Table of Contents > Herbs & Supplements > Gelatin Print



Related terms

Related Terms
  • Artificial isinglass, bloom fish gelatin, bovine gelatin, collagen hydrolysate, conserve, confiture, denatured collagen, dried fish gelatin, edible extract, fish gelatin, food-grade gelatin, gelatin foam, gelatin jam, gelatine, gelatinum, gelfoam, Gelofusine®, glutin, glycerinated gelatin, glycerinatum, hydrolyzed collagen protein, hydrolyzed gelatin, Jell-O®, jelly, Knox®, kosher fish gelatin, marmalade, marine collagen hydrolysate, pectin, pharmagel A, pharmagel Adb, pharmagel B, porcine gelatin (type A gelatin), puragel, spongiofort, sweet, type B gelatin, vee gee.

  • Gelatin is a protein substance used to thicken liquids. It does not have a color, smell, or taste. It comes from boiling animal tissues such as beef bones, cartilage, tendons, and pig skin. Gelatin is used in many kinds of food products and drug and supplement products. Common examples of foods that contain gelatin are gelatin desserts, jelly, trifles, aspic, marshmallows, and candies such as "peeps" and gummy bears. Gelatin may be used to add thickness or texture to foods, finishing agents, ice cream, jams, yogurt, cream cheese, fruit juices, wine, beer, or margarine. Different types and grades of gelatin are used in a wide range of food and nonfood products.
  • In the pharmaceutical industry, gelatin is used as the substance that holds the active drug in vaccines and other medications. It is also used as a binder for tablets and suppositories. Gelatin capsules (gelcaps) are often used to hold various foods, nutritional supplements, and medicines.
  • In medicine, gelatin is taken by mouth for conditions like joint disease, arthritis (joint stiffness and inflammation), osteoporosis (weakening of the bones), skin and hair care, and weight loss. Early information suggests that an agent that contains gelatin with fresh frozen plasma (a blood substitute) may help prevent death in premature infants.
  • More research is needed on the effect of gelatin for use in disease conditions.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *

There are few studies about the use of progelatin for hair growth. Early research suggests that it improves hair growth by increasing the thickness of the hair fibers. More well-designed studies are needed before conclusions can be made.


There are few studies about the use of a gelatin-based blood substitute to help prevent infant death. Early research suggests that it may decrease the number of deaths in children. More well-designed studies are needed before conclusions can be made.


There are few studies about the use of gelatin for joint pain. Early research suggests that it helped to make knee joints more flexible and decrease pain of the knee joints of athletes. More well-designed studies are needed before conclusions can be made.


There are few studies about the use of gelatin for skin care. Early research suggests that skin moisture was increased and harmful oxygen chemicals in the blood were decreased. More well-designed studies are needed before conclusions can be made.

* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Antibacterial, antioxidant (free radical scavenging), arthritis (joint stiffness and inflammation), brittle fingernails, osteoporosis (weakening of the bones), sports or other physical injuries, weight loss.


Adults (18 years and older)

  • To treat joint pain, an unknown amount of a gelatin food supplement called Knox® NutraJoint has been taken by mouth for 14 weeks.
  • For degenerative joint disease, 8-10 grams has been taken by mouth daily.
  • For joint pain, four ounces of gelatin gel has been used on the skin three times daily.
  • As a blood substitute used to treat disease of the heart muscle, 1-2 doses of 6% ossein gelatin (250 milliliters per dose) have been injected into the veins.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • To treat infant mortality, 20 milliliters per kilogram of a gelatin-based blood substitute was injected into the veins, followed by another dose of 10 milliliters per kilogram after 24 hours.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to gelatin.
  • Use of products that have gelatin may cause an allergic response. This may include hives, quick swelling of the skin, wheezing, increased blood pressure, and anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction).
  • An allergy to gelatin was found when it was given with vaccines in children. Allergic reactions that happened right away, such as anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction). were seen.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Gelatin may cause a bad taste, a feeling of heaviness in the stomach, bloating, heartburn, burping, allergic reactions, lowered blood pressure, skin problems, breathing problems, and life-threatening allergic reactions. Gelatin sources with "mad cow disease" may cause problems with brain function.
  • Gelatin use may cause hives.
  • Use of gelatin by mouth may cause a feeling of heaviness in the stomach, bloating, upset stomach, and burping.
  • There is a risk of exposure to "mad cow disease" and brain disease, because the source of gelatin includes the brain and spinal cord of cows or sheep from countries with known cases of "mad cow disease."
  • In children, giving vaccines that contain gelatin as the stabilizer caused wheezing and other breathing problems.
  • Gelatin may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking agents that lower blood pressure.
  • Use cautiously in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
  • Use cautiously in people with breathing problems, due to reports in children that gelatin may cause wheezing and other breathing problems.
  • Use cautiously in people with stomach problems, due to reports that gelatin may cause stomach problems.
  • Avoid in people who are allergic to gelatin and its parts.
  • Avoid in people who have kidney problems because gelatin may cause increased uptake of fluids and substances by the kidneys.
  • Note: Avoid use of gelatin that is not free of bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE), because of the risk of infection with "mad cow disease."

