Potent medicine 

The deer’s velvet antlers, said to be the second most precious ingredient in traditional Oriental medicine after ginseng, have been used for a wide range of purposes

For thousands of years, the deer’s velvet antlers, said to be the second most precious ingredient in traditional Oriental medicine after ginseng, have been used for a wide range of purposes, from restorative tonics to treating impotence.

Before understanding how these velvet antlers work, it may be worthwhile to learn some interesting facts about them.

The velvet antlers do not refer to the velvety sheath that they sport while growing, but to the whole cartilaginous antler in a pre-calcified stage. Antlers grow and re-grow very fast and in several weeks, as they reach their final size, the cartilage within them gradually converts into bone. Farmers only need to clip the antlers of the deer they raise on their farms, there is no need to slaughter the animals.

It is said that 52.5 percent of velvet antler is protein, 34 percent, mineral salt, and 2.5 percent, lipid.

The young horns contain around 25 amino acids good for human health like glycine, methionine, serine, arginine (cleanses the liver), histidine, lysine (keeps skin and hair healthy), glutamic acid and cholin (enhances the functioning of nervous system function).

They also have 26 dietary minerals like copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium, in particular pantocrinum and prostaglandin, that play a key role in strengthening the immune system.

Velvet antlers have many other uses. Their derivatives are recommended during periods of great stress, since it can help to soothe the nerves and prevent emotional overload. They also provide nutritional support for bone and joint structure and function, and are very good for people suffering from broken bones or arthritis, and even for children who haven’t begun walking at the right age.

The antlers are used to nourish the blood, treat impotence, increase sexual performance, improve heart function, and treat asthenia, knee weakness, menstrual disorders, and urinary problems.

Commonly available in many health food stores, antler extract is often sold in powdered form or in capsules


Deer velvet antlers can be soaked with Chinese herbs and alcohol to increase libido.

Recipe 1:

Ingredients: 40g velvet antlers, 120g hoài sơn (rhizoma dioscoreae or Chinese yam), 1,000ml of alcohol (homemade rice wine)

Directions: Peel the velvet sheen and cut the antlers into pieces. Roast hoài sơn in a pan. Mix the antlers and hoài sơn well before placing them in tightly sealed cloth bags. Soak the bags in the alcohol and consume after seven days.

Usage: 20ml each, taken twice a day. Once the alcohol has been consumed, the residue can be taken out and roasted, ground into powder and rolled into pills that can be swallowed with water.

Indications: This concoction can be used to treat impotence, spermatorrhea, premature ejaculation, back pain and knee pain. It also strengthens kidneys and increases sexual performance.

Recipe 2:

Ingredients: 60g velvet antlers, 120g ká»· tá»­ (Chinese wolfberry), 2,000ml of alcohol (homemade rice wine).

Directions: Peel the velvet sheen and cut antlers into pieces. Soak antlers and ká»· tá»­ in alcohol and consume after 10 days.

Usage: 20 ml, twice a day. After the alcohol is consumed, the residue can be roasted, ground into powder and rolled into pills.

Indications: Treats impotence, improves sperm count, increases sexual performance, and strengthens kidneys.

The process

Let us now look at several ways in which fresh velvet antlers, available at farms in many parts of the country, are processed.

First, the velvet sheen is peeled. Then the antlers are washed with alcohol mixed with ground ginger. It is very important that the velvet cover is removed completely. Recently, a man in Vietnam’s northern region died of enteritis after drinking deer antler alcohol because the velvet was not peeled away completely.

After washing the antlers, they are cut into pieces and soaked in 30-45 percent alcohol for three months. Then they are taken out soaked for a second for a month and a third time for three weeks before the liquor is consumed.

Antler alcohol can be consumed two or three times a day at 30-50ml before meals.

If you don’t like drinking antler alcohol, after washing them, you can put the pieces into tightly sealed nylon bags and store them in the freezer. They can be used in cooking porridge or steamed with honey.

It is not advisable to use antler products for more than 2-3 weeks

Not for teens

Teenagers should not use antler products as they could trigger early onset of sexual maturity.

Those with hypertension, heart valve stenosis, nephritis, and diarrhea should also avoid the use of these products.

Pregnant and lactating women as well as children should consult with qualified doctors before using antler medicines.

The use of these products should be stopped if the user experiences itching, rashes and pimples.

