New Zealand research reports that although the mechanism is unknown, deer antler velvet shows strong anti-inflammatory effects. Recent clinical tests suggest oral ingestion of glycosaminoglycan-peptide complex, or components such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate — both found in deer antler velvet — may help stimulate cartilage repair.
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.
Dr. Low Dog also reports that a chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose is the only recognized prion (infectious protein) disease of wild animals and has been found in 15 states and two provinces in Canada. (Prion diseases in wild animals are similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease, in cattle.) No known cases of neurological disease have been seen in humans who have taken deer antler velvet supplements, but a 2009 study sponsored by the National Institutes of Neurological Diseases and Stroke and the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that the possibility remains.