by Lynn Hinderliter CN, LDN

Athletes and horses have known for many years about the anti-inflammatory effects of a substance called DMSO. The only difference is that most of the time, only the horses were using it legally.

The FDA banned DMSO for use by humans, other than by prescription. DMSO,  a naturally occurring compound,  was widely used on injured joints and inflamed areas. It has several drawbacks, however: it smells strongly of old socks and garlic, is sometimes  irritating, and has the potentially dangerous capability of drawing other substances with it through the skin and into the circulation.

Enter MSM, a metabolite of DMSO, and short for Methylsulfonylmethane.

My first experience with it personally came when after some lengthy runs I developed persistent low level cramps in my calves. They didn’t exactly cramp, if you know what I mean, but they felt all the time as though they were about to.

None of the usual cast of nutrients helped, so after some research I tried using the MSM, and the condition – which had lasted for about 5 weeks – soon cleared up.

I felt perfectly safe using it, because this is a highly non-toxic nutrient: animal studies showed that LD-50 (the level which caused the death of half the poor creatures in the study) was more than 10 grams (that’s 10,000 mgs!) per pound of body weight. In fact, it has the same toxicity level as water. Most holistic physicians recommend starting doses of between 500 and 6000 mg daily, so I used three 500 mg capsules.

Intrigued by this result, I decided to find out more about MSM, and was very impressed by what I discovered.

A major component of MSM is Sulfur, and Sulfur’s role in the body is to support glandular function and hormonal transport and production, to assist in the elimination of toxins from the body, help maintain acid/alkaline pH in the body, support the natural defenses of the body, and enhance the integrity of connective tissue – hence its importance for joint cartilage, skin, nails and hair. Insulin, which regulates carbohydrate metabolism in our bodies, contains sulfur.

It is also essential for the production of arguably the most important antioxidant in our system, Glutathione peroxidase. It is the transport molecule for Methionine and Cysteine. Generally, sulfur in the diet is provided by the sulfur-containing amino acids, Cysteine, Taurine  (known mostly for its importance to the heart) and Methionine ( used for liver functions such as breaking down fats, deconjugating hormones, and detoxification).  However, it appears that the way we eat these days is not sufficient to provide an ongoing supply of sulfur in the quantities we need when we need them. It is interesting to note that Mother’s milk is a rich source of MSM.

The body functions most efficiently when there is a sufficient ongoing supply of sulfur present. As I mentioned in a different article Sulfur and Detoxification this desirable state is under attack from both sides:

  •  on the one hand, the diet is inadequate to provide all we need

  • on the other, the increase in sources of toxins all around us depletes the available supply, in many cases before it has had a chance to do the good work waiting for it.

Here are some of the possible benefits of MSM:  it may –

  1. lessen the incidents of allergic reactions such as congestion, itching and runny nose, decreasing the need for anti-allergy medications

  2. bring about an improvement in  arthritic conditions. This would no doubt be because of its helpfulness in cartilage support: sulfur helps “hold” proteins together by forming what are called disulfide bonds.

  3. help eliminate parasitic infections, such as Trichomonas, Giardia and various nematodes, perhaps by blocking receptor sites on mucous membranes. 

  4. relieve cramps.

  5.  help migraine headaches.

  6. have the added benefit of improving skin, nails and hair when being used for other reasons.

  7. be an anti-inflammatory

  8.  help with gallbladder problems that may have an allergic connection, in some cases bringing dramatic relief where diarrhea and nausea are a factor.

  9. in some cases, contrariwise, it relieves chronic constipation.

  10. help with carbohydrate metabolism, since it is an important part of insulin.

  11. fight fungal infection at levels of 750mg to 1500mg per day.

  12. boost both the absorption and the availability of other nutrients, notably glucosamine, calcium and Vitamin C. 

  13. inhibit snoring.  A study at Oregon Health Sciences University
    ( mentioned by Dr. Morton Walker in Health Products Business May 99 p. 41) showed that a  16% water solution of MSM applied to each nostril prior to sleeping reduced snoring by 80%!

Dr. Jacobs, the author of the Definitive Guide to MSM, Arthritis and Allergies says that he does not understand WHY MSM seems to positively affect pollen allergy symptoms, though it may have to do with blocking histamine receptor sites:  he suggests taking up to 2 grams daily in the evening.

Additionally, Dr. Lawrence recommends MSM for GERD, saying it takes effect slowly,
in about 6 to 8 weeks, but is extremely effective.

I attended a lecture by Dr. Lawrence, author of The Miracle of MSM, and heard him describe MSM as scientifically supported to be antiparasitic, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. He called it “more generally applicable to the pain” of arthritis than Glucosamine, and also helpful within a day or two in the pain of injuries from sports. One of the attributes of MSM he particularly discussed was its ability to increase oxygen uptake suggesting that this explained also its ability to help some MS sufferers experience more energy.

What all this suggests to me is that we have here one of the important balancing factors in the body, one of the major players in the never-ending hunt for homeostasis.

Are there any adverse effects?

Some people experience what I think of as detoxing symptoms when they first start using it – mild diarrhea and/or headaches. These are usually alleviated by lowering the dosage for a while until they pass. In the case of loose stools some people may even find this a plus, as it will enable them to decrease their reliance on laxatives. Other than that, as mentioned previously, MSM is exceptionally safe.


Find the recommended supplements here
Keywords:  DMSO msm, methylsulfonylmethane inflammation, msm muscle cramps, msm glutathione, msm carbohydrate metabolism, msm pain, msm inflammation, the vitamin lady writes about health effects msm

Research studies on MSM

Related articles you may find interesting: