Alternative Names: Methyl Sulfonyl Methane or Methylsulfonylmethane, Methylsulfonyl-methane, or Dimethyl Sulfone.
MSM is an odorless, essentially tasteless, white crystalline breakdown product of DMSO demonstrating usefulness as a dietary supplement. Research suggests that a minimum concentration in the body may be critical to both maintain normal function and structure.
MSM is similar to the better known sulfur-containing compound DMSO; and would actually be DMSO2. As a source of sulfur, MSM is more stable than DMSO and lacks much of the foul odor associated with DMSO.
As a general source of sulfur, MSM has a vast array of possible effects, although the current marketing has greatly exaggerated many of them. Research into MSM is ongoing on many fronts, and the results of these should be forthcoming in reputable journals in the coming year.
At the Oregon Health Sciences University there have been many observations of what MSM can achieve in the way of health and well-being when taken as a dietary supplement.
MSM is a naturally occurring nutrient, a sulfur compound found in typical human diets and those of virtually all other vertebrates. MSM is a natural component of many fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood and meat. Cow's milk is a particularly rich source of MSM. However, heat and processing can reduce the MSM quantity in foods.
MSM is available in the form of capsules, dissolvable crystals or powder. The powder is usually put in juice, and many say it has absolutely no taste. MSM is relatively inexpensive; it is said to be "Safe as water and cheap as dirt".
MSM provides an essential sulfur foundation that the body needs to form proteins and collagen (connective tissue), synthesize and activate vitamins, produce enzymes and immunoglobulin, and maintain the immune system. It has also been shown to grow thick hair, strong nails and improve the skin texture.
MSM relieves swelling, inflammation and pain because it allows the harmful substances that have accumulated to flow out and nutrients to flow in. It also contributes a sulfur to the body needed to make vitamins such as B1 and the antioxidant amino acid glutathione. It also helps the liver excrete toxins. Additionally, it provides structure to the glucosamine needed for healthy ligaments, tendons, heart valves, etc. It has been found to help in dissolving scar tissue, decrease inflammation, and increases elasticity in the body.
MSM has been used alone, or in combination with other nutrients, to help with the conditions of osteoarthritis, chronic joint pain and ligament damage.
It is recommended that first time users start at a low level, taking it with meals and increasing the dose gradually. Later, it can be taken without food. A typical starting recommendation is 250mg per day, increasing to an average therapeutic dose of about 2gm per day.
People take as much as 100gm of MSM daily. Some suggest starting with 2gm (2000mg) and, every week, increasing by 1000mg to a total of 8gm per day.
A single dose of MSM will not usually provide any benefit: MSM needs to be taken for at least 1-2 weeks or even up to 2 months before any results will be seen. People taking MSM may notice additional benefits such as softer skin, harder nails, thicker hair, and softening of scar tissue.
No recommended intake levels have been established for sulfur. Since most Western diets are high in protein, the majority of diets probably supply enough sulfur.
MSM is rated as one of the least toxic substances in biology, similar in toxicity to water and much less toxic than common table salt, for example. It has been widely tested as a food ingredient without any reports of allergic reactions.
Symptoms of pollen allergy may be reduced with MSM supplements. Dr. Stanley Jacobs, author of The Miracle of MSM admits that he does not understand why MSM would help relieve allergies, but he suspects that MSM blocks cell receptor sites for histamine, which triggers allergic symptoms. It is best taken in the evening, a couple of grams per day, perhaps more when the pollen count is high.
"MSM has been shown to be clinically helpful in lupus and may be beneficial in other autoimmune disorders as well." [Stanley W. Jacob, M.D.]
Some doctors have reported reduced pain with the use of MSM.
Some patients with chronic constipation have experienced continuing relief with a daily supplement of 100-500mg of MSM. The effect appears particularly strong in those who are older.
Patients demonstrating drug hypersensitivity to aspirin, several non-steroidal anti-arthritic agents (Naproxen, Indocin, Motrin), and oral antibiotics, became drug-tolerant when MSM was given within an hour of or concurrently with the sensitizing drug.
Mobilization AND excretion are required for mercury detoxification. Consuming foods high in sulfur such as garlic, onions, beans, and eggs or supplemental sulfur in the form of MSM can help move mercury around but it is only bound loosely and caution is advised. There have been reported cases of reversible cataract development from individuals mobilizing mercury without excreting it. Consult a qualified doctor for a detoxification protocol appropriate for you.
MSM eye drops used frequently may help in cases of mild conjunctivitis. It should not be used as a substitute for antibiotics for serious infection.
Research at the UCLA School of Medicine found an 82% reduction in pain after 6 weeks of MSM use in a double-blind study on degenerative arthritis. The study lasted 4 months and involved 16 patients on about 2gm MSM per day; 10 patients on MSM and 6 on placebo. After only 6 weeks, those patients using the MSM experienced better than 80% control of their pain, while those on the placebo experienced 18% improvement. [Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 69th Annual Meeting, Apr. 21-26, 1985, p.692]
The reason why MSM is beneficial against arthritis is unclear. It may be because of its sulfur content, or because of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Unlike aspirin, which offers immediate pain relief, MSM takes 3 to 4 weeks before it produces noticeable change, except in rheumatoid patients who have been known to feel differences in just one day, and almost always within 3 to 4 days.
In an animal study on rheumatoid arthritis-like joint degeneration, MSM was effective in reducing joint inflammation, and completely prevented the breakdown of cartilage. According to Dr. Stanley Jacobs, MD, MSM can be helpful in most musculoskeletal pain and inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis.
MSM, an organic form of sulfur, is reported to be of benefit in reducing pain associated with Bell's Palsy.
A 15% solution of MSM in isotonic saline was evaluated and found to be a soothing treatment for the eye following accidental injury due to particulate matter in the eye as dust or pollen.
Oregon Health Sciences University researchers have found that MSM has anti-parasitic properties against giardia.
Clinical testing suggests MSM has activity against a variety of parasites, including roundworms. It seems to discourage these infections by competing for binding receptor sites at the mucus membrane surface in the intestinal tract.
Research at Oregon Health Sciences University on 35 subjects suffering from chronic snoring has shown that MSM in a 16% water solution administered to each nostril 15 minutes prior to sleep provided significant reduction in 80% of the subjects after 1 to 4 days of use. As a control, a saline solution was substituted for MSM in 8 of the patients who showed relief with MSM, without their knowledge. 7 of these 8 patients resumed loud snoring. This change occurred within 24 hours of the substitution. After the MSM treatment was restored, these 8 showed a significant reduction of snoring again.
Stacy J. Childs, MD, of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, recently described 6 patients with interstitial cystitis who benefited from MSM.