Should You Take "Green Lipped Mussel Extract" For Osteoarthritis Pain Relief?

Health Professional

What are Green Lipped Mussel Extract supplements, and should I be taking them for my osteoarthritis?

New Zealand is a beautiful country.   My family lived there when I was 2 years old.   Although I don't remember it well, I was left with many memorable pictures of its people and landscapes. Perhaps because my family has fond memories of our stay there, I have always found myself partial to it.

There is a supplement that originated in New Zealand that has been gaining increasing attention in the U.S.    I am speaking of green-lipped muscle extract supplements.     The scientific name for the supplement is Perna canaliculus.   If you have spent time on the Internet looking for arthritis supplements, you may very well have run into this one.

The idea behind green-lipped mussel extract supplements is that the extract contains a mixture of glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, and a variety of minerals that are purported to help arthritis symptoms. Recently, I was asked if someone with knee osteoarthritis should take this supplement.

The research evaluating green-lipped muscle extract supplements for osteoarthritis is scant, to say the least.   There is one well-designed study suggesting that dogs with arthritis may benefit from taking the supplement.   However, another study reports that rats with experimentally-induced arthritis do not.   The bottom line is that there is not enough evidence relating to the efficacy, or lack thereof, of green-lipped muscle extract supplements, particularly in humans. So we are left with only anecdotal data - stories from people who have tried it.

Are there side effects or risks involved with taking the supplement?

There are always risks with any supplement. The Australian Rheumatism Association has reported potential side effects of gout, gastrointestinal upset, and skin rashes with green-lipped mussel extract.   A case of hepatitis has also been reported in association with mussel supplements.

Taking supplements can sometimes be very helpful for a variety of ailments. With osteoarthritis, there is enough scientific evidence for - and I have personally experienced enough anecdotal evidence for -- my recommending to many of my patients a trial of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate.   Cherry supplements and ASU are two other supplements that I sometimes recommend.   Of course, only your personal doctor can help you decide if any of the above supplements may be appropriate for you.

With regards to green-lipped mussel extract supplements, I would encourage you to talk with your personal doctor about whether they may be right for you.   Because of the lack of data, and the lack adequate safety information, I would suggest that you may want to consider taking one of the more tested supplements (e.g. glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate) first.

If you and your doctor decide that green-lipped mussel extract supplements are appropriate for you to try, as with any supplement, ask your doctor to monitor your kidney and liver function tests while you are taking the supplement. Also remember that supplements are not regulated as a drug in the United States. Therefore, be sure to only buy from reputable companies. Any supplement may interact with medications and supplements you are already taking. Be sure to discuss all of your medications and supplements with your doctor before starting this supplement. If you are pregnant, nursing, thinking of becoming pregnant, or under the age of 18, don't take this supplement.   If you have a shellfish allergy, don't take this supplement.

See also:

What is "devil's claw," and can it be used for osteoarthritis?
What is boron and will it cure my osteoarthritis?

Should I take cherry supplements for my osteoarthritis pain?