Chondroitin Sulfate


Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate. The effectiveness ratings for CHONDROITIN SULFATE are as follows:

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. However, it’s not clear if adding chondroitin sulfate to sodium hyaluronate solutions helps reduce pressure within the eye after cataract surgery compared to other similar treatments. Some early studies suggest that a specific eye solution containing chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronate (Viscoat, Alcon Laboratories) can decrease pressure in the eye and improve overall eye health after a cataract is removed. However, the drops do not appear to be better than drops containing hyaluronate alone or another chemical called hydroxypropylmethyl-cellulose. The effect of solutions containing only it on cataract surgery is not known.
  • Osteoarthritis. Clinical research shows that taking it 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 in patients with osteoarthritis 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 it for up to 2 years might slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

Some research has evaluated the effects when taken by mouth in combination with glucosamine. Some research shows that taking specific products containing chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine helps reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis. Other research shows no benefit when non-commercial preparations are used. Taking chondroitin sulfate plus glucosamine long-term appears to slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

There is some evidence that a skin cream containing chondroitin sulfate in combination with glucosamine sulfate, shark cartilage, and camphor can reduce osteoarthritis symptoms. However, any symptom relief is most likely due to the camphor and not the other ingredients. There is no research showing that chondroitin is absorbed through the skin.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Joint pain caused by drugs called aromatase inhibitors (aromatase inhibitor-induced arthralgias). Early research suggests that taking a combination of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate in two or three divided doses daily for 24 weeks improves joint pain and symptoms caused by drugs used to treat breast cancer.
  • Dry eye. Early research shows that using eye drops can decrease dry eyes. Other research shows that using eye drops containing chondroitin sulfate and xanthan gum can improve dry eyes as well as using artificial tears. But other early research shows no benefit.
  • Muscle soreness caused by exercise. Early research shows that taking it 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 it 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 it with glucosamine sulfate can slow joint space narrowing in people with this bone disease. However, it is unclear if taking it 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.
  • Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis). Early research suggests that taking chondroitin sulfate for 2-3 months decreases pain and improves skin conditions in people with psoriasis. But other research suggests that taking chondroitin sulfate (Condrosan, CS Bio-Active, Bioiberica S.A., Barcelona, Spain) daily for 3 months does not reduce psoriasis severity in people with psoriasis and knee osteoarthritis.
  • Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence). Early research suggests that inserting sodium chondroitin sulfate into the bladder through a urinary catheter improves the quality of life in people with overactive bladder.
  • Infections of the kidney, bladder, or urethra (urinary tract infections or UTIs). Early research shows that administering a solution containing chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid into the bladder through a catheter reduces the number of UTIs in women with a history of UTIs.
  • Aging skin.
  • Persistent heartburn.
  • Heart disease.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis).
  • Wrinkled skin.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate chondroitin sulfate for these uses.

Side Effects Of Chondroitin Sulfate

  • When taken by mouth: Chondroitin sulfate is LIKELY SAFE. It 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.
  • When given as a shot: Chondroitin sulfate is POSSIBLY SAFE when injected into the muscle as a shot, short-term.

There is some concern about the safety because it comes from animal sources. Some people are worried that unsafe manufacturing practices might lead to contamination of chondroitin products with diseased animal tissues, including those that might transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). So far, there are no reports of chondroitin causing disease in humans, and the risk is thought to be low.

Some chondroitin products contain excessive amounts of manganese. Ask your healthcare professional about reliable brands.

Warnings & Precautions

  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if it 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 cautiously.
  • Blood clotting disorders: In theory, administering chondroitin sulfate might increase the risk of bleeding in people with blood clotting disorders.
  • Prostate cancer: Early research suggests that chondroitin might cause the spread or recurrence of prostate cancer. This effect has not been shown with 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).

Dosage Of Chondroitin Sulfate

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • For osteoarthritis: Chondroitin sulfate (Matrix) has been injected into the muscle daily or twice weekly for 6 months.


  • 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.


Consult your doctor or pharmacist.


All information has been provided courtesy of MedLinePlus from the National Library of Medicine and from the FDA.