Medicinally deer horns are called Lu Jiao in mandarin. It can be consumed by a few forms, including slice, powder, crumbs, glue, and refuse of deerhorn glue. And here we just take the deer horn gelatin (Lu Jiao Jiao) as the example to illustrate the medicinal uses of this herb since all of them are quite similar in healing properties. Also called as “immortal deer antler glue”, it was first documented in Shen-nung Pen-tsao Ching and since then has been mainly used as a Yang tonic for more than 2,000 years in China. And recent studies have found extra health benefits on it – it increases white blood cells count naturally, treats cerebral oedema, and so on. As a result, now it is also used for the treatment of sequelae after cancer chemotherapy.
What are deer horns?
Medicinally it mainly refers to the gelatin boiled from the ossified antler horn in Cervus elaphus Linnaeus or Cervus nippon Temminck, which are animals in the family Cervidae. So, other names of it include deerhorn, Deer Antler Glue, Colla Cornus Cervi, Cornu Cervi Degelatinatum, Deerhorn Glue, and so on. By the way, Lu Rong (deer antler velvet) is a different Chinese herb though they literally are the same thing. To put it simply, Lu Jiao is the older form of Lu Rong, which refers to the tender horns of bucks. That is to say, it is harvested when it is the horn is covered with velvet, still bleeding, and not ossified yet. And popular deer antler products include deer antler extract spray, pills, supplement, powder, essence, jelly, juice, tea, and so on.
Horn of Cervus elaphus Linnaeus is usually divided into 4 to 6 branches, 50 to 120cm in length, 3 to 6cm in diameter, and with discoid base, which has irregular tubercles above and sparse small holes around. Surface is brown or brownish and shiny, and with smooth horn apex and tuberculate middle and lower parts. Outer ring of cross section is osseous and white or slightly brown; middle part is mostly taupe or gray and with honeycomb-like holes. It is hard, odorless, and slightly salty.
Deer horns are made of are 25% gelatin, 50% to 60% calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and nitrides. In addition, it also contains amino acid, in which there are aspartic acid, threonine, serine, glutamic acid, proline, glycine, alanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, lysine, histidine, and arginine.
Deer horn benefits
Deer antlers are often used as dog chews. Apparently it is overkill. As mentioned previously, this herb has long been used for consumptive disease, aching lower back and knees, nocturnal emission, uterine bleeding, vaginal discharge, etc.
It acts like velvet antlers but the price is much cheaper. Hence, it is often used as the substitute for deer antler velvet. But it should be mentioned at this point that shed antlers have relatively weaker efficacy. Accordingly it won’t stir up the fire and invigorate yang. Medicinally it is often cut into extremely thin slices, and then consumed in the forms of decoction, powder, or pills. By the way, raw deer antler is preferred in the cases of supporting Yang, invigorating the circulation of blood, getting over the tiredness, and diminishing swelling. In comparison, prepared one or gelatin is better in warming and tonifying liver and kidney and nourishing essence and blood. For instance, sexual dysfunction in men often falls into the scope of deficiency of yang and kidney essence, in which the raw one is an ideal option.
Modern pharmacological actions of deer horn
1. It promotes the lymphoblastic transformation in human and the effect is stronger than that of E. coli lipopolysaccharide;
2. It increases the counts of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the peripheral blood;
3. It has a significant preventive and therapeutic effect on progressive muscular dystrophy in selected guinea pigs;
4. It promotes calcium absorption and retention in the body, which can slightly increase the calcium content in blood. The transport of calcium may be related to the glycine contained. And calcium can lower capillary permeability, reduce leakage, diminish inflammation and swelling, and relieve allergy.
Selected deerhorn herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica believes that it is sweet or salty in flavor and warm in properties. And it goes to meridians of liver and kidney. Primary functions are tonifying essence and blood and preventing miscarriage by stopping bleeding. Main deer horns uses and indications include kidney deficiency, asthenia of essence and blood, thinness and weakness due to consumptive disease, dizziness, tinnitus, soreness and weakness of waist and knees, impotence, spermatorrhea, infertility due to uterus cold, fetal irritability, uterine bleeding, morbid leukorrhea, hematemesis, nosebleed, dorsal furuncle, and sores. Recommended dosage is 3 grams each time and 9 grams a day. Usually it needs to be melted by boiling water or wine before the use. Or it can be consumed in the forms of pills, powder or paste.
1. Ban Long Wan from Bai Yi Xuan Fang (Precisely-selected Prescriptions). It is formulated with Lu Jiao Shang (cornu cervi degelatinatum), Tu Si Zi (Cuscuta), Bai Zi Ren (Arborvitae Seeds), and Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia) to treat consumptive disease.
2. Lu Jiao Jiao San from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is combined with Fu Pen Zi (Raspberry fruit) and Che Qian Zi (Plantain Seeds) to treat wet dream and consumptive disease.
3. Lu Jiao Jiao Wan from Yi Lue Liu Shu (A Synopsis of Medicine in Six Books). It is used with Rehmannia and Xue Yu Tan (carbonized hair) for the treatment of hematuria, less blood due to yang deficiency, and thin pulse.
4. Yang He Tang from Wai Ke Quan Sheng Ji (Surgery Life-Saving Collection). It joins with Rehmannia, Rou Gui (Cinnamon Bark), Ma Huang (Ephedra), Bai Jie Zi (White Mustard Seed), etc. to cure arthroncus of knee, bone-clinging tumor, and dorsal furuncle.
Deer horns side effects and contraindications
Deer horns are a yang tonic of warm and hot nature, which is often associated with promoting blood circulation. If taken during pregnancy it may affect the development of fetal brain and make the children vulnerable to febrile disease and precocity. So, pregnant women should stay away from it. In addition, it shouldn’t be used in people diagnosed with yin deficiency and yang excess and fire accumulation induced bleeding, cough, sore, malaria, dysentery, and more.