What is it?
It is important to read the labels of glucosamine products carefully since several different forms of glucosamine are sold as supplements. These products may contain glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, or N-acetyl glucosamine. These different chemicals have some similarities. But they may not have the same effects when taken as a dietary supplement. Most of the scientific research on glucosamine has been done using glucosamine sulfate. See the separate listing for glucosamine sulfate. The information on this page is about glucosamine hydrochloride.
Dietary supplements that contain glucosamine often contain additional ingredients. These additional ingredients are frequently chondroitin sulfate, MSM, or shark cartilage. Some people think these combinations work better than taking just glucosamine alone. So far, researchers have found no proof that combining the additional ingredients with glucosamine adds any benefit.
Products that contain glucosamine and glucosamine plus chondroitin vary a great deal. Some do not contain what the label claims. The difference can range from 25% to 115%. Some products in the US that are labeled glucosamine sulfate are actually glucosamine hydrochloride with added sulfate. This product will likely have different effects than one containing glucosamine sulfate.
Glucosamine hydrochloride is used for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma, a jaw disorder called temporomandibular disorder (TMD), joint pain, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for GLUCOSAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE are as follows:
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Heart disease. People who take glucosamine might have a lower risk of developing heart disease. But it's unclear what dose or form of glucosamine might work best. Other forms of glucosamine include glucosamine sulfate and N-acetyl glucosamine. It's also unclear if this lower risk is from glucosamine or from following healthier lifestyle habits.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Early research suggests that glucosamine hydrochloride does not affect cholesterol or triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol.
- A disorder that affects the bones and joints, usually in people with selenium deficiency (Kashin-Beck disease). Early evidence shows that taking glucosamine hydrochloride along with chondroitin sulfate reduces pain and improves physical function in adults with a bone and joint disorder called Kashin-Beck disease. The effects of glucosamine sulfate on symptoms of Kashin-Beck disease are mixed when the supplement is taken as a single agent.
- Knee pain. There is some early evidence that glucosamine hydrochloride might relieve pain for some people with frequent knee pain. But other research shows that taking glucosamine hydrochloride along with other ingredients does not relieve pain or improve walking ability in people with knee pain.
- Osteoarthritis. There is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of glucosamine hydrochloride for osteoarthritis. Most of the evidence supporting the use of glucosamine hydrochloride comes from studies of a particular product (CosaminDS). This product contains a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate, and manganese ascorbate. Some evidence suggests that this combination can improve pain in people with knee osteoarthritis. This combination might work better in people with mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis than in people with severe osteoarthritis. Another product (Gurukosamin & Kondoroichin) containing glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate, and quercetin glycosides also seems to improve knee osteoarthritis symptoms.
The effects of taking glucosamine hydrochloride along with only chondroitin sulfate are mixed. Some evidence shows that taking a specific product (Droglican) containing glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate reduces pain in adults with knee osteoarthritis. However, other research shows that formulas containing glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate are not effective at reducing pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
Most research suggests that taking glucosamine hydrochloride alone does not reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.
More research has been done on glucosamine sulfate (see separate listing) than on glucosamine hydrochloride. There is some thought that glucosamine sulfate may be more effective than glucosamine hydrochloride for osteoarthritis. Most research comparing the two forms of glucosamine showed no difference. However, some researchers have criticized the quality of some of these studies.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research shows that taking a specific glucosamine hydrochloride product (Rohto Pharmaceuticals Co.) in combination with prescription medical treatments reduces pain compared to a sugar pill. However, this product does not seem to decrease inflammation or reduce the number of painful or swollen joints.
- Stroke. People who take glucosamine might have a slightly lower risk of having a stroke. But it's unclear what dose or form of glucosamine might work best. Other forms of glucosamine include glucosamine sulfate and N-acetyl glucosamine. It's also unclear if this lower risk is from glucosamine or from following healthier lifestyle habits.