It has to be reiterated that antler products should be consumed only when it is really necessary and advised by doctors. Professional instruction on the use of this oriental supplement should be strictly heeded.

US will respond to Chinese military advances: Gates 

In this Friday Jan. 7, 2011, photo, a prototype of the Chinese J-20 stealth plane is seen during a runway test in Chengdu, southwest China.

The United States will enhance its own capabilities in response to China’s growing military muscle, Defense chief Robert Gates said on Saturday, as he to flew to Beijing for talks with China’s political and military leaders.

As its economy booms, China has significantly increased investment in its military, and its faster-than-expected advances in its ballistic missile, combat aircraft and other strategic programs have raised eyebrows in the United States.

Gates acknowledge that some of China’s advances, if confirmed, could eventually undermine traditional US military capabilities in the Pacific region.

“They clearly have the potential to put some of our capabilities at risk and we have to pay attention to them. We have to respond appropriately with our own programs,” Gates told reporters.

“My hope is that through the strategic dialogue that I’m talking about, that maybe the need for some of these capabilities is reduced.”

Gates cited a five-year budget outline that he unveiled on Thursday as an example of how the US military would maintain its edge. It included funding for a new generation of long-range nuclear bombers, new electronic jammers and radar, and new satellite launch technology.

But critics in Congress seized upon the budget outline’s $78 billion in overall defense spending cuts as a sign that key US military capabilities would be under-funded.

US officials have taken note of disclosures in recent weeks of advances in China’s capabilities, including in its anti-ship ballistic missile program, which could challenge US aircraft carriers in the Pacific.

“I’ve been concerned about the development of the anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles ever since I took this job,” Gates said. He added China appeared “fairly far along” with its anti-ship ballistic missile but he said he did not know if it was operational yet.

China may also be ready to launch its first aircraft carrier in 2011, faster than some estimates, and new photos indicate it has a prototype of a stealth fighter jet.

Still, Gates appeared to play down the Chinese program. Asked about its prototype, he said: “I think there is some question about just how stealthy” it is.

No dramatic breakthroughs

The stated goal of Gates’ Jan 9-12 trip to China is to improve relations with China’s military.

US and Chinese military ties were suspended through most of 2010, as Beijing protested President Barack Obama’s proposed arms sale to Taiwan. His trip to China is the most visible demonstration that relations have normalized.

Gates said he did not expect any dramatic breakthrough in relations with China’s military during the visit, saying an improvement in ties was more likely to be gradual.

“I think this is evolutionary, particularly the military to military side,” Gates said.

“So rather than something dramatic, some kind of dramatic breakthrough, I think just getting some things started would be a positive outcome,” he added, after having spoken at length about ways the US and China could improve dialogue.

Analysts warn that as China’s military expands its reach, the risks of potentially dangerous misunderstandings between the US and Chinese militaries will increase.

That bolsters US arguments about the need for sustained US-China contacts that can endure friction over issues like Taiwan, as opposed to on-again, off-again contacts that have characterized the relationship for years.

Gates’ visit comes a week before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit to Washington, creating diplomatic momentum that US officials hope will allow Gates to make headway on sticky security issues.

“I think the Chinese’ clear desire that I come first, come to China before President Hu goes to Washington, was an indication of their interest in strengthening this part of the relationship,” Gates said.

He also praised China’s efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula. As North Korea’s main diplomatic and economic backer, China has been under pressure to rein in Pyongyang after the north was accused of sinking a South Korean warship and shelling a South Korean island last year.

“We recognize that China played a constructive role in lessening tensions on the peninsula in the latter part of last year,” he said.

Call of the sea 


A fisherman has lost everything to repeated illegal Chinese harassment and detainment, but says fishing in Vietnamese waters is his livelihood and his birthright

Fisherman Mai Phung Luu looks at the sea in the central province of Quang Ngai. Luu is eager to go out to sea again and fish in Vietnamese territorial waters despite Chinese patrols threatening, detaining and harassing him several times over the last seven years.

Mai Phung Luu stared into the distance.

And there was a lot of distance to stare at for the fisherman who had been grounded for the last two months, unable to do what he knew best – offshore fishing.

“I miss the sea. Two months without heading out to sea is like torture for me,” said Luu, a 44- year-old fisherman in the central province of Quang Ngai.

Late last October, Luu and eight of his crewmembers arrived home safely in Quang Ngai’s Ly Son District after being illegally detained by a Chinese patrol while fishing in Vietnamese waters off the coast of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago a month earlier.

