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Tender joints, stiff knees – if you suffer from osteoarthritis you know how easily this painful condition can suck the joy out of life, leaving you a very unhappy-happy vegan.
While the illness itself is unfortunately incurable, symptoms can often be effectively managed through a number of treatments such as physical therapy, medication, and surgery.
For those who are hesitant to take medication or undergo surgery, there may be hope yet: studies have shown that some patients might find a degree of relief through glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation.
While it’s unclear whether glucosamine is truly effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis, these two compounds have a good enough safety profile that supplementation shouldn’t cause any adverse effects in the majority of cases, meaning that for some it’s worth taking a shot.
In this article, we’re going to go over glucosamine (and to a lesser extent chondroitin) and its potential benefits, as well as give you the lowdown on the best vegan glucosamine that we’ve found on the market.
- What is glucosamine?
- What is chondroitin?
- Does glucosamine work?
- Is glucosamine safe?
- Glucosamine dosage
- What should I look for in a glucosamine or chondroitin supplement?
- What are the best vegan glucosamine supplements? Our Reviews
- Our pick for best glucosamine supplement
What is glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a sugar that is a key component of cartilage, the firm tissue that helps our joints move smoothly and fluidly.
Since osteoarthritis is a disease caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage, some doctors put two and two together and hypothesized that perhaps supplementing with this substance could ease the suffering of patients who deal with the inflammatory condition on a daily basis.
There are three types of glucosamine available: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-Acetyl-glucosamine. The majority of clinical trials used glucosamine sulfate and the general consensus is that this is the best form of the compound for joint pain relief. (1)
On the other hand, glucosamine hydrochloride is basically inactive, and N-Acetyl-glucosamine is different enough that it is considered another supplement entirely. Glucosamine sulfate is definitely the one you want if you’re looking to treat osteoarthritis.
What is vegan glucosamine made from?
While most glucosamine supplements use shellfish as one of their main precursor ingredients, a number of manufacturers have recently begun producing 100% vegan glucosamine, which is great news for all the achy vegans out there.
Shellfish free glucosamine is produced by fermenting corn to create a completely animal-product-free supplement.
What is chondroitin?
Chondroitin is another substance that is naturally found in the body’s connective tissue. It is usually consumed in combination with glucosamine as a treatment for osteoarthritis symptoms.
For the most part, chondroitin is made out of animal products such as shark cartilage, but there are two vegan options produced through a fermentation process: Mythocondro and Phytodroitin.
What’s more: a recent trial indicates that Mythocondro may actually be more effective than its animal-product counterpart. Great news for vegans and animals alike!
However, despite these promising results, evidence of chondroitin’s efficacy as a treatment for osteoarthritis is mixed, and this substance seems to be less effective than glucosamine overall. For this reason we’ve decided to focus this article primarily on glucosamine. (2)
Does glucosamine work?
The efficacy of glucosamine as a treatment for joint pain is unclear and depends on the individual. Studies have shown that those with mild joint pain did not experience any more relief from glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation than they did from the placebo.
However, those with moderate to severe pain did experience some relief after taking glucosamine and chondroitin. (3)
Overall, it does appear that glucosamine can help some people with moderate or severe pain when taken in combination with chondroitin. While chondroitin taken by itself doesn’t appear to be effective, it does seem to work synergistically with glucosamine.
If you’re suffering from moderate to severe joint pain, glucosamine and chondroitin taken together may offer some amount of relief, but it’s not a sure thing.
If you’re interested in trying either of the two out, ask your doctor to make sure you’re not on any medications such as acetaminophen or warfarin that could cause potentially dangerous interactions.
Is glucosamine safe?
For most people, glucosamine and chondroitin appear to be safe supplements. Side effects, if any, are usually minor. Examples of these include nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea.
However, if you are diabetic you need to be very careful as glucosamine and chondroitin can increase blood sugar levels.
