In what might be the most important study done in the United States, a group of scientists took 32 male weight lifters and gave half of them New Zealand Deer Antler Velvet and half of them a placebo for 10 weeks. While the placebo group didn't show any difference in bench or squat tests, those given deer antler velvet saw an increase of 4 percent on the bench press and 10.1 percent on the squat test as compared to the placebo group. The scientists also reported that there was a "significant improvement in aerobic capacity" with the group that was taking deer antler velvet.
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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.
A systemic review on human interventions makes note of a study conducted on patients of osteoarthritis (Edelman et al. 2000; cannot be located online) which found improvements in joint pain symptoms relative to baseline in the Velvet Antler group and not placebo, although a lack of information on blinding and randomization precludes results that can be drawn from this study.