What is Deer Antler Velvet?
Deer antler velvet supplements are made from the tissues which surround the cartilage and bones inside the antler tips of certain species of live deer. The tissue is harvested before the antlers have matured fully and hardened. After being harvested, the tissue is frozen and used to make supplements including capsules, powdered extract and spray form. The animals are not killed or harmed during the extraction process.
Deer antler velvet supplements are especially popular among the bodybuilding community and among athletes. According to experts and the limited amount of research available, deer antler extract may help treat certain conditions and can also help athletes in many ways including the following:
- Boosting recovery after training.
- Preventing fatigue and boosting energy levels.
- Improving muscle mass.
- Helping to repair injuries.
- Treating arthritis symptoms.
- Improving bone strength.
- Slowing the signs of aging.
What Do Deer Antler Velvet Supplements Contain?
Supplements made with deer antler consist mainly of various amino acids and certain growth factors. The precise ingredients depend on the form of supplement and specific brand but they will include amino acids as well as growth factors such as IGF 1 and II, collagen protein, nerve growth factor, epidermal growth factor and fibroblast growth factor. They also contain various minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus and zinc.
Health Benefits of Deer Antler Velvet
Deer antler velvet is especially popular among athletes and bodybuilders but there may be a number of potential benefits for non athletes especially when it comes to boosting bone and muscle strength as we age. The following are the main potential benefits of deer antler extract.
1. To Boost Muscle Strength and Energy
As we age, we naturally produce less of the Human Growth Hormone or HGH. This means that levels of Insulin-like growth factor or IGF-1 also begin to decline because it is converted by the liver from HGH. Apart from your age, IGF-1 levels also vary according to several factors such as gender, genetics, diet and lifestyle.
While deer antlers contain high levels of IGF-1, supplements made with deer antler do not contain it in very high doses. It is currently listed as a banned substance by the Anti-Doping authorities because its muscle-building abilities give athletes an advantage over the competition. However, supplements that contain low doses of IGF-1 are still considered legal and positive results only occur when deer antler supplements are taken in extremely high doses.
The IGF-1 found in deer antler supplements is known to promote muscle growth and according to studies the extract itself can have a positive effect, at least in animals. (see below)
2. To Boost Endurance and Prevent Fatigue
According to research, deer antler supplements may prevent fatigue and give your body a much-needed boost of energy.
One animal study published in 2014 was conducted to determine the effects of deer antler’s extract on fatigue. According to the findings, deer antler extract prevented the mice from becoming fatigued in swim tests. The researchers speculated that the effects may be related to increased muscular strength conferred by the extract. According to the researchers, deer antler appears to have positive effects on the genes involved in the signaling pathways affecting muscle strength, fatigue and endurance. (1)
Other studies indicate that deer antler can prevent the muscles becoming fatigued by reducing the level of lactic acid in the blood.
3) Improved Recovery and Immune System Support
The growth factor, amino acids and concentrated levels of trace minerals found in deer antlers may combine to have a positive effect on the immune system. As well as essential fatty acids and amino acids like alanine, glycine and proline, deer antlers contain minerals like potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium.
Many deer antler products are made from elk antlers. Elk antlers contain a substance called chondroitin sulfate which promotes growth in the body’s cells and also promotes speedy recovery following exercise or injury.
Deer antler also contains four different types of collagen . This collagen might help to repair damage to the joints, muscles and skin. It may have a positive impact on a number of illnesses including leaky gut syndrome.
4) For Bone Health and Strength
Deer antler has been widely used in traditional Eastern medicine for centuries and has long been linked to improved bone strength. It has been used to help heal fractured bones and to prevent bone weaknesses associated with age such as osteoporosis and oseopenia.
A study published in 2015 was conducted on mice to evaluate the effects of deer antler extract on bone development and physical growth. The extract has a significant impact on body weight and bone length in the mice fed with the extract. Researchers concluded that supplementing with deer antler extract had a beneficial effect on strength and growth but pointed out that very high doses were used. In fact the dose was far higher than people would realistically take in supplementary form. (2)
5) Joint Health and Arthritis
There is some evidence that as well as promoting bone strength, deer antler extract can help promote joint health making it a useful supplement for the millions of people with rheumatism and osteoarthritis.
One study done published in 2013 was conducted on rats to determine the effects of deer antler velvet on osteoarthritis. Rats with arthritis fed deer antler extracts for a 12 week period demonstrated significant improvements in their symptoms. The researchers also noted an improvement on osteoporosis and bone mineral density. Inflammation was also reduced owing to the extract inhibiting interlukin-1. (3)
6) Fitness and Stamina
Although deer antler velvet products are often marketed towards athletes and promise to enhance athletic performance, there is no strong evidence to indicate that it works. However, there has been one interesting human study that suggests deer antler velvet may improve athletic performance by enhancing strength and endurance.
The double-blind study published back in 2003 set out to evaluate the impact of deer antler velvet extract on aerobic ability as well as muscular strength and endurance when compared to a placebo.
The 38 adult male participants were given either deer antler powder or extract while the other group was given a placebo for ten weeks. All participants took part in the same exercise regimen. By the end of the study, all three groups had made significant gains in strength, but those who took the deer antler powder had the greatest improvements in endurance.
The reason for the results is unknown and none of the participants from any group had significant improvements in Vo2 max or red cell mass changes. The researchers concluded that there was no evidence to support any aerobic improvements from taking deer antler extract. (4)
Precautions and Potential Side Effects
- Deer antler velvet supplements are regarded as safe when taken orally for no more than 12 weeks at a time. There is no research into the long-term use of the extract and any long-term effects are not known.
- There is not sufficient evidence regarding the effects of deer antler velvet on pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. It is best that you stay on the safe side and avoid using it.
- Deer antler velvet may have estrogen-like effects. If you have a hormonal condition like ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, breast cancer or endometriosis, you should avoid using deer antler velvet supplements.
- If in doubt, speak to your doctor before taking this or any other supplement.