Deer antler spray sales increase

Ray Lewis' adamant denial that he has used a deer antler velvet product has not stopped the substance -- banned by the NFL -- from flying off the shelves.

Google searches for anything about the product and its effects were at the second highest point for the terms since the search engine began monitoring the topic in 2004. The last time searches for it popped this much was the summer of 2011, when Major League Baseball warned players against the effects of deer antler velvet.

Not only are prospective customers searching for deer antler velvet, evidence from a few key players in the industry suggests they're actually buying it.

"The phones have been ringing off the hook today," said Brianne Vaskovardzic, director of marketing for Private Label Nutraceuticals, an Atlanta-based company that makes a deer antler velvet extract spray called "Deer Antler."

"It's the nature of the industry -- when a sports figure speaks positively or negatively about a product, the sales pop."

Vaskovardzic said Wednesday was one of the biggest sales days for the product since the company launched it last year. She said that since Private Label doesn't sell directly to consumers and only to retailers, the sales spike has to mean that people were buying enough in the stores that representatives had to reorder.

"We've done eight times the business we normally do in each of the past couple days," said Curtis Fouts, owner of Southern Cross Velvet, which claims it has been selling variations of the product for 15 years.

Fouts said his deer antler velvet sales have grown from $8,000 a year to $350,000 over the past eight years alone.

"Today was even busier than yesterday," Fouts said.

Deer antler velvet, which coats the antlers and helps them grow, contains insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, which is said to regulate human growth hormone in the body.

On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated reported that Lewis sought help from Sports With Alternatives to Steroids (SWATS) -- a company that makes the deer-antler spray, which is supposed to be sprayed under the tongue -- to speed his recovery from a torn right triceps. Lewis missed 10 games with the injury.

"I never, ever took any of those things," the Baltimore Ravens' linebacker said Wednesday.