Overview

Chondroitin sulfate is a chemical that is normally found in cartilage around joints in the body. Chondroitin sulfate is usually manufactured from animal sources, such as shark and cow cartilage. It can also be made in a lab.

Some chondroitin sulfate products are not labeled accurately. In some cases, the amount of chondroitin has varied from none to more than 100% of the amount stated on the product's label. Also, some products contain chondroitin that is taken from multiple different animals, even though this is not always stated on the label.

Chondroitin sulfate is used for osteoarthritis and cataracts. It is often used in combination with other ingredients, including manganese ascorbate, hyaluronic acid, collagen peptides, or glucosamine. Chondroitin sulfate is also taken by mouth, applied to the skin, and given as a shot for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

How does it work ?

In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints breaks down. Taking chondroitin sulfate, one of the building blocks of cartilage, might slow this breakdown.

Uses & Effectiveness ?

Possibly Effective for

  • Cataracts. Research shows that injecting a solution that contains chondroitin sulfate and sodium hyaluronate into the eye protects the eye during cataract surgery. Many different products containing chondroitin sulfate and sodium hyaluronate have been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use during cataract surgery.
  • Osteoarthritis. Clinical research shows that taking chondroitin sulfate by mouth modestly improves pain and function in some people with osteoarthritis when used for up to 6 months. It seems to work best in people with more severe pain and when a pharmaceutical-grade preparation is used. Specific products that have shown benefit include Chondrosulf (IBSA Institut Biochimique SA), Chondrosan (Bioibérica, S.A.), and Structrum (Laboratoires Pierre Fabre). But pain relief is likely to be small at best. Other research shows that taking chondroitin sulfate for up to 2 years might slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
    Taking chondroitin sulfate plus glucosamine long-term appears to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Some specific products containing chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine might also reduce pain with osteoarthritis. But other products have shown no benefit.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Dry eye. Early research shows that using chondroitin sulfate eye drops can decrease dry eyes.
  • Muscle soreness caused by exercise. Early research shows that taking chondroitin sulfate daily does not reduce muscle soreness after exercise in men.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the stomach (gastritis). Early research shows that drinking a specific liquid containing chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid can decrease abdominal pain in people with gastritis.
  • Painful bladder syndrome (interstitial cystitis). Some research shows that putting liquid with chondroitin sulfate into the bladder can improve painful bladder symptoms. But most of these studies are low quality. Some higher-quality studies suggest that using chondroitin sulfate inside the bladder is not beneficial. Some early research shows that taking a product containing chondroitin sulfate and other ingredients by mouth can improve painful bladder. But it's not clear if the benefit is from chondroitin sulfate or the other ingredients.
  • A disorder that affects the bones and joints, usually in people with selenium deficiency (Kashin-Beck disease). Early research suggests that chondroitin sulfate, with or without glucosamine hydrochloride, can reduce pain in people with Kashin-Beck disease. Also, taking chondroitin sulfate with glucosamine sulfate can slow joint space narrowing in people with this bone disease. However, it is unclear if taking chondroitin sulfate alone slows joint space narrowing.
  • Heart attack. Some early research shows that taking chondroitin sulfate by mouth might lower the risk of having a first or recurrent heart attack.
  • Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence). Early research suggests that administering a solution with chondroitin sulfate into the bladder through a urinary catheter improves quality of life in people with overactive bladder.
  • Aging skin.
  • Joint pain caused by drugs called aromatase inhibitors (aromatase inhibitor-induced arthralgias).
  • Non-cancerous growths in the large intestine and rectum (colorectal adenoma).
  • Death from any cause.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis).
  • Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis).
  • Infections of the kidney, bladder, or urethra (urinary tract infections or UTIs).
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate chondroitin sulfate for these uses.

Side Effects

When taken by mouth: Chondroitin sulfate is LIKELY SAFE. Chondroitin sulfate has been taken by mouth safely for up to 6 years. It can cause some mild stomach pain and nausea. Other side effects that have been reported are bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headache, swollen eyelids, leg swelling, hair loss, skin rash, and irregular heartbeat.

When placed into the eye: Chondroitin sulfate is LIKELY SAFE when used as an eye solution during cataract surgery. Chondroitin sulfate is POSSIBLY SAFE when use as an eye drop in combination with other ingredients.

When given as a shot: Chondroitin sulfate is POSSIBLY SAFE when injected into the muscle as a shot, short-term.

Special Precautions and Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if chondroitin sulfate is safe to use when pregnant or 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: Early research suggests that chondroitin might cause the spread or recurrence of prostate cancer. This effect has not been shown with chondroitin sulfate supplements. However, until more is known, do not 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).

Interactions ?

    Moderate Interaction

    Be cautious with this combination

  • Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with CHONDROITIN SULFATE

    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).

Dosing

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For osteoarthritis: The typical dose of chondroitin sulfate is 800-2000 mg taken as a single dose or in two or three divided doses daily for up to 3 years.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
  • For osteoarthritis: A cream containing 50 mg/gram of chondroitin sulfate, 30 mg/gram of glucosamine sulfate, 140 mg/gram of shark cartilage, and 32 mg/gram of camphor has been used as needed for sore joints for up to 8 weeks.
INJECTED INTO THE MUSCLE:
  • For osteoarthritis: Chondroitin sulfate (Matrix) has been injected into the muscle daily or twice weekly for 6 months.
APPLIED TO THE EYE:
  • For cataracts: Several different eye drops containing sodium hyaluronate and chondroitin sulfate (DisCoVisc, Alcon Laboratories; Viscoat, Alcon Laboratories; DuoVisc, Alcon Laboratories; Viscoat, Alcon Laboratories; Provisc, Alcon Laboratories) have been used during cataract surgery.
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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2018.