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.
Companies attributing health claims from using dietary supplements of velvet antler have received warning letters from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning the sale of encapsulated powders connected to their marketing claims. The claims were in violation of the United States Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act [21 USC/321 (g)(1)] because they "establish the product as a drug intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" when velvet antler has no such scientific evaluation. Additionally stated by the FDA, velvet antler was "not generally recognized as safe and effective for the referenced conditions" and therefore must be treated as a "new drug" under Section 21(p) of the Act. New drugs may not be legally marketed in the United States without prior approval of the FDA. As of 2018, it is legal to sell velvet antler powder, extract or spray in the U.S. as a dietary supplement as long as no disease treatment claims are made and the label bears the FDA disclaimer: "This product has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
Reports claim deer antler helped Ray Lewis overcome his recent triceps tear, and Vijay Singh has admitted to using a spray supplement. University of Alabama football players also allegedly used deer antler sprays leading up to the 2013 BCS National Title Game. Whether or not those reports are true, one thing is certain: There’s not much proof that deer antler is a performance enhancer or a miraculous healer.
The growing market has bred plenty of competition. A company called Now Foods is now making deer antler velvet lozenges. GNC just started selling deer antler velvet capsules called New Vigor from a company called Vitalast and Amazon.com has more than 30 products will deer antler velvet in it including the raw powder from New Zealand, where the most coveted deer velvet is harvested.
"Here's my advice to you. Find a product that contains the right kind of high quality grass fed whey protein isolate and is sweetened with the right kind of sweetener. I did want to give a shout out to Antler Farms® who has a nice, high quality New Zealand Whey Protein Isolate. They've gone the extra mile in a lot of different directions. I like to give shout outs to companies that I think deserve it and actually care about our health."*
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.