Updated: June 15, 2008

In 1997 the best seller The Arthritis Cure argued that two then-new supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin, could "cure" joint pain. For the record, neither glucosamine nor chondroitin cures arthritis. But they—especially glucosamine—do help alleviate the pain. A 2006 study by the University of Utah School of Medicine looked at 1,583 knee osteoarthritis patients and found that glucosamine and chrondroitin provide moderate relief for moderate to severe arthritis. But when it comes to mild arthritis, the study found the supplements had no effect. And major studies over the past 20 years have found the supplements work as well as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to relieve joint pain and stiffness, but with less stomach distress.

Osteoarthritis develops when wear and tear breaks down the shock-absorbing cartilage inside joints. Glucosamine helps repair this cushioning by improving its ability to hold water, while chondroitin draws water into cartilage. The more water that cartilage contains, the better the shock absorption for your joints. The studies are not unanimous, but most show that both supplements diminish osteoarthritis pain, particularly in the knees. "The research is compelling, especially for glucosamine, which has been better studied," says Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council (ABC), the nation's leading independent organization for herb education. "And both supplements have a solid safety record."

Dosage: Most of the studies used 1,500 milligrams a day of glucosamine and 1,200 milligrams a day of chondroitin.

Caveats: None.

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