Russian bodybuilders have claimed to benefit from deer antler velvet by increasing muscle and nerve strength in the late 1960’s. Earlier studies found similar results in laboratory animals and athletes given pantocrin, an extract of deer antler velvet. Several studies show a positive correlation between consistent use of deer antler velvet and cardiovascular health. Human subjects who used deer antler velvet were able to endure larger work loads and experienced a shorter recovery time between exercises.
"Unlike steroids, which are small, cholesterol-based hormones, protein-based hormones or growth factors can easily be destroyed," he wrote in an email. Cohen guesses that even if you consume high levels of IGF-1, most if not all of the substance would be destroyed after hitting the acid in our stomach and before entering the blood system, which is how compounds we ingest reach the muscles. "This is also why you have to inject insulin instead of just eating insulin pills," he added.
Supplements are best used in situations where an individual is unable to get their nutrients from their diet. Perhaps an individual has an allergy or intolerance, for example lactose. They are unable to consume milk products which in turn limits their ability to get sufficient calcium and vitamin D from their diet. In that case, a supplement makes sense.
Osteoarthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage in bone joints. In normal joints, cartilage serves as a buffer between bones. Usually the body replenishes cartilage as it wears away, but when osteoarthritis occurs, cartilage deteriorates faster than the body can replace it. Eventually, the bones begin to rub together, causing pain, swelling and loss of joint mobility. Most treatments for osteoarthritis attempt to reduce pain and maintain joint function, but these treatments do little to restore joint health.
Many people from many cultures use it. Throughout history it has been used by the American Indians, Europeans, Romans, Russians, and Asians as an alcohol extract. Often it was easily made into soups for its strengthening bone broth protein full of raw material for tissues, joints and bone. The most complete ancient literature is the Chinese texts, which give it top classification for over 2,000 years.
To determine the effects of deer antler velvet on maximal aerobic performance and the trainability of muscular strength and endurance, 38 active males were randomly assigned in a double-blind fashion to either deer antler velvet extract (n = 12), powder (n = 13), or placebo groups (n = 13). Subjects were tested prior to beginning supplementation and a 10-week strength program, and immediately post-training. All subjects were measured for circulating levels of testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, erythropoietin, red cell mass, plasma volume, and total blood volume. Additionally, muscular strength, endurance, and VO2max were determined. All groups improved 6 RM strength equivalently (41 +/- 26%, p < .001), but there was a greater increase in isokinetic knee extensor strength (30 +/- 21% vs. 13 +/- 15%, p = .04) and endurance (21 +/- 19% vs. 7 +/- 12%, p = .02) in the powder compared to placebo group. There were no endocrine, red cell mass or VO2max changes in any group. These findings do not support an erythropoetic or aerobic ergogenic effect of deer antler velvet. Further, the inconsistent findings regarding the effects of deer antler velvet powder supplementation on the development of strength suggests that further work is required to test the robustness of the observation that this supplement enhances the strength training response and to ensure this observation is not a type I error.
A systemic review on human interventions 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.