Deer antler spray — a supplement commonly used in the fitness and sports industries that has a long history of use in Eastern medicine — is pretty much as strange as it sounds. Derived from the tissue found inside deer antlers, it’s reported to work by providing IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), a natural growth hormone found inside the human body that has potential to increase muscle mass and support recovery from injuries.
Research in Korea, New Zealand and China has shown that deer antler velvet can stimulate the immune system. Extracts of deer antler velvet were variously shown to increase macrophage activity, stimulate the production of lymphocytes and increase the number of red and white blood cells. Each of these effects may directly complement the body’s ability to resist or fight disease and so promote and maintain health and an associated feeling of well being.
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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).
Bottom line: Rogol says it’s “extremely unlikely” that deer antler in any form could offer athletes a boost. “Deer antlers do contain growth factors,” he explains. But it’s a huge leap of faith to talk about an extract doing anything beneficial for human beings, whether it’s slowing aging, developing muscle, or repairing tendons, he adds. Opinions like Rogol’s are one reason the FDA and anti-doping agencies haven’t yet taken steps to ban deer antler products that contain IGF-1.
According to an article published by Business Insider, between 20 to 40 percent of professional MLB and NFL athletes admit to purchasing and using deer antler spray (also called “deer antler velvet”). They hope to benefit from its performing-enhancing effects. (1) Some famous athletes turn to deer antler spray in hopes of promoting growth of new tissue cells or gaining strength due to more easily putting on lean muscle mass.
An ethanolic extract has been noted to, following oral ingestion of 100mg/kg, suppress nitric oxide secretion from peritoneal macrophages while stimulating phagocytic activity secondary to calcium mobilization, and has been noted to increase macrophage cell count in a concentration dependent manner up to 171.5% at 150mcg/mL with a water extract (and 132.4% for splenocytes). This immunostimulation appears to be related to phosphatidylcholine molecules with saturated fatty acid acyl chains and is thought to underlie an anti-infective effect in mice infected with Staphylococcus aureus when Velvet Antler is ingested at 500mg/kg.
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.
The company has found that powders have only about a 15–20 percent absorption rate of IGF-1. This is due to how the digestive system breaks down the powder. Nutronics states that their “proprietary sublingual spray delivery system” is superior to many competitors because it offers “enhanced bioavailability” of IGF-1. They also point out that “it is not the milligrams of Deer Antler Velvet in the product, it’s the content of IGF-1 and other Growth Factors in Deer Antler Velvet, that makes the difference.”(6)
“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.”*
This fancy concept is easily understood in the gym as increasing the contractile capacity of muscular groups. In other words, its strengthening to your body. Scientifically these concepts translate into increased anaerobic workloads and more weight for more repetitions, which is a progressive measuring standard of performance. Its about you reaching your goals. More progress for you equals more gains.
The truth? While research is limited, there’s nothing to suggest that deer antler velvet (or deer antler spray in the supplement form) actually does what it claims. In fact, there are two published studies (in real scientific journals, you can see them here and here) that suggest deer antler velvet does not (I repeat, does not) even elicit a hormonal response. What’s more, it also did not increase muscular strength or aerobic power.
Aphrodisiac* - For a long time the alcohol extract has been used to strengthen reproductive organ function, but modern studies of deer antler velvet results are inconclusive concerning women and from men. Although some people do report benefit in intimacy, this may be because of the performance, blood circulation and stress adaptation effects.* So in other words, if your supplement doesn't have the alcohol extract in it don't expect the benefits of supplements made with it.*
Many people from many cultures use it. Throughout history it has been used by the American Indians, Europeans, Romans, Russians, and Asians as an alcohol extract. Often it was easily made into soups for its strengthening bone broth protein full of raw material for tissues, joints and bone. The most complete ancient literature is the Chinese texts, which give it top classification for over 2,000 years.
Adaptogen: Adaptogens are natural metabolic regulators that increase a person’s ability to adapt to environmental factors-like pollution, smoke, stress, toxins etc. and to avoid damage from those factors. In other words, adaptogens literally help your body “adapt” to the environment without any side effects. If you’re living in the real world, with external or internal stressors, adaptogens help your body change in order to cope with the stressors.
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.