Deer antler has enjoyed notoriety as a sports performance enhancer and a male virility tonic (it treats impotence, spermatorrhea, and nocturnal emission), but it has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine for much more. Deer antler, or Lu Rong 鹿茸 (Cornu Cervi), is a powerful Jing tonic. This means it is a general anti-aging tonic, enhances fertility, and strengthens the structural integrity of the body (particularly the bones and ligaments).
- Anti-aging in both men and women. As a Jing tonic, deer antler promotes healthy hormone levels, maintains elasticity of the skin and connective tissue, . Because it is also a Yang tonic, it is heating and must be taken in smaller doses and/or balanced with Yin tonics in women (and men who run warm).
- Male and female infertility. Deer antler enhances sexual functioning in men and women and rejuvenates the ovaries and testes.
- Anemia. Deer antler treats severe anemia as occurs due to blood loss or protracted illness.
- Athletes. Deer antler speeds healing of broken bones and joint injuries. It also increases muscle strength and decreases muscle fatigue. (Yang tonics are particularly important in cases of extreme strength or explosive power).
- Protection in later years. Deer antler treats and prevents Bi Syndrome (joint aches and pains) and osteoporosis.
Deer antler is an expensive medicinal and its products are divided into grades of potency:
- Tips – Lu Rong refers to the soft new antler growth or tips. This is the most hormonally active and thus highest in Jing.
- Gelatin – Lu Jiao Jiao is gelatin derived from deer antler. It is weaker than Lu Rong but still very potent. Additionally, it has Blood and Yin astringing properties similar to E Jiao (donkey gelatin) and is ideal for excessive uterine bleeding due to deficiency.
- Mature horn – Lu Jiao refers to the hardened established male horn. This is weaker in its action to tonify Jing than the above two, but stronger to move Blood. It is thus appropriate for joint or low back pain and gynecological issues.
- Dregs – Lu Jiao Shuang are the dregs left over from processing deer antler gelatin. This is the weakest form of deer antler and safest for long-term use. (Strong tonics tend to be cloying and their continuous use can generate stagnation and heat. For this reason it is usually recommended to cycle tonic use). It also has astringent properties.
Tincture form is often the most economical method of administration. It can also be powdered and taken as a tea or in capsule form. Deer antler is a product that can be humanely extracted from the animal without injuring it. It is important to research your source.
For more, see John Chen. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. (Art of Medicine Press, Inc: City of Industry, 2001).