Velvet antler is the whole cartilaginous antler in a precalcified growth stage of the Cervidae family including the species of deer, elk, moose and caribou. Velvet antler is covered in a hairy, velvet-like "skin" known as velvet and its tines are rounded, because the antler has not calcified or finished developing. Velvet antler preparations are sold in China as part of Traditional Chinese medicine, and in the United States and some other countries as a dietary supplement.
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But when it comes to sprays or pills, there’s little evidence that deer antler offers performance enhancing benefits of any kind, says Alan Rogol, M.D., an endocrinologist at the University of Virginia. Rogol is also part of a small team of doctors that assists anti-doping agencies in determining if and when athletes can use certain controversial substances.
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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.
Deer antler velvet's effects on cell growth and repair have been investigated in several areas. Deer antler velvet may be a natural source of hormones for those seeking aid to muscle growth and development. Research has identified various growth factors in deer antler velvet including IGF-1 (insulin–like Growth Factor-1), IGF-2 (insulin–like Growth Factor-2), and EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor).