What is it?
Glucosamine hydrochloride is used for osteoarthritis, knee pain, back pain, and glaucoma. However, no one knows yet whether it is effective for any of these conditions. There have been some preliminary studies, but more research is needed.
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; however, they may not have the same effects when taken as a dietary supplement. Most of the scientific research done on glucosamine has been done on 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 which contains glucosamine sulfate.
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...
- High cholesterol. Early research suggests that glucosamine hydrochloride does not affect cholesterol or triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol.
- Bone and joint disease (Kashin-Beck disease). Early evidence shows that taking glucosamine hydrochloride, alone or with chondroitin sulfate, reduces pain and improves physical function in adults with a bone and joint disorder called Kashin-Beck disease.
- 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, Nutramax Laboratories) that 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.
Other research suggests that taking glucosamine hydrochloride alone or in combination with chondroitin sulfate 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. One study comparing the two showed no difference. However, some researchers have criticized the quality of that study.
- Knee pain. There is some early evidence that glucosamine hydrochloride might provide some pain relief for people who have regularly occurring knee pain as a result of joint injury.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Some 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.
- Temperomandibular joint (TMJ) osteoarthritis. Early research shows that taking a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate, and calcium ascorbate twice daily reduces joint swelling and pain in people with TMJ osteoarthritis.
- Back pain.
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: Not enough is known about the use of glucosamine hydrochloride during pregnancy and 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.
High cholesterol: There is some concern that glucosamine might cause cholesterol levels to increase 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, use glucosamine cautiously if you have high cholesterol levels.
High blood pressure: There is some concern that glucosamine might cause blood pressure to increase 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, use glucosamine cautiously if you 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 (Antimitotic chemotherapy)
- Some medications for cancer work by decreasing how fast cancer cells can copy themselves. Some scientists think that glucosamine might increase how fast tumor cells can copy themselves. Taking glucosamine hydrochloride along with some medications for cancer might decrease the effectiveness of these medications.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)
- There is some concern that taking glucosamine hydrochloride and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) together might affect how well each works. However, more information is needed to know if this interaction is a big concern.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- There has been concern that glucosamine hydrochloride might increase blood sugar in people with diabetes. There was also the concern that glucosamine hydrochloride might decrease how well medications used for diabetes work. However, research now indicates that glucosamine hydrochloride probably does not increase blood sugar in people with diabetes. Therefore, glucosamine hydrochloride probably does not interfere with diabetes medications. 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?
- There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
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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