Cartilage is elastic, translucent connective tissue found in animals and man.
Most cartilage is converted to bone as an animal matures, but some remains in
such sites as the nose, ears, knees, and other joints. Cartilage extracts and
supplements are made from cows (bovine cartilage), whose bodies contain both
cartilage and bone, and sharks (shark cartilage), whose bodies contain cartilage
and no bone.
Cartilage supplements are said to shrink tumors; to cure, or at least slow
the development of, cancers; to reverse bone diseases such as osteoporosis; and
to treat other conditions, such as macular degeneration and psoriasis, in which
overgrowth of blood vessels causes disease symptoms.
The notion of using cartilage medicinally began in 1954, when bovine tracheal
cartilage was found to promote wound healing. Since then, clinical trials have
shown this substance to be effective against a broad range of conditions ranging
from arthritis to cancer. In studies at the Comprehensive Medical Clinic in
Southern California, patients reported pain relief in as little as three weeks,
though patients should be cautioned against expecting rapid relief. Early
reports claimed that sharks do not get cancer, which proved to be untrue,
although it is true that the incidence of cancer in sharks is low.
Shark cartilage that has been dried and pulverized into fine powder for use
as a supplement contains many active components. Among the most important is an
angiogenesis inhibitor (a protein that, at least in laboratory research,
suppresses the development of new blood vessels). These angiogenic effects have
been demonstrated in the laboratory but have not yet been proven in human
trials. Phase III clinical trials began in December 1998 on a liquid
antiangiogenesis drug called Neovastat, which is made from shark cartilage. The
550 patients with small-cell lung cancer who participated were given
chemotherapy; half were also given Neovastat, the other half a placebo. The
joint studies are being conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and a
Bovine cartilage that has been cleaned, dried, and powdered to be used as a
supplement helps to accelerate wound healing and reduce inflammation. Bovine
tracheal cartilage was initially called catrix (from the Latin cicatrix,
which refers to a healed wound). Today it is recognized as one of the few
substances that speed wound healing. Both shark and bovine cartilage are
beneficial for psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative
Commercially prepared supplements of bovine or shark
Shark cartilage contains angiogenesis inhibitor proteins; approximately 16%
calcium and 8% phosphorus, which are absorbed as nutrients; and immune
system-stimulating mucopolysaccharides, carbohydrates that form chemical bonds
Bovine cartilage is believed to inhibit tumor growth, and the polysaccharides
it contains are believed to combat cancer by stimulating the immune system.
Neither shark nor bovine cartilage is U.S.
FDA–approved for safety or effectiveness. (Shark
cartilage was under study by the National Cancer Institute when it was
discovered that every one of the cartilage supplements provided for the study
had been contaminated. The trials were stopped.)
Both shark and bovine cartilage may be obtained at health stores or by
mail-order as nutritional supplements. They may be purchased in powder or
capsule form under a variety of brand names, typically in capsules of 750 mg.
Shark and/or bovine cartilage is used to:
- Treat arthritis
- Treat psoriasis
- Treat regional enteritis
- Relieve or reduce pain, inflammation, and joint damage associated with
osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
When using shark or bovine cartilage as a dietary supplement, 3 to 4 capsules
Some shark cartilage products have a strong fish odor and flavor that may be
unpleasant. Taken in large doses, shark cartilage has a very unpleasant taste
and often causes nausea.
With their providers' approval, most people can take shark cartilage safely
as an adjunct to conventional treatments for arthritis and cancer; however,
cartilage supplements should not be used in place of conventional treatments.
Shark cartilage should not be used by:
- Pregnant women
- Patients who recently underwent surgery
- Patients who recently survived a heart attack
No clinically significant interactions between cartilage and conventional
medications are known to have been reported in the literature to
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Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine
CommunicationsThis publication contains
information relating to general principles
of medical care that should not in any event be construed as specific
instructions for individual patients. The publisher does not accept any
responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising
from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein,
including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of
product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied,
is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements
are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use.
The reader is advised to check product information (including package inserts)
for changes and new information regarding dosage, precautions, warnings,
interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or
supplement discussed herein.