Grabbing health by the horns

How people seek maral velvet antlers cures in East Kazakhstan.

The natural world of Kazakhstan’s Altai (in eastern Kazakhstan) is amazing: a varied mix of cedar woods; numerous rivers; waterfalls and mountain lakes; meadows full of wild herbs where most of the flora is curative and native to the area. What else are the Altai wilds praised for? Obviously, for maral farms! In this special climate zone, especially in the Katon-Karagay district, maral (or Caspian red deer) breeding is popular.

In ancient times it was believed that blood from maral velvet antlers (early maral horns, which are cut each year) helped restore people’s abilities, protect health and ensure longevity. The health resorts and recreation facilities in the East Kazakhstan Region offer treatments using velvet antler products based on this belief.

The composition of maral velvet antlers is very rich, and they contain many ostensibly healing elements, like collagen, vitamins, macro-elements (such as ferrum, calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus and potassium) and micro-elements (like manganese, selenium, cobalt, cuprum and zinc). Altai maral velvet antlers contain 18 of the 22 amino acids which naturally occur.

The basis for all velvet antler treatment practices is the antler bath, a bath using the dried blood of young antlers. Velvet antler treatment also includes physiotherapy using antler blood, antler barrel, phyto barrel, velvet antler bar, phyto bar, antler body wraps and dietary supplements using the antlers.

All these services are offered to tourists by the maral farms of East Kazakhstan, located 200-300 km away from the regional center of Ust-Kamenogorsk. Among the best-known resorts are Bayan, Zhanat, Nur-Bulak, Maralenok and Belovodie.

“We do not compete with each other, on the contrary, we help with tourist occupancy,” said Dariga Issabayeva, the general manager at the Bayan velvet antler treatment complex. “I was born and raised in Katon, and use my best efforts to contribute to the development of this area. That is why I badly want all the treatment centers to be fully occupied. Actually, maral farms are developing thanks to tourism. Our maral breeding farm has existed for 20 years already, and it serves as a base for the Bayan factory, producing certified products utilizing pantocrine. More recent Bayan recreational complexes were opened in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Astana, Aktau and Aktobe. We are planning to open several more in Almaty and Shymkent. Besides traditional treatments, we offer exclusive ones, which others do not provide—velvet antler footbaths for arthritis; an antler heat treatment to remove toxins and wastes, helping with loss of excess weight; phyto and antler oil massages; and antler masks and body peeling.”

During the time when velvet antlers are cut, tourists can stay in the wild at the Bayan treatment center, and get all the procedures there. This season is short, around one and a half months—from early June until mid-July.

The main premises of the Bayan center are situated 12 km from Katon-Karagay village, where standalone wooden cabins offer amenities and marals graze at the foot of a mountain nearby. The second location, a comfortable two-story residence in the center of Katon village, also serves as a hotel.

In other seasons, one can utilize the benefits of concentrated velvet antler products at recreational complexes in Ust-Kamenogorsk.

“For those who attach great importance to comfort and for whom concentrated products will suffice, we offer the services of the Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi health resort,” said Valeriya Topolnyak, the general manager of a major travel firm in Ust- Kamenogorsk. “There are cozy cottages, treatment units equipped with the most modern medical devices, and taiga outside the window. It stands on the territory of a botanical and mineralogical natural reserve and Katon-Karagay National Park.”

Before booking a visit to a velvet antler treatment center, consult your doctor. It should not be forgotten that Katon-Karagay is a high-pressure area, and that after antler baths the heartbeat quickens. There are a number of other health risks.

You should also take into account that all the health resorts and velvet antler treatment centers in the Katon-Karagay district fall along the border between Kazakhstan and Russia. This is why for all Kazakhstan citizens visiting these resorts without a trip voucher, and for those coming from abroad, special passes must be drawn up. The cost of the pass depends on the time of application.

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