Deer Velvet

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on April 28, 2023
2 min read

Deer velvet is a traditional Chinese medicine treatment. Other names for it include velvet antler and antler velvet. It is made from immature deer antlers, which are covered in velvet-like hair. At this stage, the antlers are made of cartilage. The antlers also contain protein, fat, minerals, and other chemical compounds, including hormones.

This supplement is used or promoted as a treatment for many symptoms and medical conditions, such as:

  • Loss of interest in sex (low libido)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Arthritis pain
  • Injuries
  • Osteoporosis
  • Liver damage
  • Anemia

Some supporters also say that deer velvet can:

  • Improve performance in sports
  • Increase energy
  • Improve immune function
  • Help you better handle stress

However, little human research supports these claims. Some small studies have suggested an improvement in endurance while others have shown no increase in aerobic capacity.

In another study, velvet antler didn’t seem to improve sexual function in middle-aged and older men.

Deer velvet might have an effect due to the hormones it may contain, including testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone. Research in rats, using elk velvet antler, suggested the substance may have an androgen-like effect. The antlers are ground into powder, which people take by mouth. 

It's important to talk to your doctor about any supplements you're considering taking, so that they can check on any side effects or interactions with any medications you may be taking.

Deer velvet supplements are made from deer antlers that haven’t hardened. These are not normally used as food in America. However, deer antlers have long been used in Asia in medicinal soups.

Side effects. Antler velvet may have an effect like male hormones, such as testosterone.

Risks. Antler velvet may not be safe in people who should avoid supplemental estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone. The supplement may contain these hormones. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using this supplement. Experts know little about the safety of antler velvet in these women. 

Interactions. Deer velvet may interact with certain hormones such as estrogen and birth control pills. Tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.