Luu returned barehanded and has been unemployed since.

His fishing equipment had been seized by the Chinese, leaving him with losses of around VND150 million (US$7,700). Luu has had to sell his vessel, the sole meal ticket his family had, to pay off part of loans totaling some VND600 million that he had taken earlier to fund his fishing trip.

But Luu says he is still optimistic.

“I will head out to sea, again and again, no matter how hard it is,” Luu told Thanh Nien Weekly on the phone. He said the earliest he can get out to sea would be next month, given the rough seas at present and the shortage of funds he was grappling with.

“Over the last 20 years, I have spent on average 10 months a year at sea. The sea has become part and parcel of my life. I can never give that up.”

Troubled waters

Born into a family dependent on the sea for its livelihood, Luu quit school at age 13 to assist his father on fishing trips.

Luu said he has since been to every nook and cranny of the Hoang Sa Archipelago. “I can map almost every coordinate of the islands.”

The bountiful fishing resources there had ensured that Luu, his wife and their four children led a comfortable life until 2004 when his boat was first seized by Chinese patrols, setting off a trend of repeated seizures and ransom demands that have pushed his business to the brink of bankruptcy.

His arrest last September was the fourth time since 2004 that Chinese officials had detained Luu and confiscated his boats. “I cannot remember exactly how many times they have severely damaged my boats and confiscated my fishing equipment during the past years,” Luu said. “Perhaps dozens.”

But the latest arrest last September was the most nerve-racking experience Luu had undergone, he recalled. But he had stood his ground.

“Through a Chinese interpreter, I was able to tell the people who detained me that Hoang Sa has been, is, and will forever be Vietnam’s,” Luu said. “I also told them that our ancestors have taken great strides in building the archipelago and their offspring reserve the rights to fish there.

“No one can deprive us of our basic right. No one.”

Luu has become a familiar face to Chinese patrol forces who have threatened him, saying that if they find him at Hoang Sa waters again, he will have to pay a higher price.

“I just don’t care about what they say,” Luu said. “Hoang Sa is flesh and blood of Vietnam and of all fishermen like me. If I accept such threats, it looks as though I am denying my Vietnamese roots. I will be disappointing my ancestors and countrymen.”

No turning back

As Luu has had no job for the last two months, two of his sons have hired out their services to another fishing boat belonging to their neighbor to make ends meet. They have been at sea since early December, Luu said.

After the sons return, Luu said, it will be his turn.

“I really feel bad for my wife and my kids who have to pray for me every night while I am at sea. But they shouldn’t be scared and neither should I,” Luu said.

But his wife, Pham Thi Lan, is not comforted.

“I have never stopped worrying about him. He survived last time but who knows what will happen next time?” Lan said.

Carl Thayer, a Vietnam specialist at The University of New South Wales in Australia, said there are clear indications that China will not only step up patrols in maritime areas, including the East Sea, but will also enforce its annual fishing ban from May to August as more and more vessels become available.

“In October 2010 China announced it would build thirty fisheries patrol vessels for maritime law enforcement over the next five years,” Thayer said. “A month earlier it launched its newest fisheries administration vessel which was equipped to carry a helicopter,” he added.

“The scene is being set for further confrontation between Chinese fisheries administration vessels and Vietnamese fishermen.”

Luu was honored last week by the Quang Ngai provincial government for his steadfast determination to continue fishing in the seas despite all his troubles. When Luu and his crewmembers were released last October, local authorities also promised they would offer financial support for future fishing trips.

Luu can hardly wait to get his next trip going.

“When I reunited with my wife last October, it felt like I was born again to remarry her,” Luu said. “I want to relive that experience when return from sea the next time.”

“I must be there [in waters around Hoang Sa] no matter what. My conscience would not forgive me if I turn my back on Hoang Sa.”

Chinese naval ship visits Vietnam port 


A ship from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army docked in the central city of Da Nang on Friday as part of a friendship visit there.


The crew of the Xiangfan ship met with the city’s People’s Committee, Naval Area C’s High Command, and the Military Area No.5’s High Command during their visit.


They also took part in a volleyball match with Vietnamese military’s volleyball team, and did some sightseeing.


On Wednesday and Thursday Vietnam People’s Navy and the navy of Chinese People’s Liberation Army held an annual joint patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin.


It’s expected that the two navies will conduct joint ocean rescue exercises next Tuesday.