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Many people take supplements to support joint health. Some take them to relieve current joint pain, while others take them to prevent pain from developing.

A quick look at some of the best joint supplements

Most supplements for joint health work by reducing inflammation or protecting the cartilage in the joints. Cartilage is the material that rests between bones and prevents them from rubbing together.

This cartilage can wear down over time, leading to osteoarthritis. This is a very common source of pain and disability as people age.

Anyone concerned about joint pain or joint health should speak with a doctor for a full diagnosis. Several supplements are available that might help keep the joints healthy.

Keep reading to learn about six supplements for healthy joints. This article also covers how they may help and when to speak with a doctor.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

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Glucosamine exists within the body as a natural building block of the cartilage in the joints. It is a common ingredient in many different supplement blends for healthy joints.

However, it is important to note that research into glucosamine tends to produce mixed results.

For example, a review in the journal Medwave analyzed multiple studies that used glucosamine for osteoarthritis. Their results showed that there is not enough strong evidence to support the notion that glucosamine helps with the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Other studies, such as one in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, show that glucosamine may help with certain symptoms, such as joint stiffness, but it may not be effective for other symptoms.

Part of the reason for these uncertainties is that there are different types of glucosamine. Supplements for joint pain tend to contain glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate.

The issue is that research does not usually differentiate between the types when studying glucosamine’s effects on osteoarthritis pain. Doing so may produce clearer results.

For instance, one study noted that some types of glucosamine — including a specific type of glucosamine sulfate — may be superior to others. When reviewing the effects of a specific type of prescription-strength crystalline glucosamine sulfate, the researchers found that this type of glucosamine was effective in treating symptoms of joint pain.

Long-term trials have shown that crystalline glucosamine sulfate slowed down symptom progression in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Research also indicates that the compound can cause a long-term reduction in symptoms and reduce the need for other pain medications and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Glucosamine sulfate is available over the counter. A person can ask their doctor about crystalline glucosamine sulfate.

Best for a glucosamine supplement: NOW Glucosamine & Chondroitin with MSM

NOW Glucosamine & Chondroitin with MSM isolated against a blue background.
  • Price: from $23.99
  • Advantages: These capsules are gluten-free and do not contain any GMO ingredients.
  • Disadvantage: The company states this product is unsuitable for those with a shellfish allergy.

NOW Foods offers this glucosamine and chondroitin supplement with methylsulfonylmethane. This supplement does not contain nuts, corn, or soy.

The company recommends taking 3 vegetarian capsules per day.

This product is available in counts of 90 and 180 capsules.

Chondroitin is another building block of cartilage that may promote healthy growth in the joints.

Many companies package glucosamine and chondroitin in the same formula for joint health, as many believe the two compounds may work in tandem to support cartilage.

Chondroitin itself may be effective for a few symptoms of osteoarthritis. One study found that in trials, chondroitin was more effective than a placebo in controlling pain in the joints and improving the function of the joints themselves.

Another study, this time in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, notes that although chondroitin’s ability to reduce pain is modest, it has a lower risk of serious side effects compared with other symptom control methods, such as NSAIDs.

This may indicate that chondroitin is a better long-term option in some cases.

Best for a chondroitin supplement: NOW Chondroitin Sulfate

  • Price: $35.99
  • Advantage: These capsules are free from most common allergens, making them suitable for most dietary requirements.
  • Disadvantage: This supplement contains gelatin, making it unsuitable for vegans or vegetarians.

This supplement pack contains 120 capsules of 600 milligrams (mg) of chondroitin sulfate. Other ingredients include gelatin, rice flour, and magnesium stearate.

The supplements are free from corn, dairy, egg, nuts, and soy. Additionally, the company states this product is kosher.

NOW recommends taking 2 capsules up to three times per day.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is another common joint supplement, often making its way into joint health blends containing chondroitin or glucosamine.

One study notes that MSM may help improve a few different issues in the body, including inflammation, joint pain, and oxidative stress.

This may support joint health overall and could reduce symptoms in some people. Additionally, most people tolerate MSM when they take it in typical doses.

Best for a methylsulfonylmethane supplement: Life Extension MSM 1,000 mg

  • Price: $10.50
  • Advantages: These supplements are suitable for people with gluten-related disorders. Additionally, the capsules may be easier to swallow than traditional tablets.
  • Disadvantage: The capsules contain gelatin, making them unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians.

These capsules are gluten-free and do not contain any GMOs. Additionally, Life Extension states a certificate of analysis is available for each product batch.

The company recommends taking 3 capsules up to two times per day. Each bottle contains 100 capsules.

Many researchers have studied turmeric and its compound curcumin. Curcumin appears to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which may help reduce symptoms in some cases.

One study found that taking around 1,000 mg of curcumin per day may help reduce some symptoms, including joint pain. This effect is similar to those of over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen.

Many supplements containing turmeric will also contain black pepper, which may help the body absorb and use the turmeric effectively.

That said, there is currently not enough strong evidence to make definite claims about curcumin’s benefits for joint pain. However, many people note the anti-inflammatory effect and take the supplement for its potential to relieve joint pain.

Best for a turmeric supplement: Care/of Turmeric

  • Price: $8
  • Advantages: This supplement may be a more sustainable option than some competitors. Additionally, it is suitable for vegetarians.
  • Disadvantage: Care/of is a subscription service and may be more expensive than other options.

