Dr. Low Dog also reports that a chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose is the only recognized prion (infectious protein) disease of wild animals and has been found in 15 states and two provinces in Canada. (Prion diseases in wild animals are similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease, in cattle.) No known cases of neurological disease have been seen in humans who have taken deer antler velvet supplements, but a 2009 study sponsored by the National Institutes of Neurological Diseases and Stroke and the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that the possibility remains.
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Deer antler velvet is supposed to help you build muscle. It allegedly elevates levels of IGF-1, an important hormone that helps you pack on mass. As “side effects” you also should see improvements in strength and endurance. And some products even claim it speeds recovery, which is why it was linked to Ray Lewis who earlier suffered an apparent season-ending injury, and yet has played and performed at a high level in the playoffs.
Much of the research and its conclusions on deer antler velvet has been done 15 to 70 years ago in many other countries around the world. There are experts with relevant degrees in nutrition and doctors who have spent a great deal of time researching this supplement to better understand its benefits for their own clients and patients. As well as educating us about the many reasons to use it.
Deer velvet might have an effect due to the hormones it may contain, including testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone. Research in rats, using elk velvet antler, suggested the substance may have an androgen-like effect. The antlers are ground into powder, which people take by mouth. Dosage varies by brand, but a recent study used 215 mg per day. Some distributers, though, recommend dosages ranging from 250 mg to as high as 3000 mg (3 g) per day. So talk with your doctor before you start using deer velvet.
An acute dose of 2,000mg/kg Deer Velvet Antler to rats (human equivalent dose of 320mg/kg) has failed to show toxic signs over 14 subsequent days of observation, and a 90 day trial with daily dosing of 1,000mg/kg did not show any significant toxicological symptoms of haemotological signs; a decrease in liver weight was noted in males, but under histological examination it appeared to be benign. Another rat toxicological study using 10% of the diet as Deer Velvet Antler during gestation and after birth noted that there were no apparent teratogenic effects on the rat pups and that serum AST (indicative of liver damage) was actually decreased 50% relative to control with no effect on γ-GT (another liver enzyme).
One double-blind study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism tested whether or not deer antler velvet powder or extract had an impact on aerobic performance, endurance and “trainability of muscular strength” compared to a placebo. The subjects were adult males. They were given either a placebo, or deer antler extract or powder supplementation over a 10-week period while undergoing a strength-building routine. The men were measured for muscular strength, endurance, and VO2max before and after using deer antler. These results were determined by measuring circulating levels of testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, erythropoietin, red cell mass, plasma volume, and total blood volume.
A systemic review on human interventions makes note of a study conducted on patients of osteoarthritis (Edelman et al. 2000; cannot be located online) which found improvements in joint pain symptoms relative to baseline in the Velvet Antler group and not placebo, although a lack of information on blinding and randomization precludes results that can be drawn from this study.