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Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Treatment Overview

Glucosamine and chondroitin are part of normal cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones in a joint.

These supplements come in tablet, capsule, powder, or liquid form. They are often taken together or taken with other supplements. Glucosamine may be taken separately as a dietary supplement for joints.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine, also called chitosamine, is a natural substance that comes from the covering of shellfish. Or it can be made in a lab. It's also known as:

  • Glucosamine hydrochloride.
  • N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG).
  • Glucosamine sulfate. This is a combination of glucosamine and mineral salt.

The body absorbs glucosamine well.

Chondroitin

Chondroitin can come from natural sources, such as shark or bovine cartilage. Or it can be made in a lab. It's also known as:

  • Chondroitin sulfate. This is a combination of chondroitin and mineral salt.
  • Chondroitin sulfuric acid.
  • Chonsurid.

Why It Is Used

Many people take glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together, for osteoarthritis. Some people believe they help. But an analysis of studies looking at glucosamine or chondroitin for arthritis in the hip or knee did not show that these supplements slow joint damage or relieve pain.footnote 1

Risks

It appears that glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together, are safe and have few side effects. But they cost money and will not help you more than a placebo (fake pill). Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about taking these supplements.

If you are allergic to shellfish, do not take glucosamine unless you have talked to your doctor. Some glucosamine is made from shellfish covering.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way it regulates medicines. A dietary supplement can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works.

References

Citations

  1. Wandel S, et al. (2010). Effects of glucosamine, chondroitin, or placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee: Network meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online September 16, 2010. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.c4675).

Credits

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Stanford M. Shoor MD - Rheumatology