Perna canaliculus, or green-lipped mussel, is an edible shellfish found off the shores of New Zealand. It has been commercially available as a food supplement in the United States since 1975. Perna mussel, was for centuries, a major part of the diet in local populations of New Zealand. The reported incidence of arthritic and rheumatic disorders was extremely low among coastal New Zealanders compared to those living inland.
In the 1960s, researchers from Britain and the United States began a search for marine organisms in an attempt to isolate possible natural drugs for the treatment of cancer. The New Zealand Fishing Industry Board provided Perna mussels for the study. The green-lipped mussel was tested on human cancer patients, but to no avail. However, patients who were also suffering from arthritis reported less pain, joint stiffness, and improved mobility. Later, two human clinical studies using Perna mussel showed improvements in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Perna mussels are produced under government license and to government standards. Mature mussels are collected and chilled to below 40ºC within two to four hours. The soft tissue is separated from the shell, washed several times, frozen, and freeze-dried. It is then processed into a fine powder and added to products.
Perna contains a natural mineral balance similar to that of the human. It is made up of 61% protein, 13% carbohydrates, 12% glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), 5% lipids (including eicosatetraenoic acids, or ETAs), 5% minerals, and 4% water. Perna mussel also contains glucosamine, a GAG precursor and one of the building blocks of cartilage. Glucosamine, GAGs (unbranched chains of complex sugars) and ETAs (a type of Omega-3 fatty acids) are the compounds in the mussel believed to contribute to its beneficial effects. ETAs are the key ingredients that help in the anti-inflammatory activity and thereby the reduction of joint pain. GAGs are the main components of cartilage and the synovial fluid found in joints.
GAGs increase the lubrication of the joint and increase water uptake into the cartilage. This water uptake, which decreases with age, is necessary for the lubrication and shock absorption of the joints. There are nine classes of GAGs, five of which are related to connective tissue. Two of these five are chondroitins, which make up the basic substance of both bone and cartilage. GAGs provide flexibility, elasticity, and strength to cartilage.
Published reports are consistent in their findings that Perna mussel produces an anti-inflammatory response. A Clemson University study found that Perna was effective in reducing the onset of rheumatoid arthritis as well as reversing it in mice and rats. Out of eighteen test animals with arthritis that were fed Perna mussel, only three developed arthritis compared to 10 out of 15 in the control group. Another study found that the green-lipped mussel was effective in reducing pain, swelling, and stiffness in 60 human patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. A French study using 53 patients suffering from osteoarthritis in the knee reported that the Perna extract was "well tolerated by the participants with no adverse conditions reported."
Ongoing research in both humans and animals continue to show that the use of green-lipped mussel is, when used as directed, an effective supplement for the management of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Perna mussel has been successful in managing degenerative joint diseases and arthritis in both human and veterinary health fields: it contains natural anti-inflammatory agents and many essential building blocks needed to rebuild the necessary components in joints. It also is reported to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with arthritis and improve joint mobility.