Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin are structural components of cartilage, the tough tissue that cushions joints. Both are produced naturally in the body and are available as dietary supplements. Since production and structure of cartilage decline with age, it is thought that boosting the availability of glucosamine and chondroitin may play a role in managing the symptoms of osteoarthritis, which destroys cartilage in the joints, causing inflammation and pain.
Another supplement often recommended for joint and bone health, and which also fights inflammation, is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane). MSM is a highly bioavailable form of sulfur that is easy for the body to absorb. For people who have difficulty tolerating glucosamine, MSM is an excellent option. It should be used in combination with glucosamine, or where medically necessary, with chondroitin as well.
These supplements are most often used in combination. Short-term studies have shown good results for people with moderate arthritis, but more long-term studies are needed. A number of other studies looking at pain reduction are being conducted both in the US and abroad. Results currently indicate that it may help some people and not others.
Be aware that glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin are derived from shellfish and should not be taken if you are allergic to shellfish. Vegan forms of the supplements are also available. If you take a medicine called warfarin, you should not use glucosamine and chondroitin. Additionally, there are many forms of glucosamine – only glucosamine sulfate has been studied for arthritis treatment. Speak with your holistic health care provider about whether these supplements are an appropriate option for you.
- NIH.gov “Q & A: NIH Glucosamine/ Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial Primary Study.” https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/gait/qa.htm
- NIH.gov “Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Osteoarthritis.” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/glucosaminechondroitin
- Healthline.com “8 Science Backed Benefits of MSM” https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/msm-supplements
- Mayo Clinic: Natural Healing “Glucosamine and Chondroitin.” (2017) p. 56. Mayo Clinic Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Time Books: NY.
- Jerosch, Jörg. “Effects of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate on Cartilage Metabolism in OA: Outlook on Other Nutrient Partners Especially Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” International journal of rheumatology vol. 2011 (2011): 969012. doi:10.1155/2011/969012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150191/