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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.
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.
For women, deer antler velvet can help ease the symptoms associated with pre-menstruation by relieving cramps, suppressing mood swings, and raising energy levels. It is also used to treat vaginal discharges, uterine bleeding, menstrual disorders, infertility, and menopause. Russian researchers claim that compounds found in deer antler velvet can ease the effects of menopause in women.
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.
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Velvet Antler is a supplement derived from powdered or crushed antlers, most commonly from deer (and thus referred to as Deer Velvet Antler) although Elk have also been used. They have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The base of the antler is referred to as Cervus (in reference to deers), Lu Jiao Pan, Zhen Zhu Pan, as well as Lu Hua Pan and appears to have been traditionally used for cardiovascular disease, gynecological problems, immunological deficiencies, blood cancers, tissue repair and health promotion. The specific part used is the antler base; when the antler is sawed off the base temporarily remains until the regeneration of the new antler pushes it off which occurrs occasionally in the wild. Traditional usage involves using the base and macerating it in wine or decocting it with water for oral consumption.
“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.”*
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.
In a randomized, placebo controlled test in 2004, researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, placed 18 males from the Edmonton Police Force into a 9 week strength training program. The results showed that deer antler velvet increased the strength and endurance of the subjects relative to the control group. The researchers found that use of deer antler velvet significantly increased blood plasma testosterone levels.