Glucosamine Sulfate Vs Glucosamine Hydrochloride – Which Is Better?

Glucosamine Sulfate Vs Glucosamine Hydrochloride - Which Is Better?

Glucosamine is probably the best ingredient for osteoarthritis. I’ve tried it myself, and it’s the substance that helped me most. But it’s not that simple to choose a glucosamine supplement

I always saw it come in 2 forms – glucosamine sulfate vs glucosamine hydrochloride. Some supplements used the first one, but most contained the second form. That made me think a bit. 

So what’s the difference between these 2? After all, they’re both glucosamine so they should do pretty much the same…Well, that’s not really the case, because they are very different from several points of view. And the #1 aspect is how they work. 

So I will try to compare them directly and see which one is better. Believe me, they’re very different. 



1. Effectiveness – WINNER: The Sulfate

  • Which of these forms is better? Which had better results overtime? What do studies say about each of them?

Glucosamine Sulfate Vs Glucosamine Hydrochloride - Which Is Better?At this chapter, it’s really simple. Glucosamine sulfate is way better than the HCl form. That’s because the sulfur rebuilds cartilages and promotes their loss in the future. On the other hand, glucosamine HCl didn’t have any real results in OA or knee pain. At least that’s what studies say. 

On the other hand, the sulfate form has a lot of benefits. You surely heard about how well glucosamine works, right? Well, it was basically the sulfate form. That’s the responsible for all the benefits behind glucosamine. 

But now you’re probably wondering – why isn’t the HCl form effective too? After all, there’s no big difference between them.

That’s totally right, but the HCl form doesn’t have any sulfur inside. The sulfur is the major responsible for the great effects of glucosamine. It is the one that rebuilds cartilages, so it’s extremely important. That’s thy the HCl form doesn’t seem to be so effective. 

This is the reason why I always prefer supplements with glucosamine sulfate. I will tell you below about my experience with both forms, but the sulfate form is always much better in effectiveness. So if I had to pick a winner, I wouldn’t think twice – the sulfate is way better than the HCl. 



2. Health Issues – WINNER: Both

  • Which of these 2 forms of glucosamine is better for different conditions? Which of them can be used for a variety of affections?

From this point of view, I couldn’t really make any difference between these 2. Both of them are widely used in osteoarthritis, knee and hip pain, joint problems. Their effect is different, that’s true, but they are both used in these conditions. 

Besides, I found out that people also use them for glaucoma, weight loss and multiple sclerosis. Now, I don’t know how effective they are in these cases, because there are no studies behind. But I do know that some people use them for these purposes. 

So I can’t really pick a winner. Even though one form works better, they are both used in all kinds of supplements and medicines. So at this chapter, they’re pretty much equal.



3. Price – WINNER: The Hydrochloride

  • Which form has a better price? Which of them is cheaper for the producers? Also, what kind of glucosamine supplements have a better price?

Glucosamine Sulfate Vs Glucosamine Hydrochloride - Which Is Better?

Well, when it comes to supplements, I don’t really have an answer. I reviewed lots of products throughout the time, but I couldn’t notice a difference in price. Both sulfate and HCl supplements have similar prices, so I think it also depends of their other components. 

So they are pretty much equal when it comes to price. Or at least there’s no rule.

However, I know that glucosamine HCl alone tends to be cheaper. That may be the reason why lots of brands use it. So it kind of surprised me that HCl supplements aren’t cheaper than sulfate ones.

I’m pretty sure that producers buy the HCl form way cheaper than they would buy the sulfate. So in my opinion, that should be visible in price. 

So if price is an essential factor for you, choose a product with glucosamine sulfate. This ingredient is more expensive alone, but combined with others, it has a similar price with the HCl form.

So why not get the cheapest thing for the same price? 





4. Popularity – WINNER: The Hydrochloride

  • Which of these 2 forms can you find easier? Which one do most supplements use?

Whether because it’s cheaper one not, I usually see glucosamine HCl in most products I try. That’s not a good thing in my opinion, as I would have preferred the other one (because it works better). 

So why are there more supplements with the HCl form? If the sulfate is better, what’s the point?

Well, most people can’t tell the difference, and glucosamine HCl alone is cheaper. So I kind of understand why most brands use this form instead of the sulfate. They save some money purchasing a cheaper ingredient and sell them supplement for as high as one with glucosamine sulfate.

At least that’s my explanation, considering that studies recommend the sulfate form. I don’t mean to offend any brand, as I respect all companies that produce supplements. But that’s how I see things, especially because I have a hard time finding a product with the sulfate form lately.