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of gelatin during pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Interactions with Drugs

  • Gelatin may make some drugs dissolve more quickly. Examples are agents that increase urine flow, agents used to treat anxiety, agents used to treat fungal infections, agents used to treat inflammation, agents used to treat seizures, antibiotics, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Gelatin short peptides (chemicals that make up proteins) may prevent stomach ulcers and damage to the stomach mucus layer. Gelatin may interact with agents used in stomach problems.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Gelatin may make some herbs and supplements dissolve more quickly. Examples are antianxiety herbs and supplements, antibacterials, antiseizure herbs and supplements, antifungals, and herbs and supplements that increase urine flow.
  • Gelatin may decrease the amounts of harmful oxygen chemicals in the blood, so it may interact with antioxidant herbs and supplements.
  • Gelatin short peptides (chemicals that make up proteins) may prevent stomach ulcers and damage to the stomach mucus layer. There may be an interaction with herbs or supplements used in stomach problems.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

  1. Fletcher AG, Hardy, JD, Riegel C, et al. Gelatin as a plasma substitute: the effects of intravenous infusion of gelatin on cardiac output and other aspects of the circulation of normal persons, of chronically ill patients, and of normal volunteers subjected to large hemorrhage. J Clin Invest 1945;24(4):405-415.
  2. Kallinteri P, Antimisiaris SG. Solubility of drugs in the presence of gelatin: effect of drug lipophilicity and degree of ionization. Int.J Pharm. 6-19-2001;221(1-2):219-226.
  3. Kawahara H, Tanaka K, Iikura Y, et al. The incidence of gelatin allergy among atopic children in Japan. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1998;103:321-325.
  4. Laxenaire M, Charpentier C, Feldman L, et al. Anaphylactoid reactions to colloid plasma substitutes: incidence, risk factors, mechanisms. A French multicenter prospective study. Ann Fr Anesth Reanim 1994;13(3):301-310.
  5. Morganti P, Randazzo S, Bruno C. Effect of gelatin/cystine diet on human hair growth. J Soc Cosmetic Chem (England) 1982;33:95-96.
  6. Morganti, P and Fanrizi, G. Effects of gelatin-glycine on oxidative stress. Cosmetics and Toiletries (USA) 2000;115:47-56.
  7. Moskowitz, R. W. Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Semin Arthritis Rheum 2000;30(2):87-99.
  8. Nakayama T, Aizawa C, Kuno-Sakai H. A clinical analysis of gelatin allergy and determination of its causal relationship to the previous administration of gelatin-containing acellular pertussis vaccine combined with diphtheria and tetanus toxoids. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999;103(2 Pt 1):321-325.
  9. No authors listed. A randomized trial comparing the effect of prophylactic intravenous fresh frozen plasma, gelatin or glucose on early mortality and morbidity in preterm babies. The Northern Neonatal Nursing Initiative [NNNI] Trial Group. Eur J Pediatr 1996;155(7):580-588.
  10. Pearson D. Joint health: glucosamine and gelatin. Strength and Conditioning J 2000;22(2):671.
  11. Sakaguchi M, Nakayama T, Fujita H, et al. Minimum estimated incidence in Japan of anaphylaxis to live virus vaccines including gelatin. Vaccine 10-15-2000;19(4-5):431-436.
  12. Sakaguchi M, Nakayama T, Inouye S. Food allergy to gelatin in children with systemic immediate-type reactions, including anaphylaxis, to vaccines. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1996;98(6 Pt 1):1058-1061.
  13. Stratton, C. W., Weinstein, M. P., Mirrett, S., Paisley, J., Lauer, B. A., and Reller, L. B. Controlled evaluation of blood culture medium containing gelatin and V-factor-analog for detection of septicemia in children. J Clin Microbiol 1988;26(4):747-749.
  14. van Eerd JE, Vegt E, Wetzels, JF, et al. Gelatin-based plasma expander effectively reduces renal uptake of 111In-octreotide in mice and rats. J Nucl Med 2006;47(3):528-533.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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