MSM, an organic sulfur compound, is a popular health supplement commonly used as a natural remedy for joint problems, allergies and asthma. Additional health benefits of MSM include improved health and vitality of skin, hair, and nails. While this supplement provides great relief to some, it does cause significant side effects in others.
What is MSM?
MSM is the abbreviation for Methylsulfonylmethane. It is also known as Dimethyl sulfone or DMSO2. MSM is not the same thing as DMSO, though they are certainly close cousins in the natural health world. Both are commonly used for joint issues. Fortunately, MSM does not leave its user with a garlicky odor as DMSO often does. MSM is also not used as a carrier to get other nutrients into the system through the skin, as DMSO is.
MSM’s chemical compound formula is C2H6O2S.1 While the name may take you a long time to learn to pronounce, it is simply a compound of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur. Each of those elements are critical to life. MSM brings much needed sulfur to the body.
MSM is naturally occurring in plants, fruits and vegetables. It has a reputation as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. A Pubmed study found that MSM has the potential to be a promising supplement for those with ulcerative colitis.
In times past, people would travel a long way (long before modern transportation was available) to soak in mineral springs that contained many minerals, including sulfur. Sulfur springs are not as pleasant as some – they smell strongly like eggs. (Eggs are a source of sulfur, too!) Certainly some travelers were seeking a source or recreation, but many were pursuing the healing that was reputed from soaking in the mineral springs. Indeed, a Pubmed study in 2002 found that “sulfur bath therapy could cause a reduction in oxidative stress.”3
How the Body Benefits from MSM
Pain from a variety of causes has been effectively reduced or eliminated by an MSM supplement, including the following:
- Joint Pain
- Knee Pain
- Shoulder Pain
- Back Pain
- Trigger Finger
- Tennis Elbow
- Nerve Pain
Breathing issues have been relieved with MSM, not the least of which are:
Digestive concerns that are alleviated with MSM include:
- Ulcerative Colitis
Cosmetic Benefits from MSM include:
- Stronger and faster growing hair
- Stronger fingernails
- Improved Skin
- Reduction of Melasma
- Elimination of Acne
How Could One Supplement Help Such a Broad Range of Diseases?
Many diseases are caused by nutritional deficiency. Sulfur is necessary for your bones, joints, hair, skin, nails, digestion and many other functions. It is the third most prevalent mineral in your body. If your body is lacking in sulfur, that deficiency may be evident now, or it may be evident in the future when the cumulative effect of a chronic nutritional deficiency surface. A study reported by Pubmed suggests “that a significant proportion of the population that included disproportionally the aged, may not be receiving sufficient sulfur.”4
What Kind of MSM Should I Take?
MSM is available in powder form and in capsules. The powder form is typically less expensive and less likely to contain additives. (But check the label – some MSM powders contain additives.) The capsule form is more convenient and a good option if you do not like the taste of MSM. Powdered form gives more flexibility in the dosage so you can suit your supplement regimen to your own needs. The powder can even be added to your morning smoothie.
How Much MSM Should I Take?
As with any new supplement, it is wise to start with a small amount and increase the dose slowly, if needed. While some people take 1/2 teaspoon a day and feel it helps them, others find it takes a tablespoon a day or more to experience the level of relief desired. Don’t start with more than 1/2 teaspoon a day. Even starting with 1/4 teaspoon might be prudent. If you are taking capsules, don’t start out with more than the lowest recommended dose. It may be best to even start with 1/2 or 1/4 the lowest recommended dose.
MSM and Animals
MSM is a popular remedy for pets, farm animals and is particularly known in the equine world. Horse owners have long recognized the benefit of MSM to sore joints and muscles of their horses. Dog owners use it to treat hip dysplasia and arthritis. Cat owners use it to treat allergies in their cats.
While you may read on the internet that MSM as safe as water, those who end up in the emergency room with side effects from taking MSM would likely disagree with that assessment. Heart palpitations and anxiety attacks are among the many reported side effects from taking MSM even in small amounts.
Please see our extensive page on side effects of MSM and how to avoid them.
Have you tried MSM? We would love to hear from you. Be sure to let us know what condition you are treating, what dose you use, how it works for you and any side effects you have experienced.