What is it?
Chondroitin sulfate is a chemical that is normally found in cartilage around joints in the body. Chondroitin sulfate is manufactured from animal sources, such as cow cartilage.
Chondroitin sulfate is used for osteoarthritis. It is often used in combination with other products, including manganese ascorbate, glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, or N-acetyl glucosamine. Research from a couple of decades ago showed that chondroitin sulfate helped arthritis pain when taken with conventional medicines, such as aspirin, for pain and swelling. But later research wasn’t so positive. Now, scientists believe that, overall, chondroitin sulfate may reduce arthritis pain slightly.
Some people use chondroitin sulfate for heart disease, weak bones (osteoporosis), and high cholesterol. Chondroitin sulfate is also used in a complex with iron for treating iron-deficiency anemia.
Chondroitin sulfate is available as an eye drop for dry eyes. In addition, it is used during cataract surgery, and as a solution for preserving corneas used for transplants. It is approved by the FDA for these uses.
Some people with arthritis use ointments or skin creams for pain that contain chondroitin sulfate, in combination with glucosamine sulfate, shark cartilage, and camphor. But as far as we know, chondroitin sulfate isn’t absorbed through the skin. That would mean that any benefit from these creams and ointments is due to some other ingredient.
There is great variability among chondroitin and chondroitin plus glucosamine products. Some products contain no chondroitin despite label claims, while others contain more chondroitin than the label shows. Price isn’t always a guarantee of quality. Low-cost chondroitin products (less than $1 per 1200 mg chondroitin) seem to contain little chondroitin, but some higher-priced products may also contain less chondroitin than claimed.
Look out for chondroitin plus glucosamine combination products that also contain manganese (e.g., CosaminDS). Be sure to follow product directions. When taken at doses slightly higher than the recommended dose, these products can sometimes supply more than the safe daily intake of manganese, which is 11 mg per day. Taking more than 11 mg per day of manganese might significantly poison the central nervous system.
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 CHONDROITIN SULFATE are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Dry eyes as an eye drop.
- Reducing pain from a type of arthritis called osteoarthritis, when taken by mouth. Clinical research on the effectiveness of chondroitin sulfate taken by mouth for osteoarthritis is inconsistent. The reason for contradictory findings is unclear, but could be due to differences in people studied, different products used, or other differences in study design. Overall, the evidence shows that some people with osteoarthritis of the knee or hand can experience some benefit from taking chondroitin; however, pain relief is likely to be modest or possibly insignificant.
Some skin creams containing chondroitin sulfate are promoted for reducing osteoarthritis pain. There is some evidence that a skin cream containing chondroitin sulfate in combination with glucosamine sulfate, shark cartilage, and camphor seems to reduce arthritis symptoms. But any symptom relief is most likely due to the camphor and not the other ingredients. There’s no research showing that chondroitin is absorbed through the skin.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Heart attack. There is some preliminary evidence that taking chondroitin sulfate by mouth might lower the risk of having a first or recurrent heart attack.
- Heart disease.
- Osteoporosis (weak bones).
- High cholesterol.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate chondroitin sulfate for these uses.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints breaks down. Taking chondroitin sulfate, one of the building blocks of cartilage, might slow this breakdown.
Chondroitin sulfate is LIKELY SAFE for most people. It can cause some mild stomach pain and nausea. Other side effects that have been reported are diarrhea, constipation, swollen eyelids, leg swelling, hair loss, and irregular heartbeat.
There is some concern about the safety of chondroitin sulfate because it comes from animal sources. Some people are worried that unsafe manufacturing practices might lead to contamination of chondroitin products with diseased animal tissues, including those that might transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). So far, there are no reports of chondroitin causing disease in humans, and the risk is thought to be low.
Some chondroitin products contain excess amounts of manganese. Ask your healthcare professional about reliable brands.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of chondroitin sulfate during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Asthma: There is some concern that chondroitin sulfate might make asthma worse. If you have asthma, use chondroitin sulfate cautiously.
Prostate cancer: Preliminary research suggests that chondroitin may cause the spread or recurrence of prostate cancer. This effect has not been shown with chondroitin sulfate supplements. Still, until more is known, don’t take chondroitin sulfate if you have prostate cancer or are at high risk for developing it (you have a brother or father with prostate cancer).
Be cautious with this combination.
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. There are several reports showing that taking chondroitin with glucosamine increases the effect of warfarin (Coumadin) on blood clotting. This can cause bruising and bleeding that can be serious. Don't take chondroitin if you are taking warfarin (Coumadin).
There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
There are no known interactions with foods.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For osteoarthritis: the typical dose of chondroitin sulfate is 200-400 mg two to three times daily or 1000-1200 mg as a single daily dose.
- For osteoarthritis: a cream containing 50 mg/g of chondroitin sulfate, 30 mg/g of glucosamine sulfate, 140 mg/g of shark cartilage, and 32 mg/g of camphor has been used as needed for sore joints for up to 8 weeks.
Calcium Chondroitin Sulfate, CDS, Chondroitin, Chondroitin Polysulfate, Chondroitin Polysulphate, Chondroitin Sulfate A, Chondroitin Sulfates, Chondroitin Sulfate B, Chondroitin Sulfate C, Chondroitin Sulphates, Chondroitin Sulphate A Sodium, Chondroïtine, Chondroïtine Sulfate A, Chondroïtine Sulfate B, Chondroïtine Sulfate C, Chondroïtine 4-sulfate, Chondroïtine 4- et 6- sulfate, Condroitin, CPS, CS, CSA, CSC, GAG, Galactosaminoglucuronoglycan Sulfate, Chondroitin 4-sulfate, Chondroitin 4- and 6-sulfate, Poly-(1->3)-N-aceltyl-2-amino-2-deoxy-3-O-beta-D-glucopyranurosyl-4-(or 6-), Polysulfate de Chondroïtine, Sulfate de Chondroïtine, Sulfate de Galactosaminoglucuronoglycane, Sulfates de Chondroïtine, Sulfato de Condroitina.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).
To see all references for the Chondroitin sulfate page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/744.html.
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Last reviewed - 08/21/2014
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