Eastern and western medical philosophies are often seen as opposites; they hold completely different sets of knowledge, logic and understanding regarding health and preventative medicine and the identification and treatment of illnesses.
The western model of medicine is spreading quickly all over the world. In many cases, it has replaced ancient and indigenous models of health and illness.
However, the persistence of certain health issues, and an increased awareness of the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle and chemical-filled diet on our health has motivated people all over the world to explore alternative models of health and medicine, including traditional Chinese medicine.
In this article, we explore the differences in perspective, attribution, and effects of the prized Chinese medicine deer antler velvet (such as VELPure), from both the Eastern and Western perspectives.
In western medicine, the body is seen as separated from the mind. All things in the body have a name, as do all known medical problems. “syndromes”, “deficiencies”, and “disorders” are seen as “things” just like cells, bacteria, and rashes. The body is a sum of cells, and illnesses result from problematic activities in the cells.
Western medicine looks for precise measurements of concrete and fragmented “things” that cause illness, and illness can also be solved by an interaction with another “things” that generally have an antagonistic effect on the problem. There is little or no focus on the way the patient interacts with his or her environment, and places no importance on a person’s thoughts or feelings and their potential effect on overall health.
“The biggest scientific delusion of all is that science already knows the answers. The details still need working out, but, in principle, the fundamental questions are settled. Contemporary science is based on the claim that all reality is material or physical. There is no reality but material reality. Consciousness is a by-product of the physical activity of the brain. Matter is unconscious. Evolution is purposeless. God exists only as an idea in human minds, and hence, human heads.
These beliefs are powerful, not because most scientists think about them critically, but because they don’t. The facts of science are real enough; so are the techniques that scientists use, and the technologies based on them. But the belief system that governs conventional scientific thinking is an act of faith, grounded in a nineteenth-century ideology.”
- Rupert Sheldrake, in his excellent book ‘Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery’
Chinese medicine places a central focus on Taoist ideas of universal cosmic energy and how this has a determining impact on human life and health.
Chinese medicine is holistic and functional, and health is a function of an energy-life force (Qi) flowing into a living entity. The flow of energy is conceived as Yin and Yang; they are opposites, yet fully integrated and dependent on each other, and exist only in relation to each other.
Unlike western medicine, where illnesses, body parts, and cells are fractioned and separated to be examined individually, in Chinese medicine, health and wellbeing must be examined as a whole. When a person is ill, there is a pattern of disharmony.
Deer antler velvet is an extremely important herb in Chinese medicine. It is a warm herb, which is considered Yang, and can thus treat Yin illnesses which are characterized by an energy depletion caused by internal and external factors, including stress, overwork, and old age.
Deer antler velvet is used, thus, in illnesses that weaken the body, including those that affect:
While it might seem strange to us in Western countries to think of deer velvet as a herbal medicine, this is perfectly normal to Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) practitioners, who use a wide range of plant, animal and mineral ingredients for treating their patients.
Reported Side Effects of Deer Antler Velvet in The East
Historically, quality control of deer velvet in terms of purity, safety, and potency of the various forms of deer antler preparations used in Eastern countries has generally been of lower standard than required to have a medication approved for use in a Western country. However, in the 2000+ years of use in TCM, there don't appear to be any reports of toxic or teratogenic effects in the Eastern literature.
Scientific studies are usually carried out to describe and demonstrate the effects of natural medicines using western, medicalized language. Even so, western medical studies on the effects of Deer Antler Velvet confirm many of the ailments for which Deer Antler has been used for hundreds of years in Chinese medicine, though described and categorized from a different perspective.
The effects of Deer Antler Velvet on human health from a western perspective include:
Reported Side Effects of Deer Antler Velvet in The West
In the relatively short history of use in Western countries, there are no reported negative side effects or toxicity with use of Deer Antler when taken in recommended doses. Empirical anecdotal evidence, and studies carried out in the West, corroborate the long history of safe use in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
A study to evaluate the toxicology of New Zealand deer velvet powder carried out on rats [Zhang H, Wanwimolruk S, Coville PF, Schofield JC, Williams G, Haines SR, Suttie JM. - Natural & Complementary Medicine Research, School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, New Zealand] concluded that the rats had no deer velvet treatment-related toxicological and histopathological abnormalities at the [v. high] doses administered, despite observed minor changes in liver weight.
While globalization has pushed the Western model of heath and preventative medicine on the rest of the world, at the same time, it has made Eastern perspectives available to the western world. As a result, the two systems are meshed together and the benefits of remedies like Deer Antler Velvet are examined in the West as if it is being discovered for the first time, despite a long history of use in the East.
Because the FDA in the United States regulates claims for dietary supplements differently to medicinal drugs. It does not "approve" dietary supplements, but it does allow producers to substantiate structure/function claims through critical review of scientific studies.
Only registered drugs can legally claim to "diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease", so for dietary supplements to make health claims, under both EU and US law, the only option is to have such products licensed as drugs. Even if such supplements have randomised, controlled trials showing positive results in treating a particular illness, claims to "treat, cure, or prevent" that disease can’t be made because the trials have been performed using unwell patients, rather than healthy subjects.
However, we are allowed to say of deer antler velvet: "It has been substantiated by scientific evidence in compliance with US Food and Drug Administration dietary supplement regulations, that there is a reasonable basis to claim that deer antler velvet helps relieve the symptoms of arthritis".
Main source for content: http://www.usask.ca/wcvm/herdmed/specialstock/antlers/deerantler.html
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