Glucosamine is one of the best joint supplements you can buy. It’s designed to relieve joint pain and inflammation, increase mobility, and even help treat osteoarthritis, which commonly occurs in the weight-bearing joints of the hips, knees, and spine.
By 2040, the CDC projects 26% of US adults aged 18 years or older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Almost 50% of adults over the age of 65 currently have the condition. That’s why improving the health of your bones and joints is so important, and can improve your quality of life at all ages.
But with so many products now available, how do you find the best glucosamine supplement?
There’s a lot to think about. Do you buy pure glucosamine or look for an all-in-one that combines this with MSM and chondroitin? Is glucosamine sulfate better than glucosamine hydrochloride, and how much do you need to take?
Modern joint supplements have also started including more unusual ingredients, such as turmeric, rosehips, ginger, and hyaluronic acid. But is this something you really need to pay for?
By the end of this guide you’ll have everything you need to know about the best form of glucosamine, recommended intake levels, health benefits, and how to find the lowest price.
We also analyzed the ingredients from more than 100 glucosamine supplements, then created a top 10 list of the best on the market. This includes products that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound found within the cartilage of joints. Made from chains of sugars and proteins, glucosamine is a combination of glucose and glutamine, used by the body to help build tendons, cartilage, and fluid around the joints.
The two main forms of glucosamine are hydrochloride (HCL), and sulfate, but some supplement companies also sell N-Acetyl-glucosamine, marketed as ‘N.A.G’. NAG is a precursor to hyaluronic acid and helps reduces inflammation around the joints.
Glucosamine is naturally produced by the human body, but many people choose to boost their intake with a supplement, which is typically derived from shrimp, crab, and other shellfish.
Why Use Glucosamine with Chondroitin and MSM?
Based on the scientific research currently available, we could only recommend taking a joint supplement that combines glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin sulfate. There simply aren’t enough benefits to taking glucosamine in isolation.
But what about supplements that include MSM? Are they really a more effective treatment for joint pain?
MSM has been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which boosts the effects of glucosamine.
As a sulfur, MSM also plays an important role in making collagen and glucosamine, with the added benefit of boosting your immune system.
One study compared MSM and boswellic acids against glucosamine sulfate, in the treatment for arthritis of the knee. After 6 months of use, greater improvements in joint function were seen in the MSM group.
Who Should Take Glucosamine?
As people age, glucosamine levels naturally start to fall. Supplementing with glucosamine sulfate has been shown to improve joint support and limit the progression of conditions such as osteoarthritis.
A 3-year study published in 2002 looked at the effects of supplementing with glucosamine sulfate. Two hundred patients with knee osteoarthritis were randomized to receive a placebo or 1500 mg/day of glucosamine.
The study concluded that long-term treatment with glucosamine improved symptoms by as much as 25% compared to the placebo. This meant less pain, greater mobility, and reduced joint stiffness.
A separate study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, combined glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate, as a treatment for painful knee osteoarthritis.
This type of combination therapy was found to significantly decrease osteoarthritis knee pain for patients with moderate-to-severe pain. No significant benefits were identified from using glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate alone.
The study also highlighted the need for increased regulatory status on these ingredients, as many supplements carry labels that don’t accurately reflect the potency.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) affects over 30 million US adults. It occurs most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling.
As the most common cause of disability among U.S. adults, OA medical expenditures hit $81 billion in 2003, with $47 billion in earnings losses.
Kashin-Beck is similar to osteoarthritis in the sense that they’re both characterized by degradation of cartilage.
One study used a combination of 1440 mg Glucosamine (HCI) and 1200 mg Chondroitin sulfate for 6 months to determine the effects of combination therapy. The results showed that the two supplements used together were significantly more effective at reducing joint pain than the placebo.
Assessed using the WOMAC scale, 23.4% of patients reported a greater than 20% reduction in symptoms such as stiffness, joint pain, and mobility.
A second study into Glucosamine sulfate for treatment of KBD found 750mg taken twice daily for 6 weeks was enough to reduce pain symptoms and improve functionality.
Glucosamine is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18, due to insufficient scientific evidence of its effects.
How Much Glucosamine do I Need?
This very much depends on what you’re using the supplement for. The Mayo Clinic has published the following guidelines, based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, and expert opinion.
- Knee osteoarthritis: 300-500 mg of glucosamine sulfate or 480 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride three times daily for 12 weeks.
- Low back pain: 1500 mg of glucosamine daily for 6 months.
- Bone diseases (Kashin-Beck): 480 mg of glucosamine HCL three times daily for 6 months.
