Deer antler, specifically local deer-antler tea, has been associated with one confirmed and one suspected case of potentially deadly botulism, according to Los Angeles County Public Health.
The department’s preliminary investigation found the illnesses may be associated with consumption of deer antler tea, acquired during March.
“Pending further investigation, Public Health recommends that all persons who purchased product similar to this – deer-antler tea sold in a sealed pouches — during March, immediately dispose of it.”
The county’s public health officials also say people who’ve drunk the tea should immediately seek medical attention if they are experiencing symptoms of botulism.
Botulism is a rare, but life-threatening illness caused by nerve toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium.
Symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and weakness. All are symptoms of muscle paralysis caused by the bacterial toxin. Without treatment, these symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of respiratory muscles, arms, legs and trunk.
In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, but they can occur as early as six hours and as late as ten days. Respiratory failure and paralysis that occur with severe botulism may require a patient to go on a breathing machine or ventilator for weeks or months, plus intensive medical and nursing care. The paralysis may slowly improve.
Deer antler is promoted on the internet as a component of “Chinese medicine” with properties that are “useful” for people suffering from arthritis, helpful for the prevention of osteoporosis, and with “collagens” that help promote joint health and repair connective tissues.
Deer antler is also said to prevent bone marrow diseases, “nourish” the spleen and kidney, defend against cancer cells, treat anemia and sexual disorders.
In some instances, the cure-all product is being manufactured in the U.S. and Canada for export to China with the antlers being harvested from so-called deer farms.
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