What is it?
Shark cartilage (tough elastic tissue that provides support, much as bone does) used for medicine comes primarily from sharks caught in the Pacific Ocean. Several types of extracts are made from shark cartilage including squalamine lactate, AE-941, and U-995.
Shark cartilage is most famously used for cancer. Shark cartilage is also used for osteoarthritis, plaque psoriasis, age-related vision loss, wound healing, damage to the retina of the eye due to diabetes, and inflammation of the intestine (enteritis).
Some people apply shark cartilage directly to the skin for arthritis and psoriasis.
Some people apply shark cartilage into the rectum for cancer.
Probably Ineffective for …
- Cancer. Most research shows that taking shark cartilage by mouth does not benefit people with advanced, previously treated cancers of the breast, colon, lung, prostate, or brain. It also doesn’t seem to benefit people with advanced, previously treated non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Shark cartilage has not been studied in people with less advanced cancer.
Insufficient Evidence to Make a Determination for …
- Cancerous tumor called Kaposi sarcoma. There are reports that applying shark cartilage to the skin might decrease tumors called Kaposi sarcoma. These tumors are more common in people with HIV.
- Osteoarthritis. When applied to the skin, products containing shark cartilage in combination with other ingredients reportedly reduce arthritis symptoms. However, any symptom relief is most likely due the camphor ingredient and not the other ingredients. Additionally, there is no research showing that shark cartilage is absorbed through the skin.
- Psoriasis. Early research in people with plaque psoriasis shows that a specific shark cartilage extract (AE-941) improves the appearance of plaques and decreases itching when taken by mouth or applied to the skin.
- A type of kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma. Taking a specific shark cartilage extract (AE-941) by mouth might increase survival in patients with renal cell carcinoma.
- Age-related vision loss.
- Wound healing.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate shark cartilage for these uses.
It can cause a bad taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, constipation, low blood pressure, dizziness, high blood sugar, high calcium levels, weakness, and fatigue. It might also cause liver dysfunction. Some products have an unpleasant odor and taste.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking shark cartilage if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
“Autoimmune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Shark cartilage might cause the immune system to become more active. This could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using shark cartilage.
High calcium levels (hypercalcemia): Shark cartilage might increase calcium levels, so it should not be used by people whose calcium levels are already too high.
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