- High cholesterol: 1,500 mg of glucosamine daily for up to 14 weeks.
- Multiple sclerosis: 1000 mg of glucosamine sulfate daily for 6 months.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: 420 mg of Teoremac daily for 14 days
- Improving digestive health: 1,500 mg daily.
- Preventative joint support: 1500 mg of glucosamine sulfate daily, combined with chondroitin.
Best Time to Take Glucosamine
Most glucosamine studies recommend taking the supplement for a minimum of 2 to 4 months before noticing any significant improvements.
As with any daily supplement, the important thing is that you’re consistent. Try to find a time when you’ll remember to take it each day, perhaps alongside an existing multivitamin or Omega-3 supplement.
Glucosamine For Dogs and Horses?
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects joint health in animals as well as humans.
So how does glucosamine affect dogs and horses?
A study published in the Veterinary Journal assessed the efficacy of oral glucosamine HCL and chondroitin in thirty-five dogs. Each had a confirmed case of osteoarthritis in the hips or elbows.
After 98 days (70 treatment days followed by 28 days of no treatment), dogs treated with this combination showed significant improvement. This was measured across pain scores, weight-bearing ability, and severity of the condition by day 70.
Benefits of glucosamine for dogs:
- Low Chance of Side Effects
- Potentially help eliminate the need for pain medicine like NSAIDS
- Helps Joint Function Naturally
- May Increase Mobility
Joint support for horses
A number of supplements are now available for horses, to help improve joint support and mobility. Perhaps not surprisingly, the ingredients are often the same as you’ll find in glucosamine supplements for humans.
FlexAbility is one of the best known examples, with a formula that combines glucosamine, MSM, vitamin C, chondroitin sulfate, and omega 3.
However, there are currently a very limited number of clinical studies available relating to horses.
Research published in the Equine Veterinary Journal looked at nutraceuticals being used to manage equine arthritis and joint disease.
This included results from 15 published research papers on glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation in horses. It concludes that just 3 of these papers met a minimum quality standard for their scientific approach.
More high quality research is needed to determine the benefits of glucosamine in the equine industry.
Types of Glucosamine
Unlike some supplements, glucosamine is not naturally occurring in any foods. This means you can only increase your daily glucosamine intake through supplementation, available as a powder, pills, capsules, gel, or even liquid.
While most products contain glucosamine sulfate, some use glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL). So what’s the difference, and which is the best type for you?
1. Glucosamine sulfate
As the name suggests, this is the only form of glucosamine to contain sulfate. Sulfate is needed by the body to produce cartilage, which is an important part of a supplement designed to build tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and joint fluid.
Glucosamine sulfate is used in most major scientific studies, including one published in the International Journal of Rheumatology.
This study combined glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Based on the preclinical and clinical data, the study found these ingredients to have an excellent safety profile, and play an essential role in cartilage regeneration for osteoarthritis.
2. Glucosamine HCL
People usually take Glucosamine HCL for the treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma, joint pain, and back pain.
In the studies that have used Glucosamine HCL, the results don’t look promising.
Two controlled trials were performed to evaluate the use of glucosamine hydrochloride in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. The first trial included 118 people, some of which received 1,500 mg a day for 8 weeks, while the rest received a placebo.
This trial found 49% of patients taking HCL felt better at the end of the trial, but 40% of the placebo group said the same. There was also very little improvement in symptoms.
A second trial included 1,583 people with knee osteoarthritis. They would each be assigned one of five treatments to be taken once a day for 24 weeks.
The most significant improvements were seen in people taking Celecoxib, or those with moderate-to-severe knee pain that combined glucosamine HCL with chondroitin sulfate.
3. N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc)
This is a form of glucosamine that comes from the outer shells of certain insects and shellfish.
Believed to help protect the lining of the stomach and intestines, it’s often taken as a treatment for osteoarthritis, IBD, and Crohn’s disease.
Unfortunately there is very little evidence to prove the effectiveness of N-acetylglucosamine for improving joint health. One pilot study reported it showed promise as an inexpensive IBD treatment, but more controlled trials are needed to confirm its efficacy.
Top 10 Best Glucosamine Supplements
With so many joint health products on the market, finding the best glucosamine supplement isn’t easy. That’s why we analyzed the ingredients of over 100, then created a top 10 list based on a combination of price, ingredients, customer feedback, and company background.
1. Dr. Tobias Hip, Knee and Joints
Before we chose our top glucosamine supplement, we read through dozens of studies and research data, including the recommendations from Mayo Clinic.
