It is recently gaining popularity in the USA as seen with the deer antler spray controversy a couple years ago concerning several professional athletes. Oh yeah, I heard its a performance enhancer. They were consuming it for its natural growth factors, extracted via cold water, which are known to promote growth and regeneration capacities. Natural? Yes, and healthy. Where does this stuff come from?

For women, deer antler velvet can help ease the symptoms associated with pre-menstruation by relieving cramps, suppressing mood swings, and raising energy levels. It is also used to treat vaginal discharges, uterine bleeding, menstrual disorders, infertility, and menopause. Russian researchers claim that compounds found in deer antler velvet can ease the effects of menopause in women.
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Deer antler velvet has made its way into the spotlight recently thanks to claims that Super Bowl winner Ray Lewis used it in spray form to recover from his October triceps injury. Lewis denied the claim, but had many people wondering if deer antler velvet, a substance that is banned by the NFL and claims to increase strength and boost muscle recovery, really works. The natural supplement, made from the fuzz that covers male deer antlers, is a growth hormone known as IGF-1, which supposedly can repair cartilege damage and increase strength and muscle mass. 
In an experiment (Gerard, 2004) conducted to study muscle damage and repair, 20 males ran for 35 minutes on a downhill treadmill. The participants, who were not trained runners, were pre-treated with deer antler velvet or a placebo 14 days prior to the run. The subjected treated with deer velvet showed that their creatine kinase levels, a marker of muscle damage, was significantly lower than the control group. Also, muscle soreness on average was reported to be gone 24 hours before subjects in control.
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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.[6] 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.[2][5][9] 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).[10][11]
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