Deer antlers are the only mammalian bone structures to regenerate completely every year.1 Deer antler velvet is the epidermis covering the inner structure of the growing bone and cartilage, which develops into antlers.2 This tissue grows each spring on male Cervus sp. (North American elk and red deer) and should be removed by a veterinarian or certified farmer. The ethics, including use of local anesthetics, and procedures of harvesting antler velvet have been reported.3, 4, 5, 6 Velvet yield depends on several factors, including season, parasites, or injury.7 After removal of the deer velvet, it is collected and then frozen or dried prior to its manufacture into various "medicinal" forms including powders, extracts, teas, capsules, and tablets. Each part of elk velvet contains varying compounds, but the deer antler velvet contains the largest concentrations of those found to be beneficial. (Antler also has been sold by the slice). Heating during processing may reduce or destroy the purported beneficial effects of velvet antler. Various preparation methods, including freeze-drying and non-heat-producing methods have been reported.8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
A systemic review on human interventions[25] 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.

In 168 persons with stable Rheumatoid Arthritis but present pain (25-100mm on the VAS rating scale) given either 1g of Velvet Antler from Elk or placebo for 6 months noted that there were no significant differences between placebo and Velvet Antler in regards to pain.[23] Another study by the same research group using a smaller sample (n=40) and graded doses of 430mg, 860mg, and 1290mg daily noted that there was a dose-dependent trend towards reduced pain symptoms but this was not statistically significant.[24]

All male members of the deer family, including elk, moose and reindeer (caribou), grow a new set of antlers each year’from scratch, in just a matter of months’then shed them at the end of the annual mating season. The ability to regenerate such large appendages each year is unique to this family among mammals and rare in the animal kingdom as a whole (horns, in contrast to antlers, are permanent and cannot be regrown). Understanding how it happens could have significant implications for human medicine, particularly in the fields of wound healing and organ regeneration.

Deer antler velvet is rich in insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a growth hormone produced naturally in the liver as a response to human growth hormone (HGH) stimulation. This is a key factor in how deer antler velvet can help to promote muscle growth. IGF-1 works on the body by promoting the growth of healthy, lean skeletal muscles. This growth of healthy muscle mass can be influenced by IGF-1's tendency to increase muscle protein and muscle DNA content. There is evidence to suggest that IGF-1 acts on muscle tissue by promoting protein synthesis and the proliferation of satellite cells, both of which result in skeletal muscle growth due to the enlargement of the muscle cells.
In Asia, velvet antler is dried and sold as slices, or as a powder which may be boiled in water, usually with other herbs and ingredients, and consumed as a medicinal soup.[6] In the traditional commercial trade of Korea and China, whole stick antler velvet is divided into three sections based upon their supposed properties. Although there is an absence of uniform standardization, these sections are known as the wax piece (uppers or tips), the blood piece (middles), and the bone piece (bottoms): the wax piece may be marketed as a growth tonic for children, the blood piece supposedly for joint and bone health, and the bone piece supposedly for calcium deficiency and geriatric needs.[2][5][9] Early commercial activity in Russia between the 1930s and 1980s led to the production of an alcohol extract from deer antler velvet marketed under the Russian drug trade name Pantocrin (also pantocrine or pantokrin).[10][11]
In a randomized, placebo controlled test in 2004, researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, placed 18 males from the Edmonton Police Force into a 9 week strength training program. The results showed that deer antler velvet increased the strength and endurance of the subjects relative to the control group. The researchers found that use of deer antler velvet significantly increased blood plasma testosterone levels.