As mentioned earlier in our guide, they believe 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate per day is the perfect amount to deliver health benefits in lower back pain, high cholesterol, preventative joint support, and improving digestive health. It’s also above their recommendation for bone diseases, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis.
We also paid close attention to those supplements that combine glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate. This was mainly due to the results of the New England Journal of Medicine study, which only reported health benefits when the two ingredients were used together, rather than individually.
MSM has also proven to be an effective anti-inflammatory, helping to improve joint function and flexibility. Dr. Tobias Hip Knee & Joints has the highest MSM dose of any glucosamine supplement we reviewed, with 2000 mg per serving.
2. Doctor’s Best Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM
Doctor’s Best Glucosamine was chosen for similar reasons as the Dr. Tobias supplement. It provides you with the all-important 1500 mg of glucosamine sulfate per serving, together with chondroitin and MSM.
But there are two reasons we chose Dr. Tobias Hip Knee & Joints for the top spot. Firstly, you’re getting twice as much MSM compared to Doctor’s Best. Second, it’s usually the cheaper of the two supplements, when you calculate the average cost per serving.
However, it’s also important to point out that Doctor’s Best uses OptiMSM®, widely regarded as the world’s purest MSM. This is thanks to Bergstrom Nutrition’s multi-stage distillation process, which ensures a 99.99% pure, high quality product.
If you prefer a slightly smaller serving size (4 capsules instead of 5) and a high purity MSM backed by a range of published efficacy studies, Doctor’s Best Glucosamine could be your best option.
3. Zenwise Labs Joint Support Pro Mobility Formula
Zenwise Labs (also known as Zenwise Health) has used a similar combination of ingredients to the supplements above, to create their own Joint Support pro-mobility formula. The difference here is that you get half the dose of MSM compared to Dr. Tobias Glucosamine, without the high purity OptiMSM® of Doctor’s Best.
In fairness, this is usually reflected in the price, where you’ll typically pay around 10% less per serving. The servings are also slightly more convenient, giving you the full 1500 mg of glucosamine, 1200 mg of chondroitin, and 1000 mg of MSM in just 3 tablets, instead of 4 or 5 capsules.
Despite all the scientific evidence pointing to these doses being the most effective, there aren’t many supplements that combine them. For us, the fact that glucosamine sulfate has been used in place of hydrochloride is important, as you will struggle to find any study based on glucosamine HCL.
4. Vita Breeze Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM & Turmeric
VitaBreeze Glucosamine usually carries the same cost per serving as the Doctor’s Best and Dr. Tobias supplements, but with less chondroitin and MSM. In its place, you have 300 mg of turmeric.
Curcumin is a component of turmeric, and has shown promise in numerous clinical trials for the treatment of arthritis. Its anti-inflammatory properties work well alongside MSM, which has a similar purpose.
Most importantly, VitaBreeze has stuck with the 1500 mg recommendation of glucosamine sulfate, which has proven so effective in recent studies. This is combined with 1000 mg of chondroitin sulfate and 600 mg of MSM to make it one of the top rated joint health supplements on Amazon.
One of the reasons we chose VitaBreeze over NOW Foods is the higher dose of glucosamine (1500 mg vs. 1100 mg). Unless you’re buying the 180-count bottle of NOW Foods Glucosamine, it also tends to be more expensive than the VitaBreeze product.
5. NOW Foods Glucosamine & Chondroitin with MSM
NOW Foods has developed a full range of top quality glucosamine supplements, including liquid glucosamine HCL, glucosamine sulfate tablets, and even vegetarian glucosamine with MSM. The vegetarian version sources 1000 mg of glucosamine from GreenGrown®, which is derived from a non-GMO corn source.
But it’s their complete joint mobility formula that makes our top 10 list. This combines 1,100 mg of glucosamine sulfate, 1,200 mg of chondroitin sulfate and 300 mg of MSM to create an effective dietary supplement for improved joint health.
This is a lower dose than the products listed above, but the cost per serving tends to be the same (usually around $0.45).
NOW Foods Glucosamine is one of only a few joint health supplements to combine these 3 key ingredients. The remainder of our list is dominated by glucosamine HCL products, which haven’t been used in as much clinical research as glucosamine sulfate.
6. Schiff Move Free Joint Health
Schiff produces some of the best glucosamine supplements on the market, but with so much variation, it can be difficult to know which one’s right for you.
Should you choose their advanced glucosamine with MSM, the Ultra triple action glucosamine with collagen, boron, and hyaluronic acid, or their advanced formula with MSM and vitamin D3? Do the coated tablets have the best bioavailability, or should you buy their new joint health gummies?
