Yes, the Soviets had even been involved in extensive research to ascertain the performance benefits of deer antler velvet. But they've been using it for awhile. In their country it was known in Russian folk use to be a warming and vitalizing food several hundred years ago, but with the advent of modern history, they began research nearly 90 years ago.
Velvet antler has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that classifies many similar substances from a variety of species under the simplified Chinese name 鹿茸; (pinyin Lu Rong) and the commercial name Cervi Cornu Pantorichum. The two common species used within the TCM system are sika deer and red deer which are thought to be useful for treating yang deficiency syndromes.
A study by Chen found that deer antler velvet inhibits monoamine oxidase activity in the liver and brain tissues of aged mice. Monoamine-oxidase inhibitors prevent breakdown of monoamine neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin. Antler apparently allows these vital neurotransmitters to be available longer to the brain structure, enhancing mood.
I know of no scientific evidence to support any of the marketing claims made for these supplements. I discussed your question with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women’s health, and an authority on botanical medicine. She explains that IGF-1 in the velvet promotes rapid growth of the antler. Dr. Low Dog notes that the two studies examining the effects of deer antler velvet supplements taken by athletes have yielded conflicting results. One showed some improvements in endurance and knee strength in weightlifters, but the other found no differences in rowers after 10 weeks of supplementation.
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.
Using deer antler velvet benefits sexual functions and libido by helping to increase gonadotropin hormones which include luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone are hormones that stimulate the sex glands. The stimulation of the sex glands is pivotal for sexual reproduction. Without the presence of the gonadotropin hormones, the sexual organs will fail at their purpose and the individual will be considered infertile. As the deer antler velvet promotes an increase in LH, the LH causes the testes to produce more testosterone.
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
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We know about growth factors, such as IGF-1, which are responsible for promoting healthy hormones. It is the synergy of all the constituents that help these growth factors work better. And this is why our deer antler velvet is so awesome! If you go read other labels and check the magic "extract-ratios" and micro-nanogram amounts, you'll discover something interesting:
Elk velvet antlers have been shown to contain chondroitin sulfate. This has a growth-promoting effect on cells throughout the body, which helps with recovery. This includes cells in the gut. It is believed that cartilage proteoglycans regulate water retention and differentiation and proliferation of chondrocytes inside cartilage tissue. Four types of collagen (I, II, III, and X) have also been identified in deer antlers. The collagen may provide benefits including rebuilding damaged parts of the GI tract, skin and joints. This might be beneficial for preventing or helping to treat leaky gut syndrome, which contributes to widespread symptoms.
Tissue Growth* - Ancient use was as a growth tonic for underdeveloping children and as a gland activator for the glandularly deficient.* It was also recommended to maturing people because of this interesting action on the body.* In modern times it has been discovered that very small amounts of key constituents, called growth factors, signal cellular structures for regeneration and growth, and are found in deer antler velvet extract itself and in larger amounts within the circulating blood of those who take it.*