In Russia, Korea and China, deer antler velvet is widely used by athletes to enhance performance. In the United States, more and more athletes are looking to deer antler velvet as a training aid, a promoter of recovery after physical activity and injury, and possibly an injury preventative. Deer velvet could improve athletic performance in many ways, for example by assisting strength and endurance, by supporting the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, by facilitating minor tissue damage, and by boosting the immune system.
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In Asia, velvet antler is dried and sold as slices, or as a powder which may be boiled in water, usually with other herbs and ingredients, and consumed as a medicinal soup. In the traditional commercial trade of Korea and China, whole stick antler velvet is divided into three sections based upon their supposed properties. Although there is an absence of uniform standardization, these sections are known as the wax piece (uppers or tips), the blood piece (middles), and the bone piece (bottoms): the wax piece may be marketed as a growth tonic for children, the blood piece supposedly for joint and bone health, and the bone piece supposedly for calcium deficiency and geriatric needs. Early commercial activity in Russia between the 1930s and 1980s led to the production of an alcohol extract from deer antler velvet marketed under the Russian drug trade name Pantocrin (also pantocrine or pantokrin).
In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVII we’ve heard a lot about deer antler velvet and the question of whether or not Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis used an extract of it (in spray form) to help heal the triceps muscle he tore in October 2012. This could be a problem for Lewis, since deer antler velvet contains a substance that is banned by the National Football League (NFL).
A 2015 study published in Evidenced Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine fed mice a diet containing 10 percent elk velvet extract (EVA) to test its effects on physical growth and bone development. Researchers measured the mice’s body weights, blood chemistry, kidney and testis/ovary functions, and bone traits weekly. They found that “Mean body weights were higher in the EVA group at 4–8 weeks in males, and at 5 weeks of age in females.” The mice fed EVA also experienced changes in kidney function and increased femoral bone length by 5 weeks old. Levels of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) increased in EVA group.
But when it comes to sprays or pills, there’s little evidence that deer antler offers performance enhancing benefits of any kind, says Alan Rogol, M.D., an endocrinologist at the University of Virginia. Rogol is also part of a small team of doctors that assists anti-doping agencies in determining if and when athletes can use certain controversial substances.
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L-Arginine: An amino acid usually found in red meats that is important for the body’s ability to manufacture proteins. L-Arginine has been used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, blocked arteries, and erectile dysfunction. L-Arginine is safe for most people, however it should not be taken by women that are pregnant or breastfeeding.