This warning also applies to anyone on blood thinning medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Warfarin, as these supplements may interact with the medication. If either of these cases apply to you, talk with your doctor before trying supplementation in order to make sure it’s safe for you. (4)
The recommended dosage for glucosamine supplementation is 300 to 500 mg taken three times a day. Alternatively, a dosage of 1,500 to 3,000 mg taken throughout the day may be effective. While the most famous studies use 1,500 mg, other studies have used up to 3,000 mg per day. For chondroitin, the recommended dosage is 1,200 to 1,800 mg taken once per day. (5)
Since research into these substances is still new, it is still unclear what the ideal dosage is. However, the best rule of thumb to follow is to start low, so ideally 900 mg of glucosamine and 1,200 mg of chondroitin per day.
If this doesn’t work, increasing up to 1,500 mg of glucosamine and 1,800 mg of chondroitin per day will likely be ok, but don’t exceed this dosage (1,500 mg glucosamine and 1,800 mg chondroitin) without consulting your doctor.
What should I look for in a glucosamine or chondroitin supplement?
Since neither of these supplements are regulated by the FDA, it is vital to find a reputable brand that you can trust. Usually, larger brands that have been around for a while are preferable to smaller brands that haven’t built much of a reputation. Always thoroughly research each brand before making a purchase.
Besides finding a high-quality and trustworthy product, you’ll want to make sure that the dosage falls within the range of 900 to 1,500 mg per day for glucosamine and 1,200 to 1,800 mg per day for chondroitin. Ideally, the dosage for glucosamine will be 300 to 500 mg per capsule so that you can split the daily dosage up throughout the day.
What are the best vegan glucosamine supplements? Our Reviews
We’ve put together a list of seven vegan glucosamine supplements. If you’re interested in supplementation, we’re going to let you in on what brands should be at the top of your list.
Enerex Vegan Glucosamine
This supplement by Enerex provides 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate per tablet, which meets the recommended daily dosage of glucosamine.
Enerex doesn’t have a longstanding reputation and doesn’t do any third-party lab testing, so it’s hard to be sure about the safety and quality of this product.
Due to the high dosage, it’s not possible to break up your dose throughout the day. This means less flexibility, but perhaps more convenience as you only need to take one tablet per day.
- Meets the daily recommended dosage of glucosamine
- No third-party lab testing
- You can’t spread your dosage throughout the day
Nature’s Own Vegan Glucosamine HCL (Hydrochloride)
It is important to note that this supplement from Nature’s Own only provides glucosamine hydrochloride and not glucosamine sulfate.
Overall, glucosamine hydrochloride is considered to be less effective than glucosamine sulfate and it is not very well studied. It is believed that the reason for this is that the body requires sulfate in order to produce cartilage.
As far as the quality of this product goes, Nature’s Own takes a whole foods supplement approach and appears to produce their glucosamine by growing their aspergillus niger, but since there are no third-party tests available it is hard to tell the safety profile.
- 500 mg per capsule means you can spread your dosage throughout the day
- This form of glucosamine is not well studied and may be very ineffective
- No third-party lab testing to verify the safety and contents of this product
her vital way FlexFree II Vegan Chondroitin/Glucosamine/MSM Joint Support
This supplement from “her vital way” combines glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin, and MSM, another plant compound used to treat pain. We liked that this product combines glucosamine and chondroitin, but it doesn’t provide enough chondroitin to meet the recommended dosage.
Since it already provides 1,450 mg of glucosamine, you can’t simply take more, as you’ll exceed the dosage for glucosamine. That said, it may be worth trying this supplement and seeing if it works before assuming you’ll need more chondroitin than it provides.
One thing we didn’t like about this product was the inclusion of so many ingredients. While MSM may have some benefits, we’d rather just get another supplement instead of being forced to take it every time we want to take glucosamine. Similarly, the addition of Potassium and Sodium means that every time you take this supplement you’re getting a lot more than just glucosamine.
Quality-wise, it does appear that her vital way does a significant amount of testing to ensure product safety of this vegan joint supplement.
