The Role of Lu Rong Products in Chinese Herbal Medicine

March 21, 2013

deer antlersLu Rong is also commonly called deer velvet antler, or deer velvet. It is the whole cartilaginous antler in a pre-calcified stage (Fig-1, Image of Lu Rong[1]). The outermost layer of skin covering a growing antler is hair like in appearance and texture, and is simply called velvet[2]. Moose, elk and deer produce new antlers yearly (primarily males, except in caribou/reindeer). The stags are not harmed or killed for the velvet antler collection. In some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, deer are subject to local anesthesia and restrained during antler removal, and the procedure is supervised by licensed veterinarians[3]. Lu Rong is different from Lu Jiao[4] (Deerhorn, the calcified antler, Fig-2) in Chinese traditional medicine. The latter is collected from old dropped calcified deer horn, or sometimes from a killed deer. Lu Rong and Lu Jiao are very different, from their chemical components to their pharmacological functions. Lu Rong contains 50% amino acids, while Lu Jiao contains 50-60% calcium phosphate4,5.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Lu Rong is mainly for invigorating kidney-Yang and supplementing essence and blood, while Lu Jiao is mainly for promoting blood circulation and detumescence. Lu Rong shows much broader pharmacological functions than Lu Jiao (see the table below). Lu Rong is the mainstay of TCM, probably second only to ginseng in importance3.

In 1995, Professor Richard J. Goss of Brown University, who was a great champion of antler biology, put forward nine interrogatories on future researches of Lu Rong[5], including: (1) How the deer velvet falls off and regenerate a new one every year? (2) What is its regeneration and control mechanisms? (3) What causes the scalp to transform into velvet skin as a deer’s first antlers develop? (4) After velvet shedding, why does pedicel stump give rise to a new velvet bud rather than scar tissue? (5) Why can velvet grow so fast (5-10 kg of organ regeneration in 60 days, or 2 cm per day[6])? …

antler

Now, it has been proven that the regeneration cycle of deer velvet relies on the persistent presence of embryonic like stem cells[7]. Velvet antler is only able to complete the continuous regeneration of mammalian organ6. If a mammalian, deer, can regenerate such a large organ, people may think that its regeneration mechanisms and its components can be utilized on human wound healing or even assisting the regeneration of organs and limbs.

Actually, such features were found by TCM more than 2000 years ago, which described with its own theory as invigorating kidney-Yang, supplementing essence and blood, and strengthening tendons and bones. Modern sciences have discovered that Lu Rong contains many growth factors (such as NT-3, NGF and IGF[8],[9]) and its extracts can enhance the human blood levels of some hormones (such as testosterone and luteinizing hormone) and stimulate the adrenal cortical function13.

These growth factors and hormones play very important roles in normal tissue and organ developments and wound healing. Wound healing is the most important mechanism to maintain our systems in normal metabolisms, to recover all kinds of diseases and to prevent disorders. This may be the reason why Lu Rong has such strong functions to boost body against diseases including against cancers8,[10],[11] since cancers are related to all kinds of physical, chemical and biological wounds[12].

Table: Differences between Lu Rong and Lu Jiao

DifferencesLu Rong, precalcified antler[13],[14]Lu Jiao, calcified antler4
English/Latin name[15]Cornu Cervi pantotrichumCornu Cervi
Properties and indications of TCM
  • Sweet and salty in flavor; Warm in nature;
  • Invigorate kidney-Yang;
  • Supplement essence and blood;
  • Strengthen tendons and bones;
  • Salty in flavor; Warm in nature;
  • Promote blood circulation;
  • Detumescence;
  • Tonify the kidney.
  • Salty in flavor; Warm in nature;
  • Promote blood circulation;
  • Detumescence;
  • Tonify the kidney.
Pharmacology
  • Enhance the tension of peripheral parasympathetic nerves; Promote the functional recovery of nerve system; Improve nerve, muscle system.
  • High dose lower blood pressure; decrease heart contraction amplitude, slow heart rate, dilate peripheral vessels. Moderate doses enhance heart contraction and heart rate; Special effects on the tired heart.
  • Increase the plasma testosterone and luteinizing hormone concentrations. Effective on adolescent sexual dysfunction and senile prostate atrophy, as well as female climacteric disorders.
  • Antifatigue effect; Enhance the ability to cold; Accelerate wound healing; Stimulate adrenal cortex function; Increase hemoglobin.
  • Anti-aging (inhibit MAO-B activity); Antioxidant properties; Enhance gastrointestinal functions of peristalsis and secretion; Enhance immune function.
  • Anti-inflammation;
  • Inhibit MAO activity;
  • Increase heart output;
  • Anti-inflammation;
  • Inhibit MAO activity;
  • Increase heart output;
ProductsLu Rong (Cervi Cornu pantotrichum, dry slices or powder)Lu Jiao Jiao (Cervi Cornu Colla, glue like extract by boiling water)[16].Lu Jiao Shuang (Cervi Cornu degelatinatum, powder of bones after the boiling water extraction)[17].
CautionStart from small doses with a slow increase in case of epistaxis. Where the hyperactivity of Yang due to yin deficiency, blood heat, rise of stomach fire, phlegm and heat in the lung, as well as exogenous febrile diseases, should be contraindicated.The effective components of Lu Rong may react with  the tannic acid in fruits and vegetables and are destroyed. So they are incompatible13.Not to use in cases of bleeding with Yin Xu (Yin deficiency) and internal heat, cough, boils, malaria and diarrhea[18].

Xiaolong Meng

References:


 [5] Goss RJ: Future directions in antler research. Anat Rec. 1995 Mar;241(3):291-302.

 [6] J. Price and S. Allen: Exploring the mechanisms regulating regeneration of deer antlers. Phil Trans R Soc B, May 2004; 359: 809 – 822.

 [7] Li C: Deer antler regeneration: a stem cell-based epimorphic process. Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today. 2012 Mar;96(1):51-62. doi: 10.1002/bdrc.21000.

 [9] Pita-Thomas W et al: Gene expression of axon growth promoting factors in the deer antler. PLoS One. 2010 Dec 20;5(12):e15706. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015706.

 [12] X. Meng et al: A new hypothesis for cancer mechanism. Cancer and metastasis reviews. 2012 June; 31(1-2): 247–268.

 [14] Chinese-English Manual of Common-Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ming Ou et al. Guangdong Science and Technology Publishing House Co., Ltd, June,1992:479-80.

 [15] Liu Y et al: Study on similar traditional Chinese medicines cornu Cervi pantotrichum, cornu Cervi and cornu Cervi degelatinatum by FT-IR and 2D-IR correlation spectroscopy. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2010 Aug 1;52(4):631-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpba.2010.01.045. Epub 2010 Feb 4.

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