When antlers fall off, they leave wounds that heal quickly, without forming a scar. Researchers have found that velvet antler contains substances that encourage healing, and could be of use to humans. Of particular interest are 3 hormones known to promote growth of skin tissue: insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), epidermal growth factor (EGF) and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). In a recent study, an ointment made from velvet antler, containing these compounds, enhanced healing when applied to the skin of rats. IGF-1 was a hot topic in the media in the winter of 2013 when a football player, Ray Lewis, was accused of using a banned spray containing IGF-1.
The appropriate dose of deer velvet depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for deer velvet. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
A Russian study indicated that the amino acids, polypeptides and other compounds found in antler increased the survival rate of mice with cancerous tumors as much as 40 percent. In addition, a study conducted by the East-West Research Institute in Korea found that deer antler velvet appears to increase neutrophil levels in mice, which boost the body’s ability to fight injuries and disease. The mice with tumors lost less weight and suffered lower levels of kidney damage than those treated with drugs.
Deer antler velvet is the tissue that covers the bone and cartilage that develop into deer (and elk) antlers. It has been harvested for centuries and used traditionally to increase strength, boost the immune system, and counter the effects of stress. Now it’s promoted to improve athletic performance; raise testosterone levels to increase sex drive, fertility and erectile function in men; as well as to reduce the signs of aging and treat problems ranging from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and osteoporosis to migraine headaches, indigestion, and many more.
One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found evidence that use of deer velvet antler may help strengthen joints and bones, reducing symptoms like joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. (10) After rats with osteoarthritic symptoms were given total velvet antler polypeptides from red deer (TVAPL) for 12 weeks, they showed signs of significant reversal in osteoporosis. The researchers found improvements in the rats’ bone weight coefficient (BWC), bone mineral density (BMD), and bone mineral content (BMC). They believe these effects were due to proliferation of cartilage and osteoblast-like cells, in addition to reductions in inflammation due to inhibition of interleukin-1 (IL-1).
Even sellers of deer antler products doubt that the products could deliver IGF-1. "IGF-1 is very unstable," Dean Nieves of Florida-based Bio Lab Naturals told the Baltimore Sun. "It could not exist outside of a very controlled environment." Nieves' company therefore markets the product as a nutritional supplement. "It is just packed with nutrients," he said.
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Deer antler spray — a supplement commonly used in the fitness and sports industries that has a long history of use in Eastern medicine — is pretty much as strange as it sounds. Derived from the tissue found inside deer antlers, it’s reported to work by providing IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), a natural growth hormone found inside the human body that has potential to increase muscle mass and support recovery from injuries.
While Lentini admits sales have picked up, he says he's been hurt by the perception in the recent baseball letter, which told players that deer antler velvet could be contaminated with methyltestosterone, a banned steroid. The connection is based on the fact that David Vobora tested positive for the steroid after using antler spray. He won a $5.4 million judgment against the company that made the spray.
The truth? While research is limited, there’s nothing to suggest that deer antler velvet (or deer antler spray in the supplement form) actually does what it claims. In fact, there are two published studies (in real scientific journals, you can see them here and here) that suggest deer antler velvet does not (I repeat, does not) even elicit a hormonal response. What’s more, it also did not increase muscular strength or aerobic power.
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