What if I told you there was a so-called “miracle supplement” that could lower inflammation, fight the effects of stress and pain, raise immunity and increase energy levels? Would you be interested? Then you need to know about the MSM supplement.
MSM is used to help treat literally dozens of illnesses, painful symptoms and diseases — and, yes, it’s been called a “miracle supplement” for all it does. (1, 2) So what is an MSM supplement exactly, and do you need to take one? Let’s find out.
What Are MSM Supplements?
What is MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)? Methylsulfonylmethane, also known as dimethyl sulfone (methyl sulfone) or DMSO2, is the oxidized form of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), an organic sulfur compound (aka organosulfur compound) from lignan. It’s an organic sulfur-containing compound that’s used to improve immune function, lower inflammation and help restore healthy bodily tissue. MSM is also a popular joint health supplement. It also naturally occurs in some green vegetables and other food products.
The reason so many benefits are attributed to the MSM supplement is because MSM provides biologically active sulfur, which is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the body and needed for many different critical bodily functions every single day. Thus, MSM is considered a sulfur donor.
It’s also sometimes used in conjunction with other anti-inflammatory supplements, including dimethyl sulfide and sulfone DMSO, glucosamine/chondroitin, and boswellic acid.
6 MSM Supplement Benefits
Commonly used topically on the skin and also taken by mouth, MSM is especially popular as part of an arthritis diet and supplementation plan to treat arthritis pain or osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease since it helps form connective tissue and repair joints, tendons and ligaments.
Of course, that is just one of many MSM supplement benefits. Methylsulfonylmethane supplementation can do the following:
1. Treats Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain
A well-researched benefit of MSM is that it helps decrease joint inflammation, improves flexibility and restores collagen production. Research shows that many patients with arthritis, joint pain, stiffness, knee/back problems and a limited range of motion experience a reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life when taking an MSM supplement.
MSM supplements are beneficial for helping the body form new joint and muscle tissue while lowering inflammatory responses that contribute to swelling and stiffness. An MSM supplement is a natural and effective anti-inflammatory because of how sulfur impacts the immune system and facilitates normal cellular activity. Sulfur needs to be present for our cells to release many byproducts and excess fluids that can accumulate and cause swelling/tenderness.
A clinical trial testing the effects of MSM on joint pain in 118 patients with osteoarthritis found that compared to a placebo, MSM supplements taken over 12 weeks resulted in more improvements in pain, swelling and joint mobility. MSM supplements were given in 500-milligram doses three times daily along with glucosamine (also taken in 500-milligram doses three times daily). Together they both seem to safely reduce inflammation and pain intensity without causing side effects for the majority of people. (3)
That makes MSM — especially when combined with glucosamine — an excellent natural treatment for arthritis.
2. Improves Digestive Problems Like Leaky Gut Syndrome
MSM can help rebuild the lining of the digestive tract and lower inflammation/allergic reactions to certain foods. It’s also useful for healing leaky gut syndrome since it can help stop particles from leaching out the gut through small junction openings, where they can enter the bloodstream and ignite an inflammatory response. This is due in part to the sulfur in an MSM supplement, which is important for digestion. (4)
Additionally, MSM supplements seem to help treat hemorrhoids. Applying a gel containing MSM along with tea tree oil can reduce pain and swelling caused by hemorrhoids (swollen blood vessels of the rectum that make it hard to go to the bathroom without pain or bleeding). (5)
3. Repairs Skin Health and Treats Skin Problems Including Rosacea, Allergies, Wounds
Some research shows that applying topical cream containing MSM and silymarin helps lower inflammation contributing to rosacea, skin discoloration, allergies or slow wound healing. MSM can help improve skin’s tone, reducing redness, easing sensitivity and treating other symptoms associated with rosacea, since MSM inhibits inflammation. (6)
While it hasn’t been proven in many studies, people also use MSM to hold on to a youthful appearance, since it seems to help prevent wrinkles, scar formation, dark spots and sun damage. How’s this possible? MSM is necessary for collagen production, and collagen is what helps keep skin from becoming saggy, wrinkled, cracked and dry.
Using an MSM supplement helps us hold on to precious collagen and keratinbecause sulfur is required for the production of these “youthful” compounds. We lose collagen and healthy tissue as we get older, which is exactly why our skin tone and elasticity suffer. You can get even more results using MSM on your skin when you combine it with other antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A, which all help build new, healthy skin cells.
4. Lowers Muscle Pain, Muscle Spasms and Even Muscle Damage
Good news if your someone who’s regularly active but suffers from muscle pain: Research suggests that MSM can act like a natural analgesic, helping prevent and treat muscle aches and pains, throbbing and swelling while improving range of motion and mobility. (7a) It’s been shown to help muscle recovery after exercise, injuries and even surgeries — and it seems to be especially beneficial when used in conjunction with other anti-inflammatories.