This is something we look at in our review with much more detail and comparisons, but most importantly we should say Schiff always uses glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL). The highest dose (2000 mg per serving) can be found in their Glucosamine 2000 mg Plus Vitamin D3 supplement.
But we chose to feature their Move Free supplement in our top 10 due to its holistic approach to joint health. Although this doesn’t include vitamin D, you do have 5 ingredients designed to improve joint health and mobility.
7. Kirkland Signature Glucosamine
Kirkland Signature has a great example of a high quality, cheap biotin supplement. At the time of writing this guide, you could pick up a 375 count bottle on Amazon for around $15, giving a cost per serving of close to $0.08.
So why didn’t we feature it higher up in our list?
Firstly, after analyzing a large number of clinical studies, the best results have always come from a combination of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate. Unfortunately Kirkland Signature only provide you with 1500 mg of glucosamine HCL, and 1500 mg of MSM per serving, with no chondroitin.
Several companies sell pure chondroitin sulfate as a separate supplement, such as NOW Foods and Bulk Supplements, but it’s much less convenient than getting your full dose from the one supplement. If you’re willing to give up the MSM, Kirkland do have a supplement that gives you 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1200 mg of chondroitin, but it’s usually much more difficult to find.
If you’re on a really tight budget, Kirkland glucosamine supplements can be a great way to pay for just two of the big 3 ingredients. But personally, for the sake of a few dollars more each month, we would rather go with a complete joint health and mobility solution. Joint Support from Zenwise Labs is an excellent alternative.
8. Vimerson Health Glucosamine Chondroitin Turmeric & MSM
Vimerson Health Glucosamine provides you with a full 1500 mg of glucosamine sulfate, together with 150 mg of chondroitin sulfate and 25 mg of MSM. You’re also getting 200 mg of boswelia extract, 150 mg of turmeric, and a range of other ingredients to support healthy joints.
However, most clinical studies in our research used a minimum of 500 mg MSM per serving, in addition to glucosamine, to see the best results. This includes one from the Clinical Drug Investigation journal, where combination therapy showed the greatest reduction in pain and swelling, as well as the functional ability of joints.
Ranked as one of the top glucosamine and chondroitin combination supplements on Amazon, Vimerson Health Glucosamine is certainly proving popular.
In terms of value for money, you can expect to pay around 50% more per serving compared to a supplement like Dr. Tobias Glucosamine. This is due to the extra ingredients added, such as boswelia extract and turmeric.
So is this good value for money? Do these added ingredients really improve joint health or should you invest in a supplement with more chondroitin and MSM? Our in-depth review has the answer.
9. Deva Vegan Glucosamine MSM & CMO
Deva currently produce one of the top vegan glucosamine supplements on Amazon, combining 1500 mg of glucosamine HCL with 750 mg of MSM, 100 mg of CMO (Cetyl Myristoleate), and 100 mg of boswelia extract.
Unfortunately there’s no chondroitin sulfate, which is typically derived from animal products, such as shark or beef cartilage. However, the glucosamine from Deva is derived from non-GMO corn, rather than shellfish or animals, which is why it’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
This means the cost per serving is a little high than for standard glucosamine supplements, but still around $0.41 per daily dose (3 tablets).
If you want to avoid the CMO and MSM, Deva also produce a pure glucosamine supplement, which has the same 1500 mg of glucosamine HCL. NOW Foods also have a vegetarian glucosamine supplement, but with just 1000 mg of glucosamine HCL and 1000 mg of MSM per serving.
In our full review you can find out more about DEVA as a company, customer feedback from people who have bought the supplement, and how the glucosamine is sourced.
10. Bulk Supplements Glucosamine Sulfate
Bulk Supplements are a somewhat unique company in the sense that they sell individual pure ingredients. This means that you’re able to buy glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and even the boswelia serrata extract powder separately, then create your own serving size.
They supply glucosamine sulfate rather than hydrochloride, in a range of sizes, from 100 grams all the way up to 25 kg sacks. But although the larger bags offer excellent value for money ($0.02 per gram), they’re not the most viable option. For example, at 1500 mg per day, the 25 kg sack would last you more than 45 years.
At the time of writing this review, you could buy a 500 g bag of glucosamine, and the same sized bags of MSM and chondroitin. With 1500 mg of each ingredient, you’re looking at a cost per serving of around $0.35 – a saving of about $0.08 over a supplement like Dr. Tobias Glucosamine.
The only inconvenience is having to measure the dose each time with enough accuracy (only the MSM is available in capsule form).
