This promising arthritis fighter helps to build cartilage – which provides cushioning at the tips of the bones – and protects and strengthens the joints as it relieves pain and stiffness. Although your body produces some glucosamine, a supplement is more effective.

What it is

Scientists have long known that the body manufactures a small amount of glucosamine (pronounced glue-KOSE-a-mean), a fairly simple molecule that contains glucose. It’s found in relatively high concentrations in the joints and connective tissues, where the body uses it to form the larger molecules necessary for cartilage repair and maintenance. In recent years, glucosamine has become available as a nutritional supplement. Glucosamine sulphate is the preferred form for arthritis. It is readily used by the body (90-98% is absorbed through the intestine) and appears to be very effective for this condition.

What it does

Some experts hail glucosamine as an arthritis cure, but no one supplement can claim that title. It does, however, provide significant relief from pain and inflammation for about half of arthritis sufferers – especially those with the common, age-related form known as osteoarthritis. It can also help people with rheumatoid arthritis and other types of joint injuries, and if offers additional benefits as well.

Major benefits

Approved for the treatment of arthritis in some 70 countries around the world, glucosamine can ease pain and inflammation, increase range of motion, and help to repair ageing and damaged joints in the knees, hips, spine and hands. Recent studies show that it may be even more effective for relieving pain and inflammation (without the harmful side effects) that the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, commonly taken by arthritis sufferers. What’s more, while NSAIDs mask arthritis pain, they do little to combat the progression of the disease – and may even make it worse by impairing the body’s ability to build cartilage. In contrast, glucosamine helps to make cartilage and may repair damaged joints. Even in cases of advanced arthritis, where cartilage has completely worn away, it may be of significant benefit when used for long periods consistently.

Additional benefits

As a general joint strengthener, glucosamine may be useful for the repevention of arthritis and all forms of age-related degenerative joint disease. It may also speed up healing of acute joint injuries, such as a sprained ankle or finger.

In addition to aiding joints and connective tissues, glucosamine promotes a healthy lining in the digestive tract and may be beneficial in treating ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome. It is included in various ‘intestinal health’ preparations sold in health-food shops, usually in the form of glucosamine sulphate.

Common uses

  • Relieves pain, stiffness and swelling of the knees, fingers and other joints due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Helps to reduce arthritic back and neck pain.
  • May speed the healing of sprains and strengthen joints, preventing future injury.


  • Capsule.
  • Tablet.
  • Powder.

Glucosamine Quick Facts:

  • Glucosamine sulfate is 90% absorbed after oral administration.
  • Glucosamine sulfate half life (how long it works in the body for) is 15 hours, so it needs to be taken 2 x day with time release 500mg or 3 x day with 500mg.

Glucosamine hydrochloride (GH) vs Glucosamine sulfate (S-GS)

  • GH is starting material from which S-GS is made from.
  • Both are fully ionised in the stomach and absorbed via similar mechanisms.
  • GH is approximately 83% active glucosamine whereas S-GS is approximately 58% active glucosamine.
  • Clinical trials that demonstrate the efficacy of glucosamine usually use S-GS.
  • In a tablet with limited space, a tablet containing GH will be able to offer a higher amount of glucosamine than the S-GS form.

Combined with Chondroiton?

  • Although chondroiton can be used in conjunction with glucosamine with great effect, there is no conclusive evidence that the combination has greater benefit than either substance alone.
  • Chondroiton dose should be 800-1200mg/day.
  • There is no vegetarian option for chondroiton, it is either Bovine or Shark derived.

How to take Glucosamine


The usual dosage for arthritis and other conditions is 500 mg of glucosamine suphate three times a day, or 1500 mg daily. This amount has been shown to be safe for everyone and effective for most. People weighing more than 90 kg or taking diuretics may need higher doses (about 900 mg per 45 kg of body weight); talk to your practitioner about an appropriate dosage.

Guidelines for use

Take glucosamine with meals to minimise the chance of digestive upset. It is typically taken long term, and appears to be very safe. While it may not bring relief as quickly as pain relievers or anti-inflammatories (it usually works in two to eight weeks), its benefits are far greater and longer-lasting when it’s used over a period of time.

The anti-arthritis effects of glucosamine may be enhanced by using it along with other supplements, such as chondroitin sulphate (a related cartilage-building compound), niacinamide (a form of the B-vitamin niacin), or New Zealand green lipped-mussel.

Other supplements sometimes taken with glucosamine for the relief of arthritis include boswellia, a tree extract from India; sea cucumber, an ancient Chinese remedy; and the topical pain reliever cayenne cream. No adverse reactions have been reported when glucosamine is used with other supplements or with prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Possible side effects

Because glucosamine is a natural substance produced in the body, it is virtually free of side effects, though no long-term studies have been done. Rarely, gastrointestinal effects, such as heartburn or nausea, may occur.


Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your health care practitioner before taking supplements.