Glucosamine is usually made from seashells, or it can be made in the laboratory. Glucosamine hydrochloride is one of several forms of glucosamine.
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 does it work?
Glucosamine in the body is used to make a “cushion” that surrounds the joints. In osteoarthritis, this cushion becomes thinner and stiff. Taking glucosamine hydrochloride as a supplement might help to supply the materials needed to rebuild the cushion.
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.
- 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 osteoarthritis of the knee. 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 doesn’t reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.
A lot 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. But some researchers have criticized the quality of that study.
- Knee pain. There is some 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. But this product does not seem to reduce the number of painful or swollen joints or decrease inflammation.
- Back pain.
Side Effects & Safety
Glucosamine hydrochloride is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when used short-term. The safety of long-term use is unknown. Glucosamine hydrochloride can cause gas, bloating, and cramps.
Some glucosamine products do not contain the labeled amount of glucosamine or contain excessive amounts of manganese. Ask your healthcare provider about reliable brands.
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.
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. But 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.
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.
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.
Major Interaction Do not take this combination
- Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with GLUCOSAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. There are several reports showing that taking glucosamine with or without chondroitin increase the effect of warfarin (Coumadin) on blood clotting. This can cause bruising and bleeding that can be serious. Don't take glucosamine if you are taking warfarin (Coumadin).
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Medications for cancer (Antimitotic chemotherapy) interacts with GLUCOSAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE
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 along with some medications for cancer might decrease the effectiveness of these medications.
Minor Interaction Be watchful with this combination
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) interacts with GLUCOSAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE
There is some concern that taking glucosamine hydrochloride and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) together might alter how well each works. But more information is needed to know if this interaction is a big concern.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with GLUCOSAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE
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.
The appropriate dose of glucosamine hydrochloride depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for glucosamine hydrochloride. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.