Other glucosamine supplements worth mentioning
- Universal Nutrition Animal Flex
- RSP Nutrition Joint support
- Doctor’s Best Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM
- NOW Glucosamine 1000
- NOW Foods Glucosamine and Chondroitin with MSM
- MRM Glucosamine Chondroitin
- Dr. Tobias Hip, Knee and Joints
- Kirkland Signature Glucosamine
- Beverly International Joint Care
- Schiff Glucosamine
What to Look For in a Good Glucosamine Supplement
When we review any new glucosamine supplement, our research follows 4 important stages:
- Stage 1: Brand checkFirst, we take a look at the background of the company that makes the glucosamine. This can include anything from new patent filings to a recent change in ownership, where the manufacturing facilities are, and ratings received on their other supplements.
- Stage 2: IngredientsMost glucosamine supplements contain pure glucosamine, whether that’s sulfate or hydrochloride. But many now combine this with other ingredients, such as chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, MSM, coconut oil, and turmeric. We check each ingredient for scientific studies that prove they’re beneficial for healthy joints and mobility.
- Stage 3: Customer feedbackThis is similar to checking a company’s reputation, but in this case the feedback is specific to the product we review. Feedback is usually aggregated from e-commerce sites like Amazon, bodybuilding and fitness forums, and the official website of the company that makes it.
- Stage 4: Ingredient qualitySimilar to stage 2, but with more of a focus on the sourcing of ingredients, whether they’re manufactured in a cGMP and NSF certified facility, and if their product is used in any independent studies.
Side Effects of Glucosamine
Glucosamine sulfate is classed as being ‘likely safe’, which means there are little to no side effects from consumption.
As with any supplement, it’s important to pay attention to any allergen warnings and take note of any advice on the label. Although some varieties contain small amounts of shellfish, no reports of allergic reactions have been seen (reactions are typically to the meat of the shellfish, not the shell).
Mild and infrequent side effects include:
- Stomach upsets
Before you start taking any new supplement, we always recommend checking with a medical professional first. If you do this, and still experience any of the symptoms listed above, we recommend taking glucosamine with food. If symptoms still don’t subside, lower or discontinue the dose and consult your doctor.
Is glucosamine safe for someone with diabetes?
There’s some evidence to show glucosamine may cause insulin to work less effectively.
However, this level of insulin resistance has only been observed during intravenous administration of glucosamine. Tests performed with oral glucosamine taken as a nutritional supplement have found no impact on insulin resistance.
One study, published by researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, ran a 6-week test with 500 mg doses of glucosamine. They concluded that:
“Oral glucosamine at standard doses for 6 weeks does not cause or significantly worsen insulin resistance or endothelial dysfunction in lean or obese subjects.”
Anyone with diabetes who supplements with intravenous glucosamine should have their blood sugar checked regularly.
Is glucosamine safe to take while pregnant?
This is a question we see a lot, and based on scientific evidence currently available, we would say yes, it is.
However, as with any supplements, we would still recommend checking with a trained healthcare provider.
One study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, looked at whether glucosamine treatment during pregnancy caused any adverse effects.
Researchers concluded that there was no increased risk of adverse fetal effects after using glucosamine during pregnancy. However, this study used a relatively small sample size (54 women), and more data from larger studies.
Is glucosamine safe for children?
As with pregnancy, there haven’t been enough large-scale clinical studies on the use of glucosamine by children to recommend it.
Some sites have mentioned a link between the ingestion of Glucosamine MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) in children and autism. We were unable to track down this study ourselves, but did find one that contradicts this claim.
This study, published by BMC Pediatrics, looked at the effects of a vitamin and mineral supplement on 141 children and adults with autism.
As a source of sulfur, 500 mg of MSM was included in the multivitamin supplement to boost sulfate status.
After 3 months, the results highlighted an improvement in the nutritional and metabolic status of children with autism. There were significantly greater improvements than in the placebo group.
High blood pressure
Can I take glucosamine if I have high blood pressure?
This is another area that needs more research, but there is one study, albeit small, that shows a link between glucosamine chondroitin supplementation and heart rate increase.
Over a 5 year period, one patient treated himself with 500 mg of glucosamine HCL and 400 mg chondroitin sulfate. His international normalized ratio (INR) remained within a narrow range (2.5-3.2).
After increasing the dose to 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1200 mg chondroitin twice daily, his INR increased to 3.9 after just 3 weeks. 16 days after stopping the glucosamine chondroitin, INR was back down to 2.6.
If you have the following conditions, we recommend talking to your doctor before supplementing with glucosamine.
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Shellfish Allergy
- Upcoming Surgery
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