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Glucosamine & MSM: Meanings, Benefits, Uses, Concerns, and More

Glucosamine & MSM: Meanings, Benefits, Uses, Concerns, and More

What are Glucosamine and MSM?


Glucosamine is a natural amino sugar produced by your body. The highest natural concentration of glucosamine is in joints and cartilage where it makes up the structure of glycosaminoglycans, compounds essential for joint health. Supplements are normally processed from crustacean shells or produced by the bacterial fermentation of grains. 


MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in many foods. In its pure form, it's an odorless, tasteless, white, water-soluble, crystalline solid. Some of these foods include: most fruits and vegetables, milk, fish and grains. MSM has also become a popular supplement among people with chronic pain. 

Benefits of Glucosamine and MSM


Glucosamine has been used for joint pain relief for a very long time. The way glucosamine affects arthritis isn’t completely clear. Researchers believe naturally occurring glucosamine helps protect the cartilage inside your joints. Additionally, several studies suggest that taking glucosamine supplements may reduce collagen breakdown and inflammation, which is one of the main causes for joint cartilage breakdown. Glucosamine can be taken on its own, or with MSM, but there does seem to be some evidence to suggest that they might be more effective when taken together.


The main benefit of MSM is as an anti-inflammatory that offers some relief to people with arthritis and other types of inflammatory, muscle, or joint pain. MSM is also believed to protect cartilage. MSM is also believed to counter oxidative stress and improve antioxidant capacity. For this reason it is also being considered for dealing with conditions where high oxidative damage is a problem. MSM also passes readily through the blood-brain barrier and is distributed throughout the brain, potentially making it beneficial for inflammation in the brain. This is still mostly unknown, so more research would be needed in terms of effects on the brain.

Who Should Use Glucosamine and MSM?

Glucosamine sulfate does seem to provide pain relief for people with osteoarthritis, and other forms of arthritis. The supplement appears to be safe and might be a helpful option for people who can't take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Taking glucosamine with MSM may be additionally beneficial, especially when MSM has also been shown to reduce pain and breakdown of the cartilage. Research does seem to show when supplementing, that divided doses are more beneficial than a single dose, and does need to be given some time to have maximal effect.

Possible Concerns

When taken in appropriate amounts, glucosamine sulfate appears to be safe. Oral use of glucosamine sulfate can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Other side effects may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Skin reactions
  • Headache

Because glucosamine products might be derived from the shells of shellfish, there is concern that the supplement could cause an allergic reaction in people with shellfish allergies.


At this point there is not strong evidence, but MSM may increase your sensitivity to alcohol. Some other sulfur-containing molecules are used to combat alcoholism due to severe side effects from the combination. However, researchers haven't yet specifically explored MSM's relationship with alcohol. Until more is known, it's best to be cautious with alcohol while you're taking MSM.


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