Deer antler velvet is the highly vascular skin that covers the bone and cartilage, which supplies oxygen and nutrients while an antler is growing. They contain protein, minerals, fat, and other chemical compounds . For years people have been taking deer antler velvet for their claimed beneficial effect on sexual function.
Why do people take deer antler velvet and what are its effects?
Conaglen, Helen M. et al.  wanted to investigated the effect of deer velvet on sexual function in thirty-two healthy men during a 12-week trial. There were no significant differences in the sexual behavior nor were there any significant hormone changes in deer velvet group compared to placebo.
More recently, that same extract is now claimed to increase growth hormone levels and increase strength. We managed to find two studies that may to some degree support these claims. A study by Sleivert G. and co-workers  examined the effects of deer antler velvet on maximal aerobic performance and the trainability of muscular strength and endurance. They found greater increase in isokinetic knee extensor strength and endurance in the deer antler velvet powder compared to placebo. They concluded that these findings do not support aerobic ergogenic effect of deer antler velvet powder due to inconsistent results. Another study by Broeder, C. E., et al.  investigated what effects 1350 mg of New Zeland Deer Antler Velvet supplementation twice a day had on body composition, maximal strength, maximal power output, and maximal aerobic power before and after 10 weeks. Study was impaired due to high drop-out (almost 50%). Results of the study suggest that antler velvet may be an effective ergogenic aid.
Deer antler velvet side effects and risks
According to WebMD.com: “Deer velvet might have an effect due to the hormones it may contain, including testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone.” They also mention a research conducted on rats, using elk velvet antler which suggested the substance may have an androgen-like effect.” Therefore, they may not be safe for people who should avoid supplemental estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone.
- Hall, Brian Keith. Bones and cartilage: developmental and evolutionary skeletal biology. Academic Press, 2005.
- Conaglen, Helen M., James M. Suttie, and John V. Conaglen. “Effect of deer velvet on sexual function in men and their partners: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Archives of sexual behavior 32.3 (2003): 271-278.
- Sleivert, Gordon, et al. “The effects of deer antler velvet extract or powder supplementation on aerobic power, erythropoiesis, and muscular strength and endurance characteristics.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 13.3 (2003): 251.
- Broeder, C. E., et al. “The effects of New Zealand deer antler velvet supplementation on body composition, strength, and maximal aerobic and anaerobic performance.” Age 28.7.4 (2004): 25-4.
- David Kiefer, MD. Deer Velvet. Retrieved from WebMD.com at 5 March 2013