5. Experience – WINNER: The Sulfate

  • Which of these 2 forms worked better for me? What supplements had a better effect?

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To be honest, I can see a big difference between these 2 forms. I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but I react much better to glucosamine sulfate. Supplements with this substance really help me, and I’m not talking about the pain.

My OA pain isn’t very bad, so most supplements can help it. I’m talking about the mobility of my knees, which is my #1 problem. If I take a product with glucosamine sulfate, my knees start feeling more flexible after several weeks. Nothing happens overnight, but I manage to see a change. 

Also, it’s not available for all supplements with glucosamine sulfate, but it happens with most. 

On the other hand, I don’t really get an effect with glucosamine HCl. Once again, I’m not talking about the pain, but about the flexibility and strength of my knees. In my case, glucosamine HCl doesn’t seem to help much, even after a month. 

So I can only speak from experience, and that’s why I choose (and recommend) the sulfate form. Even studies say it’s much better, and I saw its effects on myself. So it’s the winner I pick.



6. Purity – WINNER: The Hydrochloride

  • Which of these forms has a higher purity? 

From what I read, it’s the hydrochloride. It seems that this form is a lot more stable and it doesn’t need a lot of salts to be stabilized. On the other hand, the sulfate form is less stable and it needs a higher quantity of salts.

So does it mean that you need a lower dose of glucosamine HCl to get the same effect as with the sulfate form? Some sources agree, but I see things differently.

The HCl form is more pure, so 1500 mg should do the same as 2000 mg of sulfate, on paper. But in reality, things are different when it comes to effectiveness. The sulfate has a much better effect, even though it’s not that pure. So you may take 2000 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride. But its effect will never be as good as if you took 1500 mg of glucosamine sulfate. 

That’s why for me it’s not so important which is more pure, but which works better. And from this point of view, it’s the sulfate. 

So glucosamine HCl has a much better purity, but that doesn’t make it work better. 





My Final Verdict – The HCl Or The Sulfate?

Short answer: Definitely the sulfate. It works much better and it has lots of studies behind. On the other hand, the HCl is indeed more pure, but it doesn’t have the same effect. It’s not me saying that, it’s studies.

Besides, the HCl is a more popular choice because it’s cheaper alone. So most brands prefer to spend less on glucosamine, especially because people have no idea about the difference.

But after reading these aspects about the 2 forms, I think you can tell the difference. So I think you should judge by yourself. Either way, I couldn’t possibly recommend glucosamine HCl, because it never helped me much. I kind of try to avoid supplements with that form and I would advise you to do the same. 

But as I said before, it’s your own choice.

Heather Pharm.D.

Heather Tracy Foley is a Pharmacy graduate, Blogger and Author with a vast experience in health sciences. She has a particular interest in joint pain and rheumatology and spent several years studying health problems. You can find her on Pinterest or via email.

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6 Responses

  1. Debbie Lai says:

    Hi Heather, I researched this topic last year when looking for help and relief for my OA knee issues. I found that actually, the Sulfate doesn’t matter vs the HCL. Here’s an article.

  2. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hi Debbie, I deleted the link due to broken link issues. But I checked it out and you’re right, it says that there’s no difference between these 2 forms of glucosamine.

    Now – when I wrote this article, I tried to find references for what I was saying. I will only mention 2 of the articles I researched, here’s the first one and here’s the second one.

    These are both trustworthy websites and they claim glucosamine sulfate is better because of the sulfur. It seems to be involved in rebuilding cartilages as well, which isn’t the same about hydrochloride.

    I personally knew the same from several books I read, but I can’t really give you a name/reference.

    Also, I had much better results overall with glucosamine sulfate supplements. I could see an improvement with some glucosamine HCl supplements, but it wasn’t a major one. So that’s my personal experience.

    Anyway, I promise to keep researching this topic because medicine and pharmacy are changing so fast. So what I said yesterday may not be correct next week. But thanks a lot for pointing this out!

  3. Dave says:

    Does combining the HCl version of glucosamine with MSM over any advantage over the SO4 version?

  4. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hi Dave, do you mean combining glucosamin HCl and MSM versus glucosamine sulfate alone? I don’t think this combination would make much sense. If you want to combine glucosamine with MSM, you can do it with any of the forms. But my personal advice is to go for the sulfate, as it has more benefits and studies behind.

    Sure enough, glucosamine should have slightly better results when combined with MSM than alone. But that’s available for any of the forms, not just the hydrochloride. I hope this clarifies your worries.

  5. Laura Singleton says:

    Thank you for the detailed review!

  6. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Thanks for reading my article!

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