An acute dose of 2,000mg/kg Deer Velvet Antler to rats (human equivalent dose of 320mg/kg) has failed to show toxic signs over 14 subsequent days of observation, and a 90 day trial with daily dosing of 1,000mg/kg did not show any significant toxicological symptoms of haemotological signs; a decrease in liver weight was noted in males, but under histological examination it appeared to be benign. Another rat toxicological study using 10% of the diet as Deer Velvet Antler during gestation and after birth noted that there were no apparent teratogenic effects on the rat pups and that serum AST (indicative of liver damage) was actually decreased 50% relative to control with no effect on γ-GT (another liver enzyme).
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In rats undergoing left coronary artery ligation, those with heart failure were given either Velvet Antler (Deer) or Captopril as active control for 4 weeks with a third group given water. No significant changes in cardiac structure was noted with either Velvet Antlers or Captopril (with the heart tissue being enlarged after heart failure) although left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) and fractional shortening (LVFS) appeared to be improved in both treatment groups to approximately the same degree and the increase in serum Brain Natiuretic Peptide (BNP) that occurred with heart failure was attenuated the same degree in both interventions.
I know of no scientific evidence to support any of the marketing claims made for these supplements. I discussed your question with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women’s health, and an authority on botanical medicine. She explains that IGF-1 in the velvet promotes rapid growth of the antler. Dr. Low Dog notes that the two studies examining the effects of deer antler velvet supplements taken by athletes have yielded conflicting results. One showed some improvements in endurance and knee strength in weightlifters, but the other found no differences in rowers after 10 weeks of supplementation.
Some people use deer velvet to increase levels of certain sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone), improve fertility, increase interest in sexual activity (as an aphrodisiac), and treat male sexual performance problems (erectile dysfunction, ED). Women use deer velvet to reduce the dose of estrogen they need in hormone replacement therapy. They also use it for menstrual and menopause problems, vaginal discharges, and uterine bleeding.
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.