Are you dealing with occasional aches or stiffness, or chronic conditions like osteoarthritis, and want a speedy solution for your joint pain? According to Consumer Reports, there’s no supplement out there proven to work for everyone, but certain compounds have shown promising results, namely glucosamine, and chondroitin.
These compounds are present in the supplements we have covered below, but they’re not the only compounds that contribute to pain relief, which is why you’ll find different ingredients being used.
Let’s look at some of the supplements that might effectively provide you with some relief in the wake of painful aches or chronic medical conditions.
Top 3 vegan joint supplements
Physician’s Choice Joint Support Supplement
Physician’s Choice is a highly-reputable brand with a wide range of vegan supplements available, with the large majority containing legitimate ingredients with scientific backing.
This supplement combines patented forms of glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as MSM, turmeric, and Boswellia to relieve joint pain, decrease inflammation, and improve mobility for those needing extra joint support for a healthier, active lifestyle.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are typically derived from shellfish and cows, but Physician’s Choice uses non-animal forms that are highly potent and safe to consume. These compounds are the ones recommended the most for joint pain because they’re the building blocks of cartilage, promoting its production and repair, and they’re also shown in studies to improve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Additionally, other ingredients like MSM, turmeric, and Boswellia contain anti-inflammatory properties that may aid in relieving pain, and they’re used today for that purpose.
The aspect I like the least about this supplement is the serving requirement because you need to take three pills per day, which is not very convenient, particularly for those with difficulty swallowing pills.
Deva Joint Support Supplement
Deva has created a joint support supplement with a strong scientific base, containing ingredients that have been proven (through studies) to generate improvement for symptoms of arthritis.
It contains the most effective form of glucosamine and methylsulfonylmethane, but only the glucosamine is delivered in the dosages that are most effective according to evidence.
Unlike the supplement by Physician’s Choice, this one doesn’t have chondroitin, an ingredient that is also highly effective in combating the symptoms caused by arthritis.
With that being said, Deva contains cetyl myristoleate, a fatty acid that is touted as a natural treatment for several health conditions, primarily osteoarthritis.
In fact, studies in the Journal of Rheumatology found that this compound helped improve knee function in people with osteoarthritis, however, Deva’s joint support supplement doesn’t seem to contain the same dosages administered in the studies, so we can’t gauge its effectiveness.
Still, like Physician’s Choice joint supplement, this one is still a valid alternative for vegans whose choices are bound to a more limited array of options.
Performance Lab Flex Supplement
Flex by Performance Lab is a joint support supplement with a similar composition to the one by Physician’s Choice, but the dosage for each ingredient varies greatly
For instance, Flex contains 500mg of glucosamine sulfate and 100mg of chondroitin, which are dosages not compatible with the ones administered in scientific studies.
The same can be said for the other ingredients like turmeric, whose effectiveness to relieve arthritis symptoms has been verified with doses of 500mg on a daily basis in some studies, and Boswellia whose general dosing guidelines suggest taking between 300-500mg a day. (Flex contains 250mg of turmeric and 100mg of Boswellia.)
In other words, among the supplements I’ve mentioned, I’m not certain whether or not this one is ultimately effective in providing you with the relief you’re seeking, despite what the manufacturer claims. We don’t know, yet, if those ingredients have effective pain-relieving effects when taken in combination, given that the dosing guidelines are from studies researching one ingredient taken in isolation.
What is a joint supplement?
People seeking joint supplements often suffer from chronic joint pain and want relief for common medical conditions such as osteoarthritis.
A joint supplement in this context is a formulation that combines different compounds that are responsible for nurturing the cartilage in our bodies, as well as providing anti-inflammatory effects to combat joint pain.
These are some of the compounds you’ll find in joint supplements:
- S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)
- Omega 3s (in the form of algae)
- Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs)
- Devil’s claw
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
- and more.