- A group of painful conditions that affect the jaw joint and muscle (temporomandibular disorders or TMD). Early research shows that taking a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate, and calcium ascorbate twice daily reduces joint swelling and pain, as well as noise made at the jaw joint, in people with temporomandibular disorder.
- A group of eye disorders that can lead to vision loss (glaucoma).
- Back pain.
- Weight loss.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Some researchers believe that glucosamine hydrochloride might not work as well as glucosamine sulfate. They think the "sulfate" part of glucosamine sulfate is the important factor because sulfate is needed by the body to produce cartilage.
Are there safety concerns?
Some glucosamine products do not contain the labeled amount of glucosamine or contain excessive amounts of manganese. Ask your healthcare provider about reliable brands.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if glucosamine hydrochloride is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Asthma: Glucosamine hydrochloride might make asthma worse. If you have asthma, use caution with glucosamine hydrochloride.
Diabetes: Some preliminary research suggests that glucosamine might raise blood sugar in people with diabetes. However, more reliable research indicates that glucosamine does not seem to significantly affect blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. Glucosamine with routine blood sugar monitoring appears to be safe for most people with diabetes.
Glaucoma: Glucosamine hydrochloride might increase the pressure inside the eye and could worsen glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, talk to your healthcare provider before taking glucosamine.
High cholesterol: There is some concern that glucosamine might increase cholesterol levels in some people. Glucosamine might increase insulin levels. High insulin levels are associated with increased cholesterol levels. However, this effect has not been reported in humans. To be on the safe side, monitor your cholesterol levels closely if you take glucosamine hydrochloride and have high cholesterol levels.
High blood pressure: There is some concern that glucosamine might increase blood pressure in some people. Glucosamine might increase insulin levels. High insulin levels are associated with increased blood pressure. However, this effect has not been reported in humans. To be on the safe side, monitor your blood pressure closely if you take glucosamine hydrochloride and have high blood pressure.
Shellfish allergy: There is some concern that glucosamine products might cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to shellfish. Glucosamine is produced from the shells of shrimp, lobster, and crabs. However, allergic reactions in people with shellfish allergy are caused by the meat of shellfish, not the shell. There are no reports of allergic reactions to glucosamine in people who are allergic to shellfish. There is also some information that people with shellfish allergy can safely take glucosamine products.
Surgery: Glucosamine hydrochloride might affect blood sugar levels and might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using glucosamine hydrochloride at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
- Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. There are several reports showing that taking glucosamine hydrochloride with or without chondroitin increases the effect of warfarin (Coumadin) on blood clotting. This can cause bruising and bleeding that can be serious. Don't take glucosamine hydrochloride if you are taking warfarin (Coumadin).
- Medications for cancer (Topoisomerase II inhibitors)
- Some medications for cancer work by decreasing how fast cancer cells can copy themselves. Some scientists think that glucosamine might block these medications from decreasing how fast tumor cells can copy themselves. Glucosamine hydrochloride is one form of glucosamine. Taking glucosamine hydrochloride along with some medications for cancer might decrease the effectiveness of these medications.
Some medications used for cancer include etoposide (VP16, VePesid), teniposide (VM26), mitoxantrone, daunorubicin, and doxorubicin (Adriamycin).
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Glucosamine hydrochloride is one form of glucosamine. There has been concern that glucosamine might increase blood sugar in people with diabetes. There has also been concern that glucosamine might decrease how well medications used for diabetes work. But higher quality research now shows that taking glucosamine hydrochloride probably doesn't increase blood sugar or interfere with diabetes medications in people with diabetes. But to be cautious, if you take glucosamine hydrochloride and have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Chondroitin sulfate
- Taking chondroitin sulfate together with glucosamine hydrochloride might reduce blood levels of glucosamine. In theory, taking glucosamine hydrochloride with chondroitin sulfate might reduce the absorption of glucosamine hydrochloride.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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