Deer antlers are the only mammalian bone structures to regenerate completely every year.1 Deer antler velvet is the epidermis covering the inner structure of the growing bone and cartilage, which develops into antlers.2 This tissue grows each spring on male Cervus sp. (North American elk and red deer) and should be removed by a veterinarian or certified farmer. The ethics, including use of local anesthetics, and procedures of harvesting antler velvet have been reported.3, 4, 5, 6 Velvet yield depends on several factors, including season, parasites, or injury.7 After removal of the deer velvet, it is collected and then frozen or dried prior to its manufacture into various "medicinal" forms including powders, extracts, teas, capsules, and tablets. Each part of elk velvet contains varying compounds, but the deer antler velvet contains the largest concentrations of those found to be beneficial. (Antler also has been sold by the slice). Heating during processing may reduce or destroy the purported beneficial effects of velvet antler. Various preparation methods, including freeze-drying and non-heat-producing methods have been reported.8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
Deer antler, or more specifically ‘velvet antler”which refers to the soft, newly grown antler before it hardens, not just the velvet skin’has been used in Chinese medicine for 2000 years. Often prescribed as a tonic, it is reputed to boost the immune system, improve stamina and reduce swelling. It is also prescribed to promote wound healing and strengthen bones and said to be an aphrodisiac and to enhance fertility. In China, velvet antler is seen as second only to ginseng in its restorative powers.
A study conducted in rowers given 560mg Velvet Root for 10 weeks of training has failed to find improvements in rowing performance or other parameters of strength (bench press and leg press) in both sexes. 1350mg of Velvet Antler twice daily (daily dose of 2,700mg) for 10 weeks was noted to increase leg strength (assessed via leg press) more than placebo with no differences in the bench press; this study had a 44% dropout rate and conclusions that can be drawn are limited.
No direct reports of chronic wasting disease (CWD) related to deer velvet supplementation have been published. However, several Web sites contain disclaimers mentioning the possibility of the disease being present in antler products. The CDC has not yet found a relationship between CWD and any neurological disease that affects humans with deer velvet use.
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The IGF-1 found in deer antler spray is derived from deer antler velvet, the tissue found inside the deer's antlers before they fully harden. Since deer antlers grow incredibly fast, it is not surprising that the horns are rich in IGF-1. This is a naturally-occurring form of IGF-1, meaning it is not made in a lab. As a result, deer antler velvet is considered a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration, and unlike synthesized drugs, the product does have to be proven safe or effective before it's sold to the public.
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Deer antler velvet can play a pivotal role in helping to not only relieve the symptoms of diseases that affect joints, such as osteoarthritis, they can possibly eliminate them entirely. The way it may do this is through the introduction of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate into the body. Both of these compounds are abundant in deer antler velvet.