Deer antler velvet has made its way into the spotlight recently thanks to claims that Super Bowl winner Ray Lewis used it in spray form to recover from his October triceps injury. Lewis denied the claim, but had many people wondering if deer antler velvet, a substance that is banned by the NFL and claims to increase strength and boost muscle recovery, really works. The natural supplement, made from the fuzz that covers male deer antlers, is a growth hormone known as IGF-1, which supposedly can repair cartilege damage and increase strength and muscle mass.
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In Asia, velvet antler is dried and sold as slices, or as a powder which may be boiled in water, usually with other herbs and ingredients, and consumed as a medicinal soup. In the traditional commercial trade of Korea and China, whole stick antler velvet is divided into three sections based upon their supposed properties. Although there is an absence of uniform standardization, these sections are known as the wax piece (uppers or tips), the blood piece (middles), and the bone piece (bottoms): the wax piece may be marketed as a growth tonic for children, the blood piece supposedly for joint and bone health, and the bone piece supposedly for calcium deficiency and geriatric needs. Early commercial activity in Russia between the 1930s and 1980s led to the production of an alcohol extract from deer antler velvet marketed under the Russian drug trade name Pantocrin (also pantocrine or pantokrin).