URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/522.html

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

What is it?

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a chemical found in green plants, animals, and humans. It can also be made in a laboratory. MSM has become popular because of the book The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain. But there is little published scientific research to support its use. Contrary to some literature that promotes MSM, there is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for MSM or sulfur, which is in MSM. Sulfur deficiency has not been described in the medical literature.

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), 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 are as follows:

Possibly effective for...

  • Muscle damage caused by exercise. Research shows that taking MSM daily beginning 10 days before a 14 km running exercise can help reduce muscle damage.
  • Hemorrhoids. Research shows that applying a specific gel containing MSM together with hyaluronic acid and tea tree oil (Proctoial, BSD Pharma, Italy) 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. Taking an MSM product (Lignisul, Laborest Italia S.p.A., Italy) together with boswellic acid (Triterpenol, Laborest Italia S.p.A., Italy) daily for 60 days might reduce the need for anti-inflammatory drugs but does not reduce pain. Also, early research suggests that taking a combination product containing MSM (AR7 Joint Complex, Robinson Pharma, Orange County, CA) 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, Augusta, GA) 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., Prato, Italy) 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.
  • Joint pain. Research shows that taking a specific combination product (Instaflex Joint Support, Direct Digital, Charlotte, NC) 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., Prato, Italy) 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.
  • Allergies.
  • Alzheimer's disease.
  • Asthma.
  • Autoimmune disorders.
  • Cancer.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Constipation.
  • Dental disease.
  • Eye swelling.
  • Fatigue.
  • Fatigue.
  • Hair loss.
  • Hangover.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Insect bites.
  • Leg cramps.
  • Liver problems.
  • Lung problems.
  • Mood elevation.
  • Muscle and bone problems.
  • Obesity.
  • Parasite infections.
  • Poor circulation.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Protection against sun/wind burn.
  • Radiation poisoning.
  • Scar tissue.
  • Snoring.
  • Stomach upset.
  • Stretch marks.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Wrinkles.
  • Wounds.
  • Yeast infections.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate MSM for these uses.

How does it work?

MSM might supply sulfur to make other chemicals in the body.

Are there safety concerns?

MSM is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for up to 3 months or when applied to the skin in combination with other ingredients, such as silymarin or hyaluronic acid and tea tree oil, for up to 20 days. In some people, MSM might cause nausea, diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, headache, insomnia, itching, or worsening of allergy symptoms.

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?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For muscle damage caused by exercise: 50 mg/kg of MSM in 200 mL of water taken once daily for 10 days has been 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. One capsule of a combination of collagen type II with MSM, cetyl myristoleate, lipase, vitamin C, turmeric, and bromelain (AR7 Joint Complex, Robinson Pharma, Orange County, CA), 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.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
  • For hemorrhoids: A specific gel containing hyaluronic acid, tea tree oil, and MSM (Proctoial, BSD Pharma, Italy), applied daily for 14 days, has been used.

