Hatching a Joint Pain Relief Solution | Orthopedics This Week
Large Joints and Extremities

Hatching a Joint Pain Relief Solution

Chick hatching/Creative Commons

Hatching chicks create a lot of leftover eggshells, but even more eggshells come from cracking eggs for the food industry. If you're one of the U.S.'s top five egg producers, like Norco, California's Moark LLC, you have literally a ton of eggshells at your disposal. Historically, these discarded shells were used either for agriculture or, more commonly, simply dumped into landfills. Moark’s owner, Hollis Osborne, began to wonder several years ago if something could be done not only to cut down on the waste, but also to find a revenue stream for this under-appreciated resource.

To uncover the possibilities, Osborne started a company, Membrell in 2001 in his hometown of Carthage, Missouri. Osborne consulted with several scientists at local colleges to study the properties of the eggshell. What they found was that the egg shell membrane in particular contains protein, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin . Today, that entrepreneurial spark has transformed Moark into a pioneer in eggshells processing for bone and joint health. It also spawned the 2002 creation of another company, ESM Technologies, also based in Carthage, which is solely dedicated to the bone and joint health market.

But the company has progressed with its research and data since those first basic findings. Today, Hollis Osborne's grandson, Micah Osborne is president of ESM Technologies and the company has refined its processes, creating a patented system to separate the membrane from the egg and process each part into powders.

Egg shell powder/ESM Technologies
The idea of utilizing discarded animal parts is actually quite primitive. "Bone broth, " the humble stock made from bone, water, a touch of vinegar and assorted vegetable bits has served for centuries as a nutritional powerhouse, utilizing the beneficial elements of bone and cartilage. It has even been suggested that the addition of eggshell to the stock provides the benefits found in the eggshell membrane, namely protein, hyaluronic acid, (providing resilience to cartilage) glucosamine, and chondroitin.

Eggshells can also be cooked alone to create a liquid rich in hyaluronic acid. This is done simply by cracking eggs and washing out the shell to remove the remaining egg white, boiling in water for at least eight hours, adding water as needed and pouring the resulting mixture through a strainer. The liquid can be stored and used in cooking or as a drink by adding flavoring.

Cracking Into a Better Joint Remedy?

Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) is processed into powder form by ESM and sold to pharmaceutical companies which then encapsulate it and distribute it as a supplement for the relief of joint pain and the restoration of joint health. But ESM hasn't left its presence in the market to being just one of supplier. Instead, the corporation has undertaken significant research and trials to determine just how effective NEM can be for joint health.

We have conducted three human clinical trials on NEM to date, " says Dr. Kevin J. Ruff, director of scientific and regulatory affairs at ESM. "These studies were published in Clinical Interventions in Aging and Clinical Rheumatology in 2009. The most impressive finding to come out of these studies is that patients saw a clinically significant improvement in pain and stiffness in only seven to ten days, with just one 500 mg capsule per day. The rapid onset of efficacy combined with the small dose makes NEM the natural choice for arthritis and other painful joint conditions.

An independent study published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology, additionally found a 500 mg supplement of eggshell membrane provided a significant reduction in symptoms of joint pain in arthritis sufferers, over a 60-day period. Although it's important to note that 43% of participants left the study early, which means further trials could prove the supplement to be more or less effective.

Ruff adds that the mechanism of action hasn’t been fully discerned, so it's not clear just why the egg membrane substance is effective. However, he points out that early studies are making a link to an anti-inflammatory mechanism. "NEM appears to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, inhibiting inflammation early in the cascade. We are continuing to look into this topic, and we have ongoing studies to this end."

Ruff explains that NEM is derived from the thin membranes that line the interior of an egg. The membrane in fact contains a combination of many known joint repair substances. "It naturally contains a family of glycosaminoglycans including chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid, and also collagen and other beneficial proteins that all work in concert to support healthy joints."

Michah Osborne says there are many benefits to NEM over other joint remedies, beginning with its organic  properties. NEM is completely natural, in fact as Osborne points out, it comes from one of the most familiar, widely consumed foods on the planet. He adds other joint pain relief products are completely synthetic or processed with harsh chemicals. Ruff says another safety benefit that was found in the trials showed that even at 50 times the normal dose the product remained safe.

