For as long as we have known that our bodies can harbor illnesses, there have been dubious treatments about. Be that snake oil or elixirs and tonics sold from the back of a cart a few hundred years ago, or herbal remedies and other supplements of today, we have a tendency to grab on to interesting sounding potions and lotions in the hopes that this truly is the cure for whatever it is that ails us. The latest product is deer antler spray. The Huffington Post reports that
Deer antler spray allegedly contains IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor. [...] IGF-1 is approved “to treat a rare form of dwarfism known as Laron syndrome and in other cases where children fail to produce or process growth hormone.
Controversially, Ray Lewis, Superbowl linebacker with strong associations with the S.W.A.T.S. is reported to have used it. He strongly denies this, but reports continue to surface. Some who don’t quite believe in Lewis’ denials say that the product is becoming so popular because it works and because it cannot be detected in a urine test.
Why It Is Controversial
So why is it controversial at all? Surely deer antler spray is a completely natural product, so it shouldn’t be banned in any way? Furthermore, can it really do any good? The main issue is that it does indeed contain IGF-1 and although natural, it is a growth hormone and could hence give athletes a competitive advantage over others. One athlete that has admitted to using it is Vijay Singh. But that is not the only reason why it is controversial, The L.A. Times’ Chris Erskine tried it following a torn schnitzel. And it worked. However, when speaking to his doctor, he was told:
Most of that stuff is harmless, but you never know what they ground up with the antler. Twigs? Bark? Rhino horn? Plastic bags? A better treatment for a torn muscle is rest, ice or heat and Tylenol.
What Is Deer Antler Spray?
So what exactly is deer antler spray? Is there actually a person out there who has recently looked at deer antlers and figured that they could make some sort of spray out of it? It seems, actually, that deer antler extracts have been used for centuries, particularly in Eastern medicine. We also know that it does indeed contain IGF-1, but then so do eggs, red meat and milk. IGF-1 has also been banned by the World Doping Agency and the FDA, but only in quantities in which they can be considered performance enhancing. After all, if athletes were not allowed to use any, they would have to completely change their diet and remove red meat, eggs and milk. The University of Virginia has started studying the spray, and their endocrinologist has stated that
It’s “extremely unlikely” that deer antler in any form could offer athletes a boost. “Deer antlers do contain growth factors,” he explains. But it’s a huge leap of faith to talk about an extract doing anything beneficial for human beings, whether it’s slowing aging, developing muscle, or repairing tendons.
Side Effects of Deer Antler Spray
Here is where it gets complicated. We know that pro athletes are using it, since we have the admission of Vijay Singh. If one admits to using it, it is likely that there are more, Ray Lewis potentially included. We also know that scientific research tells us that the dosage of the growth hormone that is in the spray is negligible, and even if it was higher, our bodies wouldn’t be able to digest it. However, it seems that even in these low dosages, there are significant side effects to deer antler sprays that we do have to watch out for. Research conducted by Boston.com’s Daily Dose
Possible side effects of HGH supplementation include nerve, muscle, or joint pain, water retention that leads to swelling, numbness in certain joints, and high cholesterol levels.
However, none of these side effects have been proven to occur with deer antler spray, particularly since this only has very low concentration. The potential positive side effects include a better regulated immune system, focuses on healthy hearts, keeps the blood sugar levels in check, reduces the fat on our bellies, increases strength and regulates our libido. In fact, some would say it increases our libido slightly too much.
So just what is the big deal? Deer antler spray hasn’t been banned, we know it does indeed contain a growth hormone but only in very low quantities and even if we were to increase those quantities somehow, our body would be unable to digest it properly so it wouldn’t really have any sort of dramatic effects. In other words, it works in the same way as steroids, but not as well but it doesn’t poison our bodies. The deal is that although this is known and agreed upon by the medical and scientific communities, it is not acceptable for top athletes to use it. Because there are no dangers to the product, it is unlikely that it will be removed from the markets completely. However, there is an expectation that top athletes are at the top because of their own natural skills. They are supposed to have a talent, something that they are born with, and it is their hours and hours of grueling training that allows them to stay at the top. Just as most of us have a full time job sitting behind a computer or conveyor belt, their job is to play some sort of sport on a full time basis. If they were to take any type of performance enhancing – proven or not – product, it becomes questionable whether they are talented and hard working, or whether they are cheating. They will also have a competitive advantage over those that do really put the hard work in, which would be totally unfair. That is what the real issue is, and why it is always a big sensation when a sports athlete is rumored to use something they shouldn’t be using.