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Glucosamine

Back to Complementary medicines for osteoarthritis

Glucosamine classification

Glucosamine sulphate and glucosamine hydrochloride are nutritional supplements. Animal studies have found that glucosamine can both delay the breakdown of and repair damaged cartilage. The results for the use of glucosamine for osteoarthritis are mixed and the size of the effect is modest. There’s some evidence that more recent trials and those using higher-quality methods are less likely to show a benefit. Evidence from trials on glucosamine hydrochloride is scarce and not convincing.

What is it?

Family: Nutritional supplement
Scientific name: Glucosamine sulphate, glucosamine hydrochloride
Other names: GS, amino monosaccharide, sulfated monosaccharide, chitosamine, D-glucosamine

Glucosamine is an amino sugar made from shellfish or prepared in the laboratory. It’s available in two forms: glucosamine sulphate and glucosamine hydrochloride. You can buy both from high-street retailers.

How does it work?

Glucosamine is found naturally in your body. It plays an important role in making glycosaminoglycans and glycoproteins, which are essential building blocks of many parts of your joints, including ligaments, tendons, cartilage and synovial fluid. It’s been suggested that the way these parts of your joint are built and maintained contributes to the development and the progression of osteoarthritis.

Animal studies have found that giving glucosamine can delay the breakdown of cartilage as well as rebuild it.

Is it safe?

Side-effects, which are usually mild and infrequent, include:

  • stomach upsets
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • headaches
  • rashes.

If you’re allergic to shellfish, you should make sure that you take the shellfish-free variety.

You should also be cautious about taking glucosamine if you have diabetes. Glucosamine might increase your blood sugar level and it may mean that you need to adjust your treatment to make sure it carried on working. There are several reports of interaction between glucosamine and anti-diabetic treatments. There are also some reports of possible interaction with chemotherapy drugs and drugs that lower blood cholesterol.

Most trials used a standard dose of 500 mg of glucosamine sulphate or glucosamine hydrochloride taken three times a day.

Glucosamine sulphate trials for osteoarthritis

A summary of the scientific evidence on glucosamine sulphate for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine hydrochloride trials for osteoarthritis

A summary of the scientific evidence on glucosamine hydrochloride for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

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