are designed to prevent ALI.

Furthermore, they believe the extract achieves these anti-inflammatory effects by preventing the activation of MAPK proteins and upregulating AMP-activated protein kinases, another group of enzymes that maintain the balance and stability of cellular energy. The extract may also regulate the activity of antioxidant enzymes that protect tissue from oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals.

“The protective effect of aqueous velvet antler may be related to its ability to depress reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, enhance antioxidant status, and regulate pro-inflammatory cytokine production,” the researchers concluded in their paper. “Thus, we believe that the present study could be used as a promising ingredient in functional foods or nutraceuticals against inflammatory diseases.”

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