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.

First, the facts: Deer antler has been a popular element of Eastern medicine for centuries. And—like red meat, eggs, or milk—deer antler contains small amounts of insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, explains Oliver Catlin, president of the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), which tests dietary supplements for illegal performance enhancers.
This fancy concept is easily understood in the gym as increasing the contractile capacity of muscular groups. In other words, its strengthening to your body. Scientifically these concepts translate into increased anaerobic workloads and more weight for more repetitions, which is a progressive measuring standard of performance. Its about you reaching your goals. More progress for you equals more gains.
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Bottom line: Rogol says it’s “extremely unlikely” that deer antler in any form could offer athletes a boost. “Deer antlers do contain growth factors,” he explains. But it’s a huge leap of faith to talk about an extract doing anything beneficial for human beings, whether it’s slowing aging, developing muscle, or repairing tendons, he adds. Opinions like Rogol’s are one reason the FDA and anti-doping agencies haven’t yet taken steps to ban deer antler products that contain IGF-1.
My name is William Gucciardo. I am fifty-four years old and have been exercising and taking nutritional supplementation for many years. I was recently introduced to IGF-1, and have been taking it for three weeks. Although I have been working out six days a week for the past several years, I have recently noticed an increase in upper body muscle tone and overall strength and endurance. I have also noticed that minor stiffness that I daily experienced upon arising in the morning is gone. My body feels stronger with an overall feeling of well being. I can only attribute these changes to the addition of IGF-1 to my supplementation program, as this is the only change that I have recently made. I do not know what further benefits I will receive from taking IGF-1 daily. If you are willing to try something new with the possibility of improving your health and well being, I would recommend trying this product.
"This mountain bike loop that I do almost everyday usually takes 48-50 minutes. After a few weeks of Antler Farms®, I saw that number continually go down. I am at basically an average of 4 minutes shaven off every time that I do that loop. Faster recovery also. I have more energy later on in the afternoon. Just all around really good results. Good stuff. Highly recommend it."*
Research has been conducted on the potential use of deer antler velvet for healing of wounds. In Russia (Arapov, 1969), Pantocrin was administered to patients with surgical and internal wounds. The study reported that there were a number of positive effects, including the normalization of arterial pressure, reduction in surgical complications, and becoming active quicker. In tests on rats (Wang, 1985), bone fracture repair was accelerated. A recent study by Bubenik found that antler helped heal epidermal wounds in rats. In another study by Takikawa, et al., researchers reported observing new bone formation following experimental whiplash injuries in rabbits. Pretreatment in rats reduced cell degradation and improved recovery times from extreme temperature and electric shock exposure. 
Repeated studies have been conducted on the interactions of Velvet Antler and hormones, and all studies have found that this supplement has failed to increase circulating hormone levels. One study found a highly variable increase in power output, which is antagonized by another study suggesting no significant increase in power. For the purposes of performance enhancement, the evidence does not currently support Velvet Antler as a supplement.
Deer antlers have been closely linked to IGF-1, which is another term for insulin. This has been well received in eastern medicine as an anti-aging and bodybuilding product. Because it’s also a known natural growth hormone, it’s said to aid in muscle development by enhancing strength and improving recovery time. This is what attracts bodybuilders to this product.
Unfortunately, the potential problems with IGF would seem to negate any of these theoretical benefits.  It has been shown that improper use of hormones such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione, and human growth hormone may increase the risk for development of prostate cancer or promote the growth of existing prostate cancer by raising IGF-1 levels.  Therefore, men who are taking supplements with IGF in it (or those that raise IGF levels) could theoretically be putting themselves at an increased risk for prostate cancer.  Again, it hasn’t been rigorously studied so it’s impossible to know for sure, but if you have any risk factors for prostate cancer, it’s probably best to avoid taking this supplement.  
A systemic review on human interventions[25] 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.
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