For more than 30 years, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been used as standards in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA). Serious and often life-threatening adverse effects due to these agents are common. Clinical findings have revealed that glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are effective and safer alternatives to alleviate symptoms of OA. Experimental evidence indicates that these compounds and their low molecular weight derivatives have a particular tropism for cartilage where they serve as substrates in the biosynthesis of component building blocks. This paper is a literature review of the chemistry, mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, clinical efficacy and safety of these two nutraceuticals.