Deer antler velvet is used for its purported ability to raise testosterone levels to treat decreased libido (low sex drive), infertility, and erectile dysfunction in men. It is used in combination with other herbs to treat sexual dysfunction and hormonal dysfunction in men and women. It is used to treat conditions resulting from deficient kidneys. Some people use it because of its reputed benefit as an aphrodisiac and muscle strength enhancer. It is also sometimes prescribed to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms in the treatment of morphine addiction.
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.
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New Zealand research reports that although the mechanism is unknown, deer antler velvet shows strong anti-inflammatory effects. Recent clinical tests suggest oral ingestion of glycosaminoglycan-peptide complex, or components such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate — both found in deer antler velvet — may help stimulate cartilage repair.
More recent tests (Slievert, 2003) confirm deer antler velvet’s effects on muscle strength and endurance. In a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled experiment, 18 males entered a 10 week strength training program. Those who took deer antler velvet showed an increase in maximal aerobic capacity, an increase in strength in the bench press and leg squat, and decrease in body fat relative to the placebo group.
On January 30, 2013, Vijay Singh professional PGA Tour golfer was caught unaware and openly admitted to the personal use of deer antler spray which contained a banned substance at the time. A week later the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lifted the ban on deer antler spray, but with urgency, "Deer Antler Velvet Spray may contain IGF-1 and WADA recommends therefore that athletes be extremely vigilant with this supplement because it could lead to a positive test."  The consensus opinion of leading endocrinologists concerning any purported claims and benefits "is simply that there is far too little of the substance in even the purest forms of the spray to make any difference,"  and "there is no medically valid way to deliver IGF-1 orally or in a spray." 
Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) is an anabolic molecule which appears to induce growth of the antlers themselves, although testosterone may be the primary growth factor. Currently, there is no evidence that serum IGF-1 is increased following Velvet Antler ingestion with one study using 1.5g of Velvet Antler for 11 weeks failing to increase serum IGF-1.
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Even sellers of deer antler products doubt that the products could deliver IGF-1. "IGF-1 is very unstable," Dean Nieves of Florida-based Bio Lab Naturals told the Baltimore Sun. "It could not exist outside of a very controlled environment." Nieves' company therefore markets the product as a nutritional supplement. "It is just packed with nutrients," he said.
Generally researchers agree that deer antler velvet protects, strengthens and restores the body's functions that are out of balance. In other words, it can act as an adaptogen on the human body, helping where it is needed. Studies suggest that deer antler velvet may have beneficial effects related to: increases in muscular development, strength and endurance; improved recovery; prevention and reduction of inflammation; improvement of sexual health; reduction in blood pressure; improvement in bone and joint health; stimulation of the immune system; and more.