Named for its green edges, the green-lipped mussel — also known as the New Zealand mussel — is a shellfish native to New Zealand.
It has been claimed to have medicinal properties and thus become popular as a supplement.
The mussel contains several anti-inflammatory compounds claimed to treat inflammatory conditions, including asthma and arthritis.
This article explains everything you need to know about green-lipped mussel supplements, including their potential benefits, forms, and safety.
The green-lipped mussel is a staple food of the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand’s coasts.
Interest in the mussel’s potential health benefits began in the early 1970s and stemmed from the observation that Māori people had a lower incidence of arthritis than people who lived inland (
Furthermore, researchers have identified other types of fatty acids from the mussels. They may also possess anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting enzymes and proteins that produce inflammation and pain (
Similarly, green lipped-mussels contain chondroitin sulfate, a component of connective tissues like joints and bones that may reduce inflammation in the same way (
In addition to these anti-inflammatory nutrients, the mussels are a good source of zinc and an excellent source of iron, selenium, and several B-vitamins (9).
Green-lipped mussels contain anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and chondroitin sulfate. They also contain several key vitamins and minerals.
Green-lipped mussel extracts have been studied for various inflammatory conditions, namely asthma and different forms of arthritis.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects your lungs and can make breathing difficult.
By helping reduce inflammation in the lung’s airways, green-lipped mussels may benefit people with asthma.
In one study, researchers gave people with asthma either 400 mg of green-lipid mussel extract or a placebo every day for 3 weeks before having them try the opposite treatment for another 3 weeks (
Compared to the placebo, the extract led to significant reductions in airway inflammation and asthma symptoms.
Another 8-week study in people with asthma found that a similar extract containing 400 mg of the mussel reduced asthma symptom frequency and airway inflammation when taken daily, compared with a placebo (
While these results are promising, more research is needed.
Arthritis, which is characterized by painful swelling and stiffness in one or more of your joints, results from chronic inflammation.
The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, green-lipped mussel extract has been claimed to reduce joint inflammation, helping relieve arthritis symptoms.
However, one review concluded that limited evidence exists to support the use of green-lipped mussel extract for RA or OA, especially when compared with other nutrition supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, which have more scientific backing (
In contrast, another review of four randomized clinical trials concluded that green-lipped mussel extract improved joint stiffness and pain in people with OA (
However, these findings can’t be attributed to the extract alone, as people in each of the studies were also taking pain-relieving medications.
The studies were also of poor quality and influenced by biases that could have altered the results.
Therefore, the effectiveness of green-lipped mussels for relieving arthritis symptoms remains weak based on the current research.
The current research remains limited or fails to support the use of green-lipped mussels supplements for asthma or arthritis.
Beyond asthma and arthritis, green-lipped mussel extracts have been studied for their potential benefits in athletes, as well as children with mental disorders.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is characterized by muscle soreness and stiffness that occurs 24–48 hours after an intense or unfamiliar workout and can last for several days (
Several factors are thought to contribute to DOMS, one of which is muscle damage incurred from a workout that causes an inflammatory response (
While studies have failed to find any improvement in DOMS from a commercial extract of green-lipped mussels in well-trained athletes, 400 mg of the extract taken for 11 weeks reduced pain sensations in lesser-trained individuals (
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common childhood disorder that causes trouble paying attention and organizing tasks and activities (
The causes of ADHD remain largely unknown, but genetics are thought to play a significant role (
And while more research is necessary, ADHD has also been associated with inflammation (
One study in children ages 6 to 14 with ADHD symptoms showed significant improvements in attention and learning ability following 8 — but not 14 weeks — of supplementation with a commercial extract containing 150–200 mg of green-lipped mussels (
Because this is the only trial to date investigating the effects of a green-lipped mussel extract on ADHD symptoms, more research is necessary.
Green-lipped mussel extracts may benefit other inflammatory conditions like DOMS and ADHD in children, but more research is needed.
Green-lipped mussel extracts can be found in oil or powder form and should be easy to find online or at your local health store.
While less common, you can also find gels and creams that claim to ease joint pain and muscle soreness when applied to the skin.
Most of the studies examining the anti-inflammatory properties of green-lipped mussels have used an oil extract.
Interestingly, research indicates EPA may be better absorbed from powdered forms than from oil extracts (
In either case, if you’re looking to try a green-lipped mussel supplement, ensure that it was produced using methods that retain the mussels’ natural nutrient profile.
One example is freeze-drying, which removes water at low temperatures, providing product stability and nutrient retention.
Also, look for reputable supplement companies that undergo third-party testing to ensure product quality and safety.
Several forms of green-lipped mussel supplements exist, including powders, pills, creams, and gels. Regardless of the form, ensure it was produced in a way that preserves the mussels’ nutrients.
As green-lipped mussels are a type of shellfish, you should avoid these supplements if you have a shellfish allergy or intolerance.
You should also avoid the supplements if you’re pregnant or lactating due to a lack of safety information (
Outside of these populations, some adverse side effects have been noted with green-lipped mussel supplements.
For example, early studies reported liver inflammation associated with a brand of supplements that contained toxins produced by the mussel (
Other reported adverse effects linked with green-lipped mussel supplements include fluid retention, nausea, and upset stomach (
Finally, green-lipped mussel supplements may negatively interact with or enhance the side effects of certain medications, such as blood thinners and anti-inflammatory medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Keep these things in mind before trying a green-lipped mussel supplement, or talk with your doctor if you’re unsure whether this supplement is safe for you.
A few negative side effects have been linked to green-lipped mussel supplements, which should be considered before trying them.
Green-lipped mussels are native to New Zealand, where they’re a staple food in the diets of the indigenous Māori people.
They’re also popular as a supplement, as the mussels contain various anti-inflammatory nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and chondroitin sulfate. They also contain several vitamins and minerals.
However, only sparse and inconsistent evidence supports the use of green-lipped mussel supplements for inflammatory conditions like asthma, arthritis, DOMS, or ADHD in children.
Before trying a green-lipped mussel supplement, make sure it was produced using a method like freeze-drying, and consult your healthcare provider about the potential risk of negative side effects.