What is it?
People take MSM by mouth and apply it to the skin for chronic pain, osteoarthritis, joint inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, inflammation around the joints (bursitis), tendinitis, swelling around the tendons (tenosynovitis), nerve pain (neuropathy) caused by cancer drugs, musculoskeletal pain, muscle cramps, hardened skin condition called scleroderma, scar tissue, stretch marks, hair loss, wrinkles, protection against sun/wind burn, eye inflammation, oral hygiene, gum disease, wounds, cuts, and abrasions/accelerated wound healing.
People also take MSM by mouth for relief of allergies, chronic constipation, "sour stomach", ulcers, a bowel disease called diverticulosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), mood elevation, obesity, poor circulation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It is also taken by mouth for type 2 diabetes, liver problems, Alzheimer's disease, to control snoring, lung disorders including emphysema and pneumonia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders (systemic lupus erythematous), HIV infection and AIDS, and cancer (breast cancer and colon cancer).
MSM is also taken by mouth for eye inflammation, mucous membrane inflammation, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems, leg cramps, migraine, headaches, hangover, parasitic infections of the intestinal and urogenital tracts including Trichomonas vaginalis and Giardia, yeast infection, insect bites, radiation poisoning, and to boost the immune system.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for METHYLSULFONYLMETHANE (MSM) are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Hemorrhoids. Research shows that applying a specific gel containing MSM together with hyaluronic acid and tea tree oil (Proctoial, BSD Pharma) for 14 days can reduce pain, bleeding, and irritation in people with hemorrhoids.
- Osteoarthritis. Research shows that taking MSM by mouth in two to three divided doses daily, either alone or together with glucosamine, can slightly reduce pain and swelling and improve function in people with osteoarthritis. But the improvements might not be clinically significant. Also, MSM might not improve stiffness or overall symptoms. Some research has looked at taking MSM with other ingredients. Taking an MSM product (Lignisul, Laborest Italia S.p.A.) together with boswellic acid (Triterpenol, Laborest Italia S.p.A.) daily for 60 days might reduce the need for anti-inflammatory drugs but does not reduce pain. Taking MSM, boswellic acid, and vitamin C (Artrosulfur C, Laborest Italia S.p.A.) for 60 days might reduce pain and improve walking distance. The effects appear to persist for up to 4 months after stopping treatment. Taking MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin for 12 weeks may also reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis. Also, early research suggests that taking a combination product containing MSM (AR7 Joint Complex, Robinson Pharma) by mouth for 12 weeks improves rating scores for joint pain and tenderness in people with osteoarthritis, but does not improve the appearance of joints.
Possibly ineffective for...
- Varicose veins and other circulatory problems (chronic venous insufficiency). Research shows that applying MSM and EDTA to the skin can reduce swelling in the calf, ankle, and foot in people with chronic venous insufficiency. But applying MSM alone seems to actually increase swelling.
- Exercise performance. Research shows that taking MSM daily for 28 days does not improve exercise performance. Also, applying a specific cream containing MSM (MagPro, Custom Prescription Shoppe) before stretching does not seem to improve flexibility of endurance.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Hay fever. Early research suggests that taking MSM (OptiMSM 650 mg) by mouth for 30 days can relieve some symptoms of hay fever.
- Shoulder surgery. Early research suggest that taking a specific combination product containing MSM (Tenosan, Agave s.r.l.) for 3 months can reduce pain after surgery and slightly improve healing. But it does not seem to help the overall function of the shoulder after surgery.
- Reducing nerve pain (neuropathy) caused by cancer drugs. Early research shows that taking a specific combination product (OPERA, GAMFARMA s.r.l) containing MSM and other ingredients for 12 weeks reduces nerve pain caused by cancer drugs compared to baseline. It's unclear if this change is due to a placebo effect.
- Muscle damage caused by exercise. Evidence for using MSM to reduce muscle damage caused by exercise is unclear. Some research shows that taking MSM daily beginning 10 days before a 14-km running exercise can help reduce muscle damage. But other research shows that taking MSM daily beginning 21 days before a 13.1-mile running exercise does not help to reduce muscle damage.
- Joint pain. Research shows that taking a specific combination product (Instaflex Joint Support, Direct Digital) containing MSM daily for 8 weeks reduces joint pain. But this product does not seem to improve stiffness or function.
- Rosacea. Research shows that applying an MSM cream to the skin twice daily for one month can improve redness and other symptoms of rosacea.
- Tendon pain due to overuse. Early research suggests that taking a specific combination product containing MSM (Tenosan, Agave s.r.l.) might improve the outcomes of extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) in people with tendon pain. But it is not clear if the benefits are from MSM or other ingredients in this product.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Autoimmune disorders.
- Chronic pain.
- Dental disease.
- Eye swelling.
- Hair loss.
- Headaches and migraines.
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol.
- Insect bites.
- Leg cramps.
- Liver problems.
- Lung problems.
- Mood elevation.
- Muscle and bone problems.
- Parasite infections.
- Poor circulation.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Protection against sun/wind burn.
- Radiation poisoning.
- Scar tissue.
- Stomach upset.
- Stretch marks.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Yeast infections.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking MSM if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Varicose veins and other circulatory problems (chronic venous insufficiency): Applying a lotion that contains MSM to the lower limbs can increase swelling and pain in people with varicose veins and other circulatory problems.
Are there interactions with medications?
- It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines.
Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
- For osteoarthritis: 1.5 to 6 grams of MSM daily taken in up to three divided doses for up to 12 weeks has been used. 5 grams of MSM plus 7.2 mg of boswellic acid taken daily for 60 days has been used. A specific product (Artrosulfur C, Laborest Italia S.p.A) containing MSM 5 grams, boswellic acid 7.2 mg, and vitamin C taken daily for 60 days has been used. One capsule of a combination of collagen type II with MSM, cetyl myristoleate, lipase, vitamin C, turmeric, and bromelain (AR7 Joint Complex, Robinson Pharma), taken daily for 12 weeks, has been used. 1.5 grams of MSM taken daily plus 1.5 grams of glucosamine in three divided doses daily for 2 weeks has been used. MSM 500 mg, glucosamine sulfate 1500 mg, and chondroitin sulfate 1200 mg taken daily for 12 weeks has been used.
- For hemorrhoids: A specific gel containing hyaluronic acid, tea tree oil, and MSM (Proctoial, BSD Pharma), applied daily for 14 days, has been used.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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