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What is Chondroitin Sulfate?

Deanna Baranyi
Updated May 21, 2024
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Chondroitin sulfate is a home remedy that is most frequently used to treat arthritis and decrease the pain associated with osteoarthritis; however, it can also be used to treat bladder inflammation, psoriasis, various ophthalmological issues, and increase the absorption of iron into the body. It is commonly found in normal joints and cartilage of the human body, such as in the knees, hips, hands, and feet. Consequently, many people believe that taking chondroitin sulfate supplements will stimulate the formation of cartilage in the body and promote the repair of the body’s joints. It can be manufactured synthetically or naturally from the cartilage of sharks or the trachea of bovines.

Although many individuals swear to the healing properties of chondroitin sulfate, the scientific research has been sporadic as to its effectiveness. Some studies show that the medical properties in chondroitin sulfate capsules are broken down in the intestines before they can even be absorbed into the body. As a result, it is unlikely that the molecules could actually build up the body’s joints and cartilage.

In other studies, people who had a knee, hip, finger, or spine that was affected by osteoarthritis were given chondroitin sulfate. The reports from those studies showed the individuals treated with the supplements had decreased pain, increased mobility, and required fewer drugs than those who did not take the supplement. Although the results are promising, the studies only lasted six months, making them weak in the eyes of the scientific community. Even less scientific evidence is available for people using the supplements to treat other medical conditions, such as inflammation of the bladder, psoriasis, or ophthalmological issues.

Most drugstores, supermarkets, and health food stores sell chondroitin sulfate supplements. In addition, the supplements can be purchased through a wide range of on-line websites. They are considered an over-the-counter form of alternative medicine and are not regulated. Therefore, purchasing the supplements from a reliable source is essential. There are many scams, particularly through internet stores, where people purchase supplements only to discover they have only minimal percentages of the drug in each capsule or have capsules that are high in impurities.

It is important to discuss any new medication, including supplements, with a medical doctor. Since the chondroitin sulfate often comes from shark cartilage, people with allergies to seafood or shellfish should be careful when using the product. There have been reports of sensitivity to the sun, hives, and a worsening of asthma for some people who took the supplement. If taken for a long period of time, some people have complained of headaches, hair loss, chest pain, an increase in blood pressure, and problems breathing associated with the product. In addition, men at risk for or with prostate cancer should not take it because it may be linked to a risk in prostate cancer.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Deanna Baranyi
By Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her work. With degrees in relevant fields and a keen ability to understand and connect with target audiences, she crafts compelling copy, articles, and content that inform and engage readers.
Discussion Comments
By pixiedust — On Feb 13, 2010

I've read that something as little as 10% of the chondroitin sulphate in capsules actually gets absorbed into the blood.

Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her...
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