As the only male secondary sexual appendages of deer, antlers have aroused much attention from both Eastern and Western scholars for more than two thousand years, which explains their extraordinary value. Eastern scholars (particularly in China) and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have treated velvet antler (VA, at growing phase) as a mythical medicinal material, as referred to in compendia of clinic efficacy following long-term practice (for example, Shennong’s Classic of Materia Medica, written more than 2000 years ago). Western scholars of mammalian biology have also considered antlers as an organ of significant interest, and have long observed and described their unique biological phenomena (for example, Aristotle 384-322 BC). These two spheres of interest of the East and the West are maintained today.
Eastern scholars discovered and continue to discover the clinical efficacy of VA, and developed and continue to develop prescriptions containing VA ingredients in combination with other herbs. There are now hundreds of VA-related prescriptions in classic TCM literature, which has indisputably made VA the foremost animal-derived medicinal material. As a result, antler is known to every Eastern household as a precious TCM. In recent years, particularly since the late 20th century, systemic research has been carried out on bioactives, pharmacology and clinical efficacy of VA by scholars mainly from China, Korea and Japan, who have published numerous papers on their studies.
In the West, from the 20th century onwards, scholars who have been attracted by the unique and astonishing biological phenomena of antlers have focused their studies on antler growth and development, particularly in the following areas: endocrine control of antler development, antler histology, and search for the very tissue/cells responsible for antler generation and regeneration. These studies have led to the use of antlers as valuable biomedical models for multiple purposes.
Gratifyingly, since the end of the last century, more and more Eastern scholars have become interested in investigating the underlying molecular mechanisms of antlers’ unique biological phenomena and have published scientific papers in prestigious Western journals. Similarly, Western researchers (mainly from New Zealand, Australia, Russia and Canada) have begun to appreciate the medicinal/health supporting properties of VA, thereby producing velvet products as functional foods, nutraceuticals or dietary supplements.
The organizers for the ASPT series appreciate that these two antler research directions are not independent, but complementary. Studies on antler development may open a new avenue for the discovery of the VA mystery compounds that have unique pharmacological efficacy. For example, the stimulating factors for antler growth and development may be the bioactives of VA responsible for some clinical efficacies (such as tonifying Yang), and vice versa. That is why the main purpose of this series has always been to bring together antler biologists, producers, processors, pharmacists and physicians to share each other’s new findings and experiences and support the formation of new collaborations to give impetus to the development of this fascinating field.
The following books are available covering the 2000 and 2004 Symposium:
Antler Science and Product Technology, Edited by J.M. Suttie, S.R. Haines and C. Li. 2000, New Zealand. University of Alberta. www.velvetanter.org 2000 ISBN 1-896110-14-2, https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/2870503
Preventive Effects of Velvet Antler (Cervus elaphus) against Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Acute Lung Injury in Mice by Inhibiting MAPK/NF-κB Activation and Inducing AMPK/Nrf2 Pathways, Jui-Shu Chang, Hung-Jen Lin, Jeng-Shyan Deng, Wen-Tzu Wu, Shyh-Shyun Huang, and Guan-Jhong Huang, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2018, January 2, 2018 Article ID 2870503: https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/2870503