Osborne adds that NEM's biggest opportunity is in products where consumers are looking for fast relief from joint pain. "The combination of NEM’s small 500 mg dosage and fast ten-day results makes it very consumer friendly, " says Osborne. "In just ten pills (one per day for ten days) you can experience noticeable results with NEM. Contrast NEM’s results against 90 pills (three pills per day for 30 or more days) like many other joint health products, and you can see the major advantage of NEM.”

Table 1:  Single-arm trial mean values by category at baseline, 7 and 30 days post-treatment


Days Post-Treatment

Mean ± SD

Percent Improve


General Pain

Baseline (n = 11)

3.6 ± 1.8



7 (n = 11)

2.7 ± 1.7




30 (n = 11)

1.0 ± 1.2



Flexion (ROM)

Baseline (n = 11)

64.2° ± 36.5°



7 (n = 11)

82.0° ± 41.4°




30 (n = 11)

92.2° ± 38.4°



ROM Pain   

Baseline(n = 11)

2.9 ± 2.6



7 (n = 11)

1.7 ± 2.1




30 (n = 11)

0.7 ± 1.3



Notes: P-values were determined by pairwise, two-sided, t-test comparison, and represent treatment versus baseline. *P < 0.05.; Abbreviations: ROM, range of motion; SD, standard deviation.

A Purer Form of Calcium?

Eggshells are after all made of calcium carbonate, just like chalk, limestone, cave stalactites, sea shells, coral, and pearls. About 5% of their composition is also attributed to calcium phosphate, magnesium carbonate, and soluble and insoluble proteins. So it would stand to reason they would offer a promising source for calcium supplements for bone health.

In fact Dutch researchers have reported very positive findings involving the use of eggshell calcium. In a double blind, placebo-controlled study, eggshell calcium with the addition of magnesium and vitamin D was given to a test group. Results showed a measureable increase in density of the hip bone after a year's time. These benefits are not exclusive to chicken eggs, but there may be an advantage to using certified organic eggs from free-range birds because these birds are generally better nourished, which translates into more nutrients in the eggshell.

The composition of the eggshell is in fact markedly similar to the make-up of human bone, with one whole medium-sized eggshell yielding about a teaspoon of powder out of which approximately 800 mgs of elemental calcium can be obtained. Other microelements, like magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, sulphur, silicon, zinc, and ten other elements can be found in similar quantity to that found in bones and teeth.

ESM's other product EggShell Calcium (ESC) utilizes the hard shell, which the company grinds up and encapsulaes and markets in-house as a calcium supplement. With nearly 20, 000 pounds of shells being processed per day, there obviously is no shortage of raw materials to use.

Ruff says that this form of calicum is different from other naturally occuring sources.

It is one of nature’s purest and most absorbable forms of calcium. ESC naturally combines ultra-pure calcium carbonate with inherent transport proteins and essential trace minerals for increasing bone mineral density (BMD).

Ruff adds that when taken in combination with magnesium and vitamin D, ESC has been clinically proven to increase BMD (bone mass density) in osteoporotic women in under a year's time. Sourcing from eggshells also avoids the risk of impurities that can be involved in calcium that's mined in the ground.

Expanding the Market

"We now have a good following of rheumatology and general practice doctors after presenting our clinical trials, " says Osborne. "However, I am not sure the orthopedic community has been introduced to NEM and ESC until now. I believe the orthopedic community would be very interested in both products."

ESM Technologies is currently selling its ingredients to a number of partners who include the ingredients in their brands. "One of them is our sister company Membrell, " explains Osborne. He says Membrell’s main demographic is really quite diverse and centers around anyone suffering from joint discomfort. "Joint discomfort is not just a part of life, " adds Osborne. "It’s not a natural consequence of getting older. And there is something you can do about it!" Currently the Membrell products line is being sold at natural health food retailers.

However ESM sees a future in expanding the line to fit into a new generation of seniors who lead active lifestyle. "Adding NEM to food products like bars would be an excellent next step, " says Osborne. "There is still some development to do in this regard but we see it as a logical next step."

"We are always looking for new and innovative uses for our flagship ingredients, NEM and ESC, " adds Ruff. "Whenever a new condition is identified, we will approach it with the same scientific manner that characterizes ESM Technologies’ current quality products."


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