These compounds are also sold as individual supplements, but the supplements we’ve listed in this article, combine two or more of these compounds, particularly the ones with more scientific evidence.
A closer look at the compounds in joint supplements
Speaking of compounds, I believe it’s important to look at some of them and see what the existing research says so that we can make better decisions when choosing these types of supplements in the future.
Glucosamine is a natural component of cartilage, a substance that prevents the bones from rubbing against each other and causing pain and inflammation. It may also prevent cartilage breakdown put in motion from chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine is one of the most studied compounds (or supplements) for osteoarthritis but despite the research, its effectiveness is still being questioned in the scientific community.
There are two types of glucosamine found in supplements: glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate, but only the latter shows evidence in improving symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Additionally, when taken over a long period of time, glucosamine sulfate may help slow down the progression of osteoarthritis, which means it’s a more sound option than glucosamine hydrochloride.
Chondroitin is similar to glucosamine because it acts as the building block of cartilage, and it may very well prevent it from breaking down from osteoarthritis.
Clinical studies show that taking chondroitin can reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis, and about 53% of people who take it have a 20% or great improvement in knee pain. Akin to glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate may slow down the progression of osteoarthritis when taken long-term.
These two compounds are often combined in supplements, but it’s still not known whether or not it’s better.
The liver produces SAMe from an amino acid called methionine, which has several functions, including the production and repair of cartilage.
SAMe, in particular, is taken as a supplement to help with symptoms of depression and osteoarthritis, often compared to the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex). This anti-inflammatory drug seems to provide a superior effect within the first month of usage, but in the second month, SAMe produces similar effects.
Needless to say, SAMe is sold as a supplement or is present in other supplements.
Turmeric supplements are among the most popular when it comes to treating pain, including joint pain caused by osteoarthritis. Its pain-relieving effects are attributed to a chemical compound in turmeric called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory effects.
Although the research for turmeric is limited, an analysis of studies shows that it improves symptoms of pain when compared to a placebo, and may even be comparable to ibuprofen.
Boswellia, which is also known as Indian frankincense, is commonly used for pains caused by arthritis because the chemicals within it have anti-inflammatory properties.
Clinical studies have actually shown that Boswellia extracts improve pain symptoms when compared to a placebo in people with osteoarthritis.
Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs)
Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) are extracts from avocado and soybean oils that may help prevent the breakdown of cartilage and even repair it.
Much like the other compounds I’ve mentioned, avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) improve pain symptoms more than placebo in people with osteoarthritis.
Devil’s claw, also referred to as harpagophytum, contains a chemical called harpogoside that is known to have anti-inflammatory effects, hence why it may help with pain symptoms.
According to this study, devil’s claw worked as well as an anti-inflammatory drug called diacerein. However, it’s important to note that the evidence is limited, and the quality of the studies is not the best.
Algae (omega 3 fatty acids)
Science proposes taking omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) because they have anti-inflammatory effects.
The studies on this topic are conducted using fish oil, but the same can be said about algae – as they are the primary carriers of the aforementioned omega-3 fatty acids.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is yet another ingredient in supplements touted to help with joint pain, with one study suggesting that MSM improved pain and functioning compared to a placebo in people with osteoarthritis.
Tips to choosing a vegan joint supplement
Given the panoply of joint supplements available, it can be somewhat confusing to choose one that is effective, especially when they contain multiple ingredients.
For that reason, it’s important to have, at least, a basic understanding of how each ingredient operates, and whether or not there is evidence proving its benefits. It doesn’t matter if a product has a long list of ingredients if those ingredients have no evidence to back them up.
Also, another important thing to mention is that supplements are not regulated by the U.S Food and Drug Administration, so you have to read labels carefully, and you must verify that the supplement you’re purchasing has been tested by an independent third-party lab.
Lastly, before you choose a supplement, speak with your doctor or pharmacist about other medications you’re taking so they can check for potential interactions. Some joint health supplements can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners.
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