URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/909.html

Shark Cartilage

What is it?

Shark cartilage (tough elastic tissue that provides support, much as bone does) used for medicine comes primarily from sharks caught in the Pacific Ocean. Several types of extracts are made from shark cartilage including squalamine lactate, AE-941, and U-995.

Shark cartilage is most famously used for cancer. Shark cartilage is also used for osteoarthritis, plaque psoriasis, age-related vision loss, wound healing, damage to the retina of the eye due to diabetes, and inflammation of the intestine (enteritis).

Some people apply shark cartilage directly to the skin for arthritis and psoriasis.

Some people apply shark cartilage into the rectum for cancer.

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 SHARK CARTILAGE are as follows:

Likely ineffective for...

  • Cancer. Most research shows that taking shark cartilage by mouth does not benefit people with advanced, previously treated cancers of the breast, colon, lung, prostate, or brain. It also doesn't seem to benefit people with advanced, previously treated non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Shark cartilage has not been studied in people with less advanced cancer.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Cancerous tumor called Kaposi sarcoma. There are reports that applying shark cartilage to the skin might decrease tumors called Kaposi sarcoma. These tumors are more common in people with HIV.
  • Osteoarthritis. When applied to the skin, products containing shark cartilage in combination with other ingredients reportedly reduce arthritis symptoms. However, any symptom relief is most likely due the camphor ingredient and not the other ingredients. Additionally, there is no research showing that shark cartilage is absorbed through the skin.
  • Psoriasis. Early research in people with plaque psoriasis shows that a specific shark cartilage extract (AE-941) improves the appearance of plaques and decreases itching when taken by mouth or applied to the skin.
  • A type of kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma. Taking a specific shark cartilage extract (AE-941) by mouth might increase survival in patients with renal cell carcinoma.
  • Age-related vision loss.
  • Wound healing.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate shark cartilage for these uses.

Are there safety concerns?

Shark cartilage is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for up to 40 months or when applied to the skin for up to 8 weeks.

It can cause a bad taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, constipation, low blood pressure, dizziness, high blood sugar, high calcium levels, weakness, and fatigue. It might also cause liver dysfunction. Some products have an unpleasant odor and taste.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking shark cartilage if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

"Autoimmune diseases" such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Shark cartilage might cause the immune system to become more active. This could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it's best to avoid using shark cartilage.

High calcium levels (hypercalcemia): Shark cartilage might increase calcium levels, so it should not be used by people whose calcium levels are already too high.

Are there interactions with medications?

Be cautious with this combination.
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
Shark cartilage might increase the immune system. By increasing the immune system, shark cartilage might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.

Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Shark cartilage might raise calcium levels. There is a concern that using it along with calcium supplements might make calcium levels too high.

Are there interactions with foods?

Fruit juice
Acidic fruit juice such as orange, apple, grape, or tomato, can lower the strength of shark cartilage as the minutes pass. If shark cartilage is added to a fruit juice, it should be added right before use.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of shark cartilage depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for shark cartilage. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

AE-941, Cartilage de Requin, Cartilage de Requin du Pacifique, Cartilago de Tiburon, Collagène Marin, Extrait de Cartilage de Requin, Liquide de Cartilage Marin, Marine Collagen, Marine Liquid Cartilage, MSI-1256F, Neovastat, Pacific Shark Cartilage, Poudre de Cartilage de Requin, Shark Cartilage Powder, Shark Cartilage Extract, Sphyrna lewini, Squalus acanthias.


To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.


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Last reviewed - 03/14/2019