Does Deer Antler Velvet Boost Testosterone?
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
You'll occasionally hear that a new supplement is being released and it claims to be a game changer. The next big thing that will give you the strength and muscle mass you've always wanted.
Some supplements do help you to build muscle, but others don't. These supplements are based on anecdotes, celebrity endorsements and stories.
This article will examine deer antler Velvet, a supplement made from crushed deer or elk antlers.
We examine the science to see if it really works. It's been claimed that it has positive effects for everything, from strength and endurance to sexual performance. Let's you know whether it delivers.
What we will cover:
- What is the deer antler Velvet?
- Is it good for health?
- IGF-1 and the IGF-1 Connection
- Does antler velvet boost testosterone?
What is Deer Antler Velvet?
The crushed base or cervus of antlers is called Antler Velvet. The most common source is deer, but it can be elk as well.
Antlers become cartilaginous during the developmental stage. They are covered with fine hairs, which have the appearance and feel of velvet. During this stage, the antlers are removed, harvested and then crushed.
It is the only organ in a mammal that once it has been lost can grow fully back.  This process can therefore be repeated every year.
In China, antler velvet is used to treat various disorders. Some of the benefits are improved joint health, increased energy, decreased inflammation, normalized blood pressure, and an overall increase in health.
It is possible that the animals' T and growth hormones levels increase during the development process. The loss of antlers is caused by the fall in T level .
Does it improve your health?
The crushed antler is rich in essential nutrients. Polysaccharide and fatty acid sugars are also present. The product also contains a small amount of cholesterol and collagen.
The product also contains a variety of bioactive substances, such as calcium, sodium and phosphorous. Antler Velvet contains magnesium, zinc and other nutrients which have been shown to increase testosterone.
A large, systematic review  examined all health-related research on supplements containing deer or elk Velvet. To ensure that the most rigorous and high-quality studies are included, each study must be a randomized controlled trial of the highest quality.
The following benefits were examined in the reviews:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sexual Function
- Sports performance enhancement
The results showed that 2 of the 7 studies had some positive effects on osteoarthritis, but their effect scores were very minimal.
The results were still not conclusive, despite being significant. The remaining studies also failed to find any other positive results.
The fuzz on the antler is said to contain insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), a substance that has been used in traditional medicine. It is also the reason why they grow back.
This marketing strategy for supplement manufacturers comes from this. If the product contains anabolic steroids, can it boost testosterone?
However, the actual evidence is sparse and not conclusive.
Can deer antler Velvet boost your testosterone? Or is this just another product based on misguided scientific claims? Take a look below at some studies...
Can Antler Velvet Boost Testosterone?
It is an anabolic molecule that plays a vital role in the development of muscle. Theoretically, it can trigger an increase in testosterone through direct action on cells that produce T. It would be very intriguing if deer antler could provide this effect.
There's not much scientific support for this, other than the occasional celebrity endorsement. The studies on these hormones also aren't very convincing. The most important ones are listed below:
Study No. 1
In a study that was published in International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, , it was found that a dosage of 1.5g of antler velvet for 11 weeks did not increase testosterone.
It did not increase testosterone or other androgenic hormonal such as IGF-1, nor had it any effect on either strength or maximum aerobic workload.
Study No. 2
A group of trained male rowers was also tested with velvet antler . The rowers were divided into two groups: an experimental and a placebo group.
Each group received 560mg of Velvet Antler per day. Both groups were evaluated after a 10 week study on leg and bench strength, the 2000m rowing distance and their hormone levels.
Antler velvet had no effect on fitness, hormones, or power tests when compared with the placebo group. This included testosterone levels.
Study No. 3
A second study published this time in Archives of Sexual Behaviour () examined the alleged positive effects of velvet antlers on sexual performance.
Researchers said it was used in traditional medicine for this purpose for many years, but they were concerned that these claims hadn't been properly investigated in a laboratory setting.
For 12 weeks, 32 volunteers between the ages of 45 and 65 were each given one gram of this supplement. You'd think that a high dose would produce some results if the supplement was effective.
The men completed a questionnaire after 12 weeks to evaluate their sexual desire and libido. Blood tests were also taken to check for any change in their levels of sex-hormones. The researchers concluded that there was no benefit to taking deer-velvet to increase male hormones or sexual function in men.
What is the Legality of this?
No. The World Anti-Doping Agency initially prohibited all products containing deer antler due to the IGF-1. The peptide and analogues of the hormone are on the list of banned substances .
The IGF-1 was found to have a negligible amount of content. This was followed by a ban. It doesn't necessarily mean that IGF-1 is off the list, as it remains banned.
You should know that certain T-Booster supplements containing deer antler may contain sufficient IGF-1 in order to cause a false positive blood test. Out of six commercially-available supplements, four contained sufficient amounts of the peptide for a WADA banning . This was also in 'natural supplements'.
We would therefore advise that all athletes compete in competitive sports treat the product with caution, or to even avoid it altogether. Risks may outweigh benefits (if there are any).
Conclusion of Deer Antler Velvets and T-Levels
The crushed antlers from developing deer and elk are used to make the velvet. This supplement has been used in China since thousands of years to treat a variety of disorders.
Research shows it does not improve the levels of testosterone, or other anabolic androgenic hormones.
- Li, C. Histogenetic aspects of deer antler development. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2013; 5: 479-89
- Price, JS et al. Deer antlers: a zoological curiosity or the key to understanding organ regeneration in mammals? J Anat. 2005; 207(5): 603–618
- Gilbey, A et al. Health benefits of deer and elk velvet antler supplements: a systematic review of randomised controlled studies. N Z Med J. 2012; 125(1367): 80-6
- Sleivert, G et al. The effects of deer antler velvet extract or powder supplementation on aerobic power, erythropoiesis, and muscular strength and endurance characteristics. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003; 13(3): 251-65
- Syrotuik, DG et al. Effect of elk velvet antler supplementation on the hormonal response to acute and chronic exercise in male and female rowers. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005; 15(4): 366-85
- Conaglen, HM et al. Effect of deer velvet on sexual function in men and their partners: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arch Sex Behav. 2003; 32(3): 271-8
- World Anti-doping Agency. Prohibited List. January 2017. http://www.usada.org/wp-content/uploads/wada-2017-prohibited-list-en.pdf
- Cox, HD et al. Detection of human insulin-like growth factor-1 in deer antler velvet supplements. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2013; 27(19): 2170-8