Other names

Crystalline DMSO, Dimethylsulfone, Diméthylsulfone, Dimethyl Sulfone MSM, DMSO2, Methyl Sulfone, Methyl Sulfonyl Methane, Methyl Sulphonyl Methane, Méthyle Sulfonyle Méthane, Méthyle Sulphonyle Méthane, Méthylsulfonylméthane, Metilsulfonilmentano, MSM, Sulfone de Diméthyle MSM, Sulfone de Méthyle, Sulfonyl Sulfur.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Hwang JC, Khine KT, Lee JC, Boyer DS, Francis BA. Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM)-induced acute angle closure. J Glaucoma. 2015 Apr-May;24:e28-30. View abstract.
  2. Nieman DC, Shanely RA, Luo B, Dew D, Meaney MP, Sha W. A commercialized dietary supplement alleviates joint pain in community adults: a double-blind, placebo-controlled community trial. Nutr J 2013;12:154. View abstract.
  3. Beilke, M. A., Collins-Lech, C., and Sohnle, P. G. Effects of dimethyl sulfoxide on the oxidative function of human neutrophils. J Lab Clin Med 1987;110:91-96. View abstract.
  4. Lopez, H. L. Nutritional interventions to prevent and treat osteoarthritis. Part II: focus on micronutrients and supportive nutraceuticals. PM.R. 2012;4(5 Suppl):S155-S168. View abstract.
  5. Horvath, K., Noker, P. E., Somfai-Relle, S., Glavits, R., Financsek, I., and Schauss, A. G. Toxicity of methylsulfonylmethane in rats. Food Chem Toxicol 2002;40:1459-1462. View abstract.
  6. Layman, D. L. and Jacob, S. W. The absorption, metabolism and excretion of dimethyl sulfoxide by rhesus monkeys. Life Sci 12-23-1985;37:2431-2437. View abstract.
  7. Brien, S., Prescott, P., Bashir, N., Lewith, H., and Lewith, G. Systematic review of the nutritional supplements dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis.Cartilage. 2008;16:1277-1288. View abstract.
  8. Ameye, L. G. and Chee, W. S. Osteoarthritis and nutrition. From nutraceuticals to functional foods: a systematic review of the scientific evidence. Arthritis Res Ther 2006;8:R127. View abstract.
  9. Nakhostin-Roohi B, Barmaki S, Khoshkhahesh F, et al. Effect of chronic supplementation with methylsulfonylmethane on oxidative stress following acute exercise in untrained healthy men. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2011 Oct;63:1290-4. View abstract.
  10. Gumina S, Passaretti D, Gurzì MD, et al. Arginine L-alpha-ketoglutarate, methylsulfonylmethane, hydrolyzed type I collagen and bromelain in rotator cuff tear repair: a prospective randomized study. Curr Med Res Opin. 2012 Nov;28:1767-74. View abstract.
  11. Notarnicola A, Pesce V, Vicenti G, et al. SWAAT study: extracorporeal shock wave therapy and arginine supplementation and other nutraceuticals for insertional Achilles tendinopathy. Adv Ther. 2012 Sep;29:799-814. View abstract.
  12. Barmaki S, Bohlooli S, Khoshkhahesh F, et al. Effect of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on exercise - Induced muscle damage and total antioxidant capacity. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2012 Apr;52:170-4. View abstract.
  13. Berardesca E, Cameli N, Cavallotti C, et al. Combined effects of silymarin and methylsulfonylmethane in the management of rosacea: clinical and instrumental evaluation. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008 Mar;7:8-14. View abstract.
  14. Joksimovic N, Spasovski G, Joksimovic V, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of hyaluronic acid, tea tree oil and methyl-sulfonyl-methane in a new gel medical device for treatment of haemorrhoids in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Updates Surg 2012;64:195-201. View abstract.
  15. Gulick DT, Agarwal M, Josephs J, et al. Effects of MagPro™ on muscle performance. J Strength Cond Res 2012;26:2478-83. View abstract.
  16. Kalman DS, Feldman S, Scheinberg AR, et al. Influence of methylsulfonylmethane on markers of exercise recovery and performance in healthy men: a pilot study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Sep 27;9:46. View abstract.
  17. Tripathi R, Gupta S, Rai S, et al. Effect of topical application of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), EDTA on pitting edema and oxidative stress in a double blind, placebo-controlled study. Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 2011 Feb 12;57:62-9. View abstract.
  18. Xie Q, Shi R, Xu G, et al. Effects of AR7 Joint Complex on arthralgia for patients with osteoarthritis: results of a three-month study in Shanghai, China. Nutr J. 2008 Oct 27;7:31. View abstract.
  19. Notarnicola A, Tafuri S, Fusaro L, et al. The "MESACA" study: methylsulfonylmethane and boswellic acids in the treatment of gonarthrosis. Adv Ther. 2011 Oct;28:894-906. View abstract.
  20. Debbi EM, Agar G, Fichman G, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Jun 27;11:50. View abstract.
  21. Brien S, Prescott P, Lewith G. Meta-analysis of the related nutritional supplements dimethyl sulfoxide and methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2009 May 27. [Epub ahead of print]. View abstract.
  22. Kim LS, Axelrod LJ, Howard P, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2006;14:286-94. View abstract.
  23. Usha PR, Naidu MU. Randomised, Double-Blind, Parallel, Placebo-Controlled Study of Oral Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane and their Combination in Osteoarthritis. Clin Drug Investig. 2004;24:353-63. View abstract.
  24. Lin A, Nguy CH, Shic F, Ross BD. Accumulation of methylsulfonylmethane in the human brain: identification by multinuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Toxicol Lett 2001;123:169-77. View abstract.
  25. Gaby AR. Methylsulfonylmethane as a treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis: more data needed on pollen counts and questionnaire. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8:229.
  26. Hucker HB, Ahmad PM, Miller EA, et al. Metabolism of dimethyl sulphoxide to dimethyl sulphone in the rat and man. Nature 1966;209:619-20.
  27. Allen LV. Methyl sulfonylmethane for snoring. US Pharm 2000;92-4.
  28. Murav'ev IuV, Venikova MS, Pleskovskaia GN, et al. Effect of dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone on a destructive process in the joints of mice with spontaneous arthritis. Patol Fiziol Eksp Ter 1991;37-9. View abstract.
  29. Jacob S, Lawrence RM, Zucker M. The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain. New York: Penguin-Putnam, 1999.
  30. Barrager E, Veltmann JR Jr, Schauss AG, Schiller RN. A multicentered, open-label trial on the safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8:167-73. View abstract.
  31. Klandorf H, et al. Dimethyl sulfoxide modulation of diabetes onset in NOD mice. Diabetes 1998;62:194-7.
  32. McCabe D, et al. Polar solvents in the chemoprevention of dimethylbenzanthracene-induced rat mammary cancer. Arch Surg 1986;62:1455-9. View abstract.
  33. O'Dwyer PJ, et al. Use of polar solvents in chemoprevention of 1,2-dimethylhydrazine-induced colon cancer. Cancer 1988;62:944-8. View abstract.
  34. Richmond VL. Incorporation of methylsulfonylmethane sulfur into guinea pig serum proteins. Life Sci 1986;39:263-8. View abstract.
Last reviewed - 06/17/2016