Glucosamine and hyaluronic acid are two compounds often combined in health supplements. They are taken for a variety of reasons, but most typically are used in an effort to repair compromised tissue. The resulting repair is thought to reduce the pain of arthritis. The link between glucosamine and hyaluronic acid goes beyond their presence in joint supplements, however.
Both compounds stimulate tissue repair in joints affected by arthritis. It is thought that this is how these compounds work to relieve joint pain. Glucosamine is an essential component of hyaluronic acid production. When taken together, glucosamine promotes hyaluronic acid synthesis in synovium tissue. The combination of these compounds leads to greater pain relief and joint function than when either is taken alone.
Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the joint fluid that helps to lubricate these areas, as well as in cartilage. Glucosamine is a component of joint fluid and joint tissues as well. The presence of both glucosamine and hyaluronic acid in these important joint components could explain why their presence relieves joint pain. It is not readily apparent to what extent these two molecules are taken up and used by joint tissues in vitro, so their use as an official arthritis treatment is still somewhat controversial.
For these products to be effective in combating joint pain, it seems that glucosamine sulfate must be used. This may be because joint tissue can only utilize this type of glucosamine. One study investigating hyaluronic acid production from glucosamine found that there is an exception to this rule. The enzymes responsible for creating hyaluronic acid utilized glucosamine hydrochloride instead, and only in certain concentrations.
There is a possibility that glucosamine and hyaluronic acid could help to reverse age-related changes, like wrinkles. The use of these compounds for this purpose began in Europe, but spread in popularity to the United States. Sometimes, these molecules can be found in anti-aging treatment creams. Glucosamine is reported to assist in healthy and ample veins, and is believed to play a part in the repair of varicose veins.
Hyaluronic acid has been shown in some studies to assist in the natural repair of skin tissue. After damaging events such as sunburns, skin cells in the affected areas degrade hyaluronic acid and prevent its production. It is possible that taking hyaluronic acid as a supplement could help skin repair, and that glucosamine would help this process. Supplementary glucosamine and hyaluronic acid compounds have not, however, been shown to increase skin repair rates.