- This appears to be a high-quality product with lots of lab testing to back up its safety
- Lots of extra ingredients – we’d prefer to have one active ingredient per supplement
Remedys Nutrition Glucosamine Chondroitin
We’re adding this supplement to our list as a warning: stay away from this product. The active ingredient in this product is listed as 1000 mg of “Glucosamine Chondroitin” – that compound doesn’t even exist! It’s possible that they’re referring to a mix of glucosamine and chondroitin, but without breaking it down further and detailing what forms of glucosamine and chondroitin are in there it’s completely unclear what’s in this product. This product goes to the bottom of our list and we’d advise you to find a different supplement.
There’s no way to tell what is in this supplement – it’s there isn’t even any glucosamine or chondroitin at all. The bottle says it contains “glucosamine chondroitin”, a form of glucosamine that doesn’t exist
VegLife Vegan Glucosamine Supreme
This supplement from VegLife delivers 1,500 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride, the less effective version of glucosamine without shellfish. We also didn’t love that this product contains turmeric, MSM, and hyaluronic acid.
While these may be useful on their own, there are certain people that should not take turmeric, like smokers for example, and including it in the mix means that certain groups will need to pass on this one.
In general, we prefer one supplement for one compound, except in certain cases where one supplement helps the absorption of the other, like turmeric and black pepper.
That said, there are some people who may find this mixture convenient, but even for those it’s best to keep in mind that this product only contains glucosamine hydrochloride. If you’re looking to treat joint pain you’ll want to stick with glucosamine sulfate.
- Some may find the mix of other supplements convenient
- The mix of many different supplements makes it hard to control the intake of each one. We prefer one tablet per supplement
Nature’s Aid Glucosamine HCI 1000mg
Once again, this product only contains glucosamine hydrochloride, which as you probably know by now is not the ideal form of glucosamine. Will this offer relief? It’s hard to say.
However, it’s best to play it safe and opt for glucosamine HCl’s better-studied friend, glucosamine sulfate.
As far as the brand and supplement quality goes, Nature’s Aid has been around since 1981, so we assume they’re doing something right. The brand does their own lab testing but doesn’t do any third-party testing, so it’s hard to know how accurate their results are.
- Made by a company that’s been around for quite a while
- Uses glucosamine hydrochloride, not glucosamine sulfate
Deva Vegan Vitamins Glucosamine, MSM, CMO
Deva’s offering runs into some of the same problems that a lot of other brands suffer from: an overload of supplements and the wrong type of glucosamine.
This supplement includes CMO, MSM, Boswellia extract, and lipase. When it comes to supplementation, less is more: it’s better to have one supplement at the right dosage than a bunch of supplements that may not work with you thrown in to give the impression of a bargain.
- Deva is a well-known and trusted brand
- Uses glucosamine hydrochloride
- Too many additional supplements
Our pick for best glucosamine supplement
The best supplement that we’ve found is definitely her vital way’s FlexFree II.
While we weren’t thrilled about the addition of MSM, we did like that the brand makes an effort to send out samples to third-parties for testing – that’s a major plus for this supplement. The gendered branding of this product is a bit passé, so we’d encourage any men in our audience to not miss out on this just because the marketing and product design is aimed more at women.
Few products are perfect, but this offers the right form of glucosamine (glucosamine sulfate) at the right dosage and includes chondroitin, which is nice even though the dosage of the latter is a bit low. If you need more, you can always buy another chondroitin supplement in addition.
If you’re suffering from joint pain and are looking to ease your aching bones, glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation may be worth looking into. As always, consult your doctor before beginning a new supplement regimen.
We hope we’ve helped give you gain a bit of insight into this potentially helpful substance. May your joints and bones rest easy!
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- Tim Newman | Glucosamine: Should I try it? | https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265748
- Versus Arthritis | Chondroitin | https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/chondroitin/
- Arthritis Foundation | Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Osteoarthritis Pain | https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/supplements-and-vitamins/glucosamine-chondroitin-osteoarthritis-pain
- Gayani R. Weerasingh, MA and Brandel France de Bravo | Glucosamine Supplements: Good for Joints But Possibly Risky for Diabetes | https://www.center4research.org/glucosamine-supplements-good-joints-possibly-risky-diabetes/
- Nayana Ambardekar, MD | Is Glucosamine Good for Joint Pain? | https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/supplement-guide-glucosamine