The seductively named velvet antler, with its origins in Chinese holistic medicine, is a medicinal product made from the crushed / powdered base portion of (yes, you guessed it) deer antlers, with elk antlers as an alternative source. According to numerous websites, use of such on the Asian continent may date back millennia, although it is unclear what “ancient Chinese scrolls” refer to this use, and in what context. Before going any further, it is probably worthwhile to clear up the confusion that may be generated by the name: those familiar with observing deer in the wild will know that their antlers can be covered by a “velvety” coating. This is more properly known as “antler velvet,” while the reversal of these two words refers to the products that are, again, formed from the actual antler bone structure itself.
More confusingly, products meant to confer health benefits are marketed by both name variants, sometimes also being marketed as EVA [elk velvet antler.] Whatever name it goes by, it has been promoted as a means of increasing the hormone IGF-1 [insulin growth factor 1], which contributes to important anabolic effects in adults, and also to healthy sexual functioning in adult males.
To be sure, Velvet Antler does not always get a “good rap” from supplement skeptics, and those who already dismiss any type of traditional medicine out of hand tend to have a field day with denying the alleged benefits of the antler powder. It is listed in one web site’s roll call of “overrated supplements,” and the most notable double blind clinical studies done to date on this substance have shown statistically insignificant changes in endocrine function or in athletes’ power output. This out-of-hand dismissal has frustrated many who believe that more patience is required to ferret out the true usefulness of this substance, including the examine.com editor who is “sort of bitter that this compound has so much social renown for seemingly stupid or otherwise unexplored causes, as it is probably going to make researchers and the medical community frown upon it.”
As to what clinical research on the subject has to say currently, there is one study particularly worth noting. Nearly ten years ago, a paper was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior outlining the results of a human trial originally conducted on 34 male volunteers (but listed as 32 on the report’s abstract) and intending to study the “effect of deer velvet on sexual function in men and their partners.” During the twelve weeks required for this double blind, controlled study, the participants were divided into a placebo group and group given ‘deer velvet’ daily. Along with being administered a questionnaire, the volunteers’ blood was tested both at the starting point and conclusion of the study in order to determine increases in sex hormones and concurrent sexual functioning. Having realized that “there were no significant hormone changes from baseline to the end of the study in either group of men,” the research team in question was able to conclude that there was “no advantage in taking deer velvet to enhance sexual function.”
Nonetheless, enthusiastic anecdotes and positive testimonials throughout the supplement community do exist, and have on their own fueled a considerable industry for velvet antler. Velvet antler / antler velvet products are, unlike many other testosterone supplements or aphrodisiacs, commonly available in a liquid spray form: the Liquid Supps company, for example, offers a 2oz. spray bottle of its ‘Testosterone Booster and Muscle Building Formula’ for around $20 at the more popular online mega-stores. Source Health Labs offers a comparable product (also a 2oz. bottle) for nearly half of this price at the same online retailers. Pure powder forms are available as well, such as the 1lb. package offered by Holistic Herbal Solutions (given the volume of product, it is unsurprisingly more expensive than either of the liquid spray options listed here.) From the personal experience of this review’s author, velvet antler capsules are readily available in the supermarkets and open-air markets of East Asian nations (Japan, South Korea), so it may be worth it for the adventurous consumer to visit a local supermarket, pharmacy or grocery specializing in Asian imports. In this case, though, you may need some assistance from a shopkeeper, as the descriptive text on the packaging may be exclusively rendered in Chinese characters. Try asking for it by its Chinese name as well (lu jiao pan.)
In many cases, it is unclear how much velvet antler extract forms part of the total package, and so potential consumers should, where possible, hunt out those products that list velvet antler as a stand-alone ingredient rather than as part of a proprietary blend.
Though further study does need to be done on Velvet Antler, at the moment its toxicity is not an issue, nor are the negative health effects widely known.