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Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

Medically reviewed on Nov 16, 2017

Scientific Name(s): Methylsulfonylmethane , DMSO2

Common Name(s): MSM


MSM is commonly used for osteoarthritis, but may also benefit in alleviating GI upset, musculoskeletal pain, and allergies; boosting the immune system; and fighting antimicrobial infection. Clinical trials are needed to verify these potential uses.


MSM commonly is given as 2 to 6 g/day in 2 to 3 divided doses for arthritis and other joint conditions.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation in humans is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

No conclusive data on adverse reactions with MSM have been reported.


No toxicity was noted in animal studies.

MSM is found in green plants such as Equisetum arvense , certain algae, fruits, vegetables, and grains. In animals, it is found in the adrenal cortex of cattle, human and bovine milk, and urine. MSM is also found in human cerebral spinal fluid and plasma at 0 to 25 mcmol/L concentrations. 1 MSM is naturally occurring in fresh foods; however, it is destroyed with even moderate food processing, such as heating or dehydration. 2


Most research on MSM involves animal studies. MSM has been suggested for use as a food supplement and is available in the United States as a dietary supplement under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.


MSM is a normal oxidation product of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). Unlike DMSO, MSM is odor free and is a dietary factor. MSM has been referred to as “crystalline DMSO.” 3 MSM provides a dietary source of sulfur for methionine. 2 MSM's medicinal properties are theorized to be similar to DMSO, without the odor and skin irritation complications. 4

Uses and Pharmacology

The sulfur content of MSM can be used by the body to maintain normal connective tissues. MSM has also exhibited possible anti-inflammatory, antiatherosclerotic, and chemopreventative activities along with free radical scavenging. 5 , 6 , 7 MSM has been reported to alleviate allergies, arthritis, GI upset, musculoskeletal pain, and to boost the immune system. It also possesses antimicrobial effects against organisms such as Giardia lamblia , Trichomonas vaginalis , and some fungi. The suggested mechanism is that MSM may bind to surface receptor sites, blocking the interaction of parasite and host.


There are a limited number of clinical trials in osteoarthritis to guide the use of MSM, support its efficacy, and describe adverse effects.

A randomized, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled study compared oral MSM with glucosamine and the combination of the 2 in 118 patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis for a minimum of 6 months. 4 For 12 weeks, patients received either placebo (n = 28), MSM 500 mg 3 times daily (n = 30), glucosamine 500 mg 3 times daily (n = 30), or MSM and glucosamine both 500 mg 3 times daily (n = 30). The primary outcome was the reduction of pain intensity assessed by a visual analog scale (VAS). Pain, swelling, and joint mobility were also scored on a 0 to 3 scale, with 3 as the most severe. The primary outcome was not reported; however, all groups except for placebo experienced statistically significant improvements in pain and swelling. The combination of glucosamine and methylsulfonylmethane showed statistically significant decreases in pain and swelling compared with either single treatment alone.

A 12-week pilot, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted with 40 patients. 8 Patients were diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, classified by American College of Rheumatology criteria as functional class I, II, or III, for at least 3 months. Participants received 3 g of oral MSM micropill ( OptiMSM ) twice daily (increasing to this dose over 1 week) or placebo. The primary end points were the composite subscales in the Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index VAS on pain, stiffness, physical function, and aggregated total symptoms (0 = no pain, 100 = worst pain). After 12 weeks, there was a statistically significantly higher decrease in pain (−14.6 for MSM group and −7.3 for placebo group, P = 0.041) and for physical function impairment (−15.7 for MSM group and −8.8 for placebo group, P = 0.045).

A trial on the effects of the oral combination product AR7 , which includes sternum collagen II, methylsulfonylmethane, cetyl myristoleate, lipase, vitamin C, and bromelain, was published. 9 In 89 patients with osteoarthritis, a decrease in the percentage of patients reported to have pain, stiffness, and tenderness in the treatment group was found after 3 months.


Tumor onset in colon cancer–induced rats was markedly delayed in animals receiving MSM supplementation versus controls, suggesting a chemopreventative effect. 10 Four percent receiving MSM had a similar delaying effect on rat mammary breast cancer. 11


MSM showed no effect in preventing diabetes when tested in spontaneously diabetic mice compared with DMSO or dimethylsulfide. 12


Topical MSM showed benefit in combination with silymarin to treat rosacea in 46 patients. 13 A statistically significant decrease in erythema, papules, and itch intensity occurred. MSM was theorized to be beneficial in rosacea due to strong photoprotective action along with antioxidant effects and desensitization of the skin to potential allergens.


