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Glucosamine and chondroitin is a dietary supplement best known for its effects on treating arthritis. The combination product is believed to work by decreasing inflammation, stimulating the cells that produce cartilage, limiting the production of certain compounds that degrade cartilage, and inhibiting a certain enzyme that damages cartilage. Some of the side effects that have been reported with the supplement include diarrhea, heartburn, and nausea.

What Is Glucosamine and Chondroitin?

Glucosamine and chondroitin is a dietary supplement most often used to treat arthritis (although it is claimed to be beneficial for a few other uses as well). The two components (chondroitin and glucosamine) can be purchased and used separately, although they are most commonly used together.
(Click Benefits of Glucosamine and Chondroitin for more information on what the supplement is used for, including additional uses.)

How Does It Work?

Glucosamine is an amino sugar naturally found in the human body. It is important for the production of certain proteins, lipids (fatty molecules), and other substances in the human body. Most researchers think that glucosamine works for arthritis in several ways, such as by:
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Stimulating chondrocytes, the cells that make and maintain cartilage
  • Decreasing the production of certain compounds that degrade cartilage.
Chondroitin is a molecule naturally found in the human body (as well as in many animals). It is part of a group of very large molecules known as glycosaminoglycans. Researchers think that chondroitin might work for arthritis in several ways, such as by:
  • Inhibiting a cartilage-damaging enzyme known as leukocyte elastase
  • Decreasing inflammation (by changing the way certain white blood cells respond to certain chemical signals)
  • Increasing the production of hyaluronic acid, a component of synovial fluid (the lubricating fluid in joints) and of cartilage.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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