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Glucosamine is an amino sugar that is produced naturally in humans. It is also found in seashells, or it can be made in the laboratory. Glucosamine hydrochloride is one of several forms of glucosamine.
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. But they may not have the same effects when taken as a dietary supplement. Most of the scientific research on glucosamine has been done using 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 containing glucosamine sulfate.
People take glucosamine hydrochloride by mouth for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma, a jaw disorder called temporomandibular disorder (TMD), joint pain, back pain, and weight loss.
Glucosamine hydrochloride is applied to the skin in combination with chondroitin sulfate, shark cartilage, and camphor for osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine hydrochloride is used parenterally and short-term to reduce osteoarthritis symptoms.
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.