This turmeric supplement is suitable for vegetarians. It is also free from gluten and GMOs.

The company states that it sources the turmeric sustainably from India, Peru, Vietnam, and other countries.

Care/of recommends taking the supplement with food. The company provides a 30-day supply.

Boswellia, or frankincense, is another natural supplement that may help maintain healthy joints. Like turmeric, Boswellia also has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Reducing inflammation in areas such as the joints may help reduce pain.

Boswellia may also work in tandem with other compounds, such as curcumin. A 12-week study comparing a curcumin supplement with a curcumin and Boswellia combination supplement found that the latter was more effective in managing osteoarthritis-related pain.

The combination of curcumin and Boswellia may be helpful for people with joint pain or osteoarthritis who are worried about the potential side effects of NSAIDs.

One review in the journal Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism notes that people who take curcumin are less likely to experience side effects than those taking NSAIDs and that the combination of curcumin and Boswellia carried little risk of adverse effects.

However, much of the research into these compounds has been from small studies, meaning there is not enough strong evidence to make definite claims about their safety or effectiveness.

Best for a Boswellia supplement: Life Extension Hervedics Boswella

  • Price: $28.50
  • Advantage: The company states this supplement is free from common allergens, which may make it suitable for those with different dietary requirements.
  • Disadvantage: The company does not state whether these capsules are suitable for vegans or vegetarians.

This supplement states it is free from common allergens.

The company recommends taking 1 capsule per day with a meal. Each bottle contains 100 capsules.

Tamarind seed may be another natural alternative to traditional joint supplements. The seed contains a number of antioxidants that have an anti-inflammatory effect and may support the joints. Some research suggests that it may even be anti-arthritic.

One study in the journal Scientific Reports found that tamarind seed extract works to protect the cartilage and bone by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. It does so while preventing the degeneration of these cells.

The study suggests tamarind seed extract could be a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, and anti-arthritic compound. That said, researchers have called for further studies to confirm this.

Another study investigated the effects of a combination of tamarind seeds and turmeric on joint pain in people without arthritis. The results showed that people who took the tamarind seed and turmeric had significant relief from knee pain and improved joint function after engaging in physical activity.

The following table compares the supplements in this article.

NOW Glucosamine & Chondroitin with MSMNOW Chondroitin SulfateLife Extension MSMCare/of TurmericLife Extension Hervedics Boswella
Main ingredientsglucosamine, chondroitin, and MSMchondroitin sulfateMSMturmericBoswellia
Gluten-freeyesyesyesyesno information
Dosage3 capsules per day2 capsules, up to three times per day3 capsules, up to two times per day1 capsule with food per day1 capsule with food per day
Size90 and 180 capsules120 capsules100 capsules30 capsules100 capsules
Pricefrom $23.99$35.99$10.50$8$28.50

Here are some factors a person can consider when looking for joint health supplements:

  • Price: Supplements can be expensive. Check if a product offers bundles or subscriptions that can help reduce costs.
  • Ingredients: Most companies list the ingredients on product pages and labels. A person can also check if the supplements are gluten-free or suitable for those following a vegan diet.
  • Reviews: People can find online reviews to check what other customers say about a specific product.
  • Usage: Check that the company lists the usage instructions online or on the product label.

Even when taking supplements to boost or maintain joint health, it is important to consider other options to help keep joints healthy.

Other aspects of a healthy joint routine include:

  • maintaining a moderate weight to reduce the load on the joints
  • getting regular physical exercise to strengthen the muscles supporting the joints
  • trying gentle stretches and yoga to increase flexibility and range of motion in the joints
  • using heat or cold packs to reduce stiffness or soreness in the joints
  • taking other medications as a doctor suggests

Alternative therapies, such as massage or acupuncture, may provide minor symptom relief in some people. These therapies may also help reduce other important factors, such as stress.

Vitamin D may also be useful in soothing joint pain. Read more about it here.

Anyone concerned about joint symptoms, such as popping, cracking noises, pain, or stiffness, should consult a doctor for a full diagnosis.

Early diagnosis may help rule out other conditions causing these symptoms and provide earlier access to treatment options.

Here we answer some questions about these supplements.

How can I stop joint pain?

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends people do the following to ease joint pain:

  • resting the affected area
  • taking pain medications
  • wrapping an ice pack in a towel and leaving it on the affected area for up to 20 minutes

People should contact a doctor if the pain does not improve with rest and home remedies.

What vitamin am I missing if my joints hurt?

The Arthritis Foundation states that vitamins D and K may help support bone strength and ease joint pain.

If a person believes their joint pain may result from a vitamin deficiency, they can purchase a vitamin deficiency test.

Cartilage in the joints helps cushion the bones from impact and keeps the bones in each joint from rubbing together. People may notice symptoms such as popping, pain, or stiffness if this cartilage wears down.

Some joint supplements may help ease these symptoms or prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Glucosamine and chondroitin may help reduce symptoms in some people, while other natural options — such as turmeric and Boswellia — may also help with joint pain management.

Anyone concerned about their joint health or symptoms should speak with a doctor for a full diagnosis.

Early diagnosis may help improve treatment outcomes and eliminate other issues causing the symptoms.