Deer antler, or more specifically ‘velvet antler”which refers to the soft, newly grown antler before it hardens, not just the velvet skin’has been used in Chinese medicine for 2000 years. Often prescribed as a tonic, it is reputed to boost the immune system, improve stamina and reduce swelling. It is also prescribed to promote wound healing and strengthen bones and said to be an aphrodisiac and to enhance fertility. In China, velvet antler is seen as second only to ginseng in its restorative powers.
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."
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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.