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Glucosamine is a compound that is found naturally in cartilage. It is also present in shellfish, bone marrow and the bones of animals. Extensive studies have indicated that the use of glucosamine sulfate for osteoarthritis is very effective. This is especially true in osteoarthritis of the knee.

History of Glucosamine

Although glucosamine was originally identified in 1876, it actually remained in an uncertain state until 1939.

Medical uses of Glucosamine

Glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride are often combined with Chondroitin Sulfate and methylsulfonylmethane MSM to assist in the treatment of osteoarthritis. It is not a quick fix for osteoarthritis. It often takes several weeks for any relief is noticed. There is conflicting evidence as to its effect. There have been different brands that have proven more effective. The most beneficial results were those that tested glucosamine with Chondroitin sulfate, rather than the glucosamine alone.

Studies and Trials

The many trials of glucosamine have succeeded only in conflicting results. While it has been shown to decrease inflammation in some, there is conflicting reports on its efficacy. There has not been enough positive proof that it should be recommended by physicians for patients with osteoarthritis.

All of the conflicting results eventually led the NIH to do a large study in the pain of patients that had their knees affected by osteoarthritis. They used glucosamine alone, chondroitin alone and a combination of both as well as a placebo. The lengthy study indicated that there was no difference in the relief of pain with the medication or with the placebo. Further investigation of a sub-group indicated that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin had a tremendous effect.

In 2009 a smaller study came to the conclusion that glucosamine did in fact reduce the turnover of cartilage in patients with osteoarthritis. The Osteoarthritis Research Society is also recommending it as the second most effective treatment for osteoarthritis pain.

International status

In the US, glucosamine is still not approved by the FDA for medical use. It is classified strictly as a dietary supplement and the formulation and safety becomes the responsibility of the manufacturer. The National Institute of Health (NIH), in the United States is conducting additional studies of glucosamine in patients that are obese due to the fact that obese people may be sensitive to the effects on insulin resistance.

The majority of European countries have already approved glucosamine sulfate as a medical drug. In Europe, the efficacy and safety is required according to guidelines which have recommended it for safe and effective therapy in patients with osteoarthritis. Studies throughout Europe have shown that is a safe treatment for knee and hip osteoarthritis.


What all of these studies have ultimately shown is that glucosamine alone is not as effective for the treatment of osteoarthritis as it is when combined with chondroitin and in some cases with additional MSM. Just as one person may respond differently to any other medical treatment, so too do they respond differently to the treatment by glucosamine. A doctor’s prescription is not needed for its use in the United States and it is available anywhere food supplements are sold.

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