The FDA considers deer antler spray (or deer antler velvet) to be a dietary supplement. This means it doesn’t need to be extensively studied and regulated like medications. For this reason, it can be hard to tell what the actual concentration of active ingredients or IGF-1 is in various supplements. Plus products can differ quite a bit from one brand to another in terms of their purity and effectiveness.
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?
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.

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.
Deer antler velvet is the tissue that covers the bone and cartilage that develop into deer (and elk) antlers. It has been harvested for centuries and used traditionally to increase strength, boost the immune system, and counter the effects of stress. Now it’s promoted to improve athletic performance; raise testosterone levels to increase sex drive, fertility and erectile function in men; as well as to reduce the signs of aging and treat problems ranging from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and osteoporosis to migraine headaches, indigestion, and many more.
After about 55-60 days of growth the velvet antler is removed painlessly from the deer in less than 60 seconds so that it may be done as humanely as possible. These deer are not harmed and experience no pain in the removal of their velvet antlers for our consumption. The antler is then scraped of its fuzzy velvet and then cleaned before it is sanitized and pasteurized for safety, and then inspected for quality grading.
One of the leading companies in the world that manufacturers deer antler spray is called Nutronics Labs. According to information posted on their website, they have been making deer antler supplements for two decades. They state that their deer antler products range in concentration/strength from about 25,000ng (nanograms)–200,000ng of IGF-1. According to studies done by Nutronics Labs, deer antler powders appear to be less concentrated with IGF-1. They also may be poorly absorbed compared to deer antler extract.
All groups experienced a significant improvement in strength. But the deer antler powder group showed the greatest increase in isokinetic knee extensor strength and endurance. However, it’s possible that this was due to exercise program rather than using the deer antler powder. None of the men in any group showed evidence of endocrine, red cell mass or VO2max changes. Therefore, researchers concluded that the “findings do not support an erythropoetic or aerobic ergogenic effect of deer antler velvet.” (12) On the other hand, this was a small study, with only 12-13 men in each group. This means that further testing is needed to confirm the validity of the results.
To determine the effects of deer antler velvet on maximal aerobic performance and the trainability of muscular strength and endurance, 38 active males were randomly assigned in a double-blind fashion to either deer antler velvet extract (n = 12), powder (n = 13), or placebo groups (n = 13). Subjects were tested prior to beginning supplementation and a 10-week strength program, and immediately post-training. All subjects were measured for circulating levels of testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, erythropoietin, red cell mass, plasma volume, and total blood volume. Additionally, muscular strength, endurance, and VO2max were determined. All groups improved 6 RM strength equivalently (41 +/- 26%, p < .001), but there was a greater increase in isokinetic knee extensor strength (30 +/- 21% vs. 13 +/- 15%, p = .04) and endurance (21 +/- 19% vs. 7 +/- 12%, p = .02) in the powder compared to placebo group. There were no endocrine, red cell mass or VO2max changes in any group. These findings do not support an erythropoetic or aerobic ergogenic effect of deer antler velvet. Further, the inconsistent findings regarding the effects of deer antler velvet powder supplementation on the development of strength suggests that further work is required to test the robustness of the observation that this supplement enhances the strength training response and to ensure this observation is not a type I error.
Deer antler velvet is rich in insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a growth hormone produced naturally in the liver as a response to human growth hormone (HGH) stimulation. This is a key factor in how deer antler velvet can help to promote muscle growth. IGF-1 works on the body by promoting the growth of healthy, lean skeletal muscles. This growth of healthy muscle mass can be influenced by IGF-1's tendency to increase muscle protein and muscle DNA content. There is evidence to suggest that IGF-1 acts on muscle tissue by promoting protein synthesis and the proliferation of satellite cells, both of which result in skeletal muscle growth due to the enlargement of the muscle cells.
To be clear, some doctors and researchers have stated that they feel deer antler spray is unlikely to cause any significant benefits. This is because it only provides very small amounts of IGF-1, some of which may not even be fully absorbed. However, studies do show that higher doses, or using very high-quality supplements, may contribute to some improvements in performance, body composition, etc. IGF-1 itself has been studied extensively. It can certainly change the way the body looks and operates. Whether or not the role of IGF-1 in the body will translate into any real benefits when obtained from deer antler products will depend on the specific person and dosage used.
I took red mountain deer velvet and it really messed my stomach up. I now have cramps and bloating all the time plus it feels like my stomach shrank…I can’t eat like I used to. It was a big mistake to take that stuff. Do you know of any way I can get my stomach back to normal??? Can you recommend someone who knows a lot about deer velvet?? I have been suffering terribly since I took that junk…it’s been about 2 years now!!!! My stomach has never been the same since I took that poison!!
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