There is 1 case study of a patient with unrelieved ichthyosis treated unsuccessfully with a variety of topical agents. 14 After treatment with an over-the counter skin care product olivamine , a product that combines amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants, MSM, and water-resistant silicones with surfactant-free phospholipid cleansers, the patient was completely clear of thickened scales and itching after 4 weeks.

Veterinarian Uses

A 10-day course of MSM also has been evaluated in 13 horses with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and no changes occurred in parameters, such as lung sounds, respiratory rate, heart rate, temperature, nasal discharge, or arterial blood gas. 15 However, MSM exerted some protective effects on oxidative and inflammatory exercise-induced injury in 24 jumping horses when given daily for 6 weeks before and during competition. 16


MSM commonly is given as 2 to 6 g/day in 2 to 3 divided doses for arthritis and other joint conditions.


Clinical information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy is lacking. The first report evaluating the developmental toxicity of MSM in a mammalian model was published in 2007. 17 Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were given MSM up to 1,000 mg/kg/day orally for 14 days during gestation. No evidence of maternal toxicity was observed, nor any significant increases in the incidence of anomalies in the fetuses.

Information regarding safety and efficacy during lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

When orally administered MSM was given to rats at 5 to 7 times the maximum recommended dose in humans, no adverse events or mortality were observed after 90 days. 18 In one study, similar rates of adverse effects were seen in the MSM and placebo group. 8 Possible adverse events included bloating, constipation, decline in concentration, fatigue, headache, indigestion, and insomnia.


No important toxicity was noted in animal studies. 10 , 11 , 18


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2. Richmond VL. Incorporation of methylsulfonylmethane sulfur into guinea pig serum proteins. Life Sci . 1986;39(3):263-268.
3. Bertken R. “Crystalline DMSO”: DMSO2. Arthritis Rheum . 1983;26(5):693-694.
4. 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(6):353-363.
5. Ebisuzaki K. Aspirin and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): a search for common mechanisms, with implications for cancer prevention. Anticancer Res . 2003;23(1A):453-458.
6. Alam SS, Layman DL. Dimethyl sulfoxide inhibition of prostacyclin production in cultured aortic endothelial cells. Ann N Y Acad Sci . 1983;411:318-320.
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9. Xie Q, Shi R, Xu G, Cheng L, Shao L, Rao J. Effects of AR7 joint complex on arthralgia for patients with osteoarthritis: results of a three-month study in Shanghai, China. Nutr J . 2008;7:31.
10. O'Dwyer P, McCabe DP, Sickle-Santanello BJ, Woltering EA, Clausen K, Martin EW Jr. Use of polar solvents in chemoprevention of 1,2-dimethylhydrazine-induced colon cancer. Cancer . 1988;62(5):944-948.
11. McCabe D, O'Dwyer P, Sickle-Santanello B, Woltering E, Abou-Issa H, James A. Polar solvents in the chemoprevention of dimethylbenzanthracene-induced rat mammary cancer. Arch Surg . 1986;121(12):1455-1459.
12. Klandorf H, Chirra AR, DeGruccio A, Girman DJ. Dimethyl sulfoxide modulation of diabetes onset in NOD mice. Diabetes . 1989;38(2):194-197.
13. Berardesca E, Cameli N, Cavallotti C, Levy JL, Piérard GE, de Paoli Ambrosi G. Combined effects of silymarin and methylsulfonylmethane in the management of rosacea: clinical and instrumental evaluations. J Cosmet Dermatol . 2008;7(1):8-14.
14. Fleck CA. Managing ichthyosis: a case study. Ostomy Wound Manage . 2006;52(4):82-86, 88, 90.
15. Traub-Dargatz JL, McKinnon AO, Thrall MA, et al. Evaluation of clinical signs of disease, bronchoalveolar and tracheal wash analysis, and arterial blood gas tensions in 13 horses with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treated with prednisone, methyl sulfonmethane, and clenbuterol hydrochloride. Am J Vet Res . 1992;53(10):1908-1916.
16. Marañón G, Muñoz-Escassi B, Manley W, et al. The effect of methyl sulphonyl methane supplementation on biomarkers of oxidative stress in sport horses following jumping exercise. Acta Vet Scand . 2008;50:45.
17. Magnuson BA, Appleton J, Ryan B, Matulka RA. Oral developmental toxicity study of methylsulfonylmethane in rats. Food Chem Toxicol . 2007;45(6):977-984.
18. Horváth K, Noker PE, Somfai-Relle S, Glávits R, Financsek I, Schauss AG. Toxicity of methylfulfonylmethane in rats. Food Chem Toxicol . 2002;40(10):1459-1462.

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