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).
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.
The IGF-1 in deer antler velvet can help increase the body's natural healing by affecting cell repair and growth. When an injury or surgery occurs that leaves a wound on the body, the wound is healed naturally by the cells which line the wound. Those cells multiply and rejoin over time. Using deer antler velvet can help promote faster cell repair and growth so that the wound can heal at a faster rate which means less time being injured or sore.
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.
Deer antler spray is a supplement. It’s made from the immature tissues surrounding bone and cartilage found inside the tips of live deer antlers. The antlers naturally contain IGF-1. This helps them to grow rapidly. The tissue is taken from the deer antlers before they fully grow and harden. Then it’s flash-frozen to make supplements. (3) Farmed North American elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) and the European red deer (Cervus elaphus) are the main sources of antler for commercial use. The animals are not harmed in the process of extracting the substance from their antlers. Deer antler products are found in pill, powder or spray forms.
Deer antler velvet can play a pivotal role in helping to not only relieve the symptoms of diseases that affect joints, such as osteoarthritis, they can possibly eliminate them entirely. The way it may do this is through the introduction of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate into the body. Both of these compounds are abundant in deer antler velvet.
In 168 persons with stable Rheumatoid Arthritis but present pain (25-100mm on the VAS rating scale) given either 1g of Velvet Antler from Elk or placebo for 6 months noted that there were no significant differences between placebo and Velvet Antler in regards to pain. Another study by the same research group using a smaller sample (n=40) and graded doses of 430mg, 860mg, and 1290mg daily noted that there was a dose-dependent trend towards reduced pain symptoms but this was not statistically significant.
However, calcium and phosphorus levels (which are important for bone growth) did not differ among groups. Overall, the researchers concluded that “our results seem to support a role for dietary supplementation of EVA on growth and bone development in this model.” (9) However, it’s important to point out that this is a very high dose. It’s significantly above what most would take in supplement form.
“I've been taking deer antler since 2012 so I've been taking it for years and I definitely believe in it. And for recovery after hard, intense workouts, deer antler is a must. Go to AntlerFarms.com, definitely get the [deer antler velvet extract tablets] and the [deer antler velvet capsules]. Take those two in combination and you will feel great.”*
Data is limited. Two studies (n=40 and 168) investigating the efficacy of elk velvet antler supplementation on rheumatoid arthritis found no effect, while a study conducted in people with osteoarthritis (n=53) reported symptomatic relief among participants. The small sample sizes may result in the trials being underpowered to detect effects.25, 28, 29
From cave people to you and me. Deer antler is easily consumed as a nutritional source for over 2000 years of recorded history, and no doubt long prior to the written word. Old school energy for modern stress. Used as a trophy from hunters, deer antler has been used as a superfood high in unique protein that will strengthen tissues and increase resistance to physical stress. Later, you'll see more about how that has become science today.