advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Is Deer Antler Velvet Worthwhile?

What can you tell me about deer antler velvet, the performance-enhancing supplement reportedly used by the Baltimore Raven's Ray Lewis while recovering from a torn triceps muscle? Does it work?

A
Answer (Published 2/1/2013)

In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVII we've heard a lot about deer antler velvet and the question of whether or not Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis used an extract of it (in spray form) to help heal the triceps muscle he tore in October 2012. This could be a problem for Lewis, since deer antler velvet contains a substance that is banned by the National Football League (NFL).

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Your Whole Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing nutritional supplement recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor recommendation today.

According to an article in Sports Illustrated, Lewis spoke by telephone after his injury with Mitch Ross, co-owner of the supplement company S.W.A.T.S. (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids) to ask about treatments that could speed his recovery. Sports Illustrated reported that among Ross’ recommendations were deer antler pills to "rebuild your brain via your small intestines." In addition to recommending the pills, Ross reportedly also told Lewis to spray deer antler extract under his tongue. Lewis has denied following this advice, and Ravens’ management has said that the star player has never flunked a drug test.

The NFL-banned substance present in deer antler velvet is insulin-like growth factor, IGF-1, which mediates the level of human growth hormone in the body. IGF-1 has also been banned by Major League Baseball and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Deer antler velvet is the tissue that covers the bone and cartilage that develop into deer (and elk) antlers. It has been harvested for centuries and used traditionally to increase strength, boost the immune system, and counter the effects of stress. Now it’s promoted to improve athletic performance; raise testosterone levels to increase sex drive, fertility and erectile function in men; as well as to reduce the signs of aging and treat problems ranging from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and osteoporosis to migraine headaches, indigestion, and many more.

I know of no scientific evidence to support any of the marketing claims made for these supplements. I discussed your question with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women's health, and an authority on botanical medicine. She explains that IGF-1 in the velvet promotes rapid growth of the antler. Dr. Low Dog notes that the two studies examining the effects of deer antler velvet supplements taken by athletes have yielded conflicting results. One showed some improvements in endurance and knee strength in weightlifters, but the other found no differences in rowers after 10 weeks of supplementation.

Dr. Low Dog also reports that a chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose is the only recognized prion (infectious protein) disease of wild animals and has been found in 15 states and two provinces in Canada. (Prion diseases in wild animals are similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease, in cattle.) No known cases of neurological disease have been seen in humans who have taken deer antler velvet supplements, but a 2009 study sponsored by the National Institutes of Neurological Diseases and Stroke and the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that the possibility remains.

The harvesting of deer antler velvet can be a painful process, as the velvet tissue contains an abundance of nerves and bleeds profusely if cut or removed. Dr. Low Dog says she has no problem with harvesting velvet from deer killed for food, but is concerned that shortcuts will be taken should demand for the supplements continue to grow. She notes that the United Kingdom has banned the removal of deer antler velvet under its welfare-of-livestock regulations, unless the antlers have been damaged or most of the velvet has been shed.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here