In addition, Dr. Bohlooli and his colleagues published a study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, in which it was found that only 10 days of MSM supplementation helped decrease muscle damage via its effect on antioxidant capacity. (7b)
How does MSM stop muscle pain and damage? It comes back to the role of sulfur in the body, which is largely stored inside tissues that make up our muscles and joints. MSM helps repair the rigid fibrous tissue cells in our muscles that become broken down during exercise, therefore helping prevent them from swelling for prolong periods of time.
MSM also restores the flexibility and permeability of cell walls within muscles, which means nutrients can pass through the tissues more easily, facilitating repair work faster and removing lactic acid, which causes that “burning feeling” following exercise. The result is less time needed for recovery, plus reduced pressure, soreness and cramps.
5. Restores Hair Growth
Struggling with thinning hair or balding as you get older? Good news: MSM has been shown to help boost both collagen and keratin levels, two nutrients we absolutely need to form new hair strands (and also rebuild strong nails and skin cells). Collagen and keratin are often found in hair products and treatments because they’re what gives hair strength, durability and that “healthy” look — and they can help reverse hair loss. (8)
6. Helps the Body Adapt to Stress
Ever hear of “adaptogen herbs” or supplements that help control how the body deals with stress? MSM works similarly, since it boosts our ability to heal and bounce back from exercise, stressful events, injuries and even surgeries. Taking MSM before exercising, such as running, seems to reduce muscle damage and other markers of stress. It can also reduce fatigue felt after stressful events and support an upbeat mood, energy levels and normal digestion. (9, 10)
MSM Supplement Uses?
Some of the most common uses for MSM include treating: (11)
- chronic joint pain (osteoarthritis, joint inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis)
- leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disorders
- osteoporosis and susceptibility to bone fractures
- bursitis, tendonitis, the development of scar tissue and other musculoskeletal pains
- allergies and asthma
- yeast infections
- muscle cramps
- constipation, ulcers, upset stomach, indigestion
- PMS symptoms (cramps, headaches, water retention, indigestion)
- stretch marks
- hair loss
- skin problems including wrinkles, sun burns (it offers some protection against UV light/wind burn), wounds, cuts, skin abrasions
- eye inflammation
- poor circulation
- high blood pressure
- oral infections, toothaches, gum disease/periodontal disease
Three uses that MSM has gained the most notoriety for include: acting like an anti-atherosclerotic (preventing the hardening/thickening of arteries), chemo-preventative compound and natural anti-inflammatory. MSM seems to help the body’s natural free radical-scavenging abilities, which means it lowers oxidative stress as well as the many ailments that come along with it. (12) It’s an effective anti-inflammatory because it blocks the release of pro-inflammatory mediators and down regulates certain harmful signals sent from the immune system that can affect the entire body.
How MSM Supplements Work
MSM supplements supply the body with extra sulfur for creating methionine, which helps in important bodily processes like making other chemicals, forming connective tissue, synthesizing/metabolizing foods and absorbing nutrients to be used for energy. MSM is a natural byproduct of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), and its medicinal properties seem to be similar to DMSO. DMSO is converted in the body to MSM, and then MSM remains in the body for longer than DMSO, allowing it to have more of a long-term impact.
The diets of our ancestors likely provided a high amount of sulfur — since sulfur is found in animal parts, vegetables and many fruits — but today many people lack these foods in their diets and therefore might be low in sulfur. We all have sulfur present in our bodies at all times, but our sulfur levels can drop as we get older, when we’re stressed and if we normally eat a low-nutrient diet.
While many different “whole foods” supply sulfur — foods like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc.), eggs and sea vegetables — the catch is that some of their natural sulfur can become destroyed when the foods aren’t very fresh, they’re processed or are cooked at high temperatures. One of the differences between sulfur as we usually think of it (DMSO) and MSM is that MSM is odorless and tasteless (which is why you’re spared the strong smell that can be produced when eggs or veggies are cooked).
In humans (and animals too), pure MSM is naturally found in the adrenal cortex, which is a part of our hormonal system that helps regulate our response to stressors. It’s also stored in our cerebral spinal fluid and is used to maintain the structure of normal connective tissues.
One of the most notable attributes of MSM supplements is that they help accelerate healing and “detox” the body by improving how chemicals enter and leave our cells. MSM essentially makes cells more permeable, releasing certain built-up minerals that can cause problems (like calcium, for example), heavy metals, waste and toxins, while also helping usher in nutrients and water. This helps keep us hydrated and lowers inflammation, which is the root of most diseases. MSM also stabilizes cell membranes, improves the body’s antioxidant abilities, slows or stops leakage from injured cells and scavenges hydroxyl free radicals. (13)
Using MSM supplements is tied to better immune function, accelerated healing and reduced pain because it helps counteract certain byproducts (like lactic acid) that contribute to the feeling of soreness, stiffness and inflexibility. This is one reason why some athletes and very active people choose to use an MSM supplement to improve recovery time, performance, the process of rebuilding new, healthy muscle and joint issues. (14) Also importantly, MSM’s sulfur plays an important role in the production of glutathione, considered to be a “master antioxidant” and an important agent for detoxification.
This is another reason MSM is considered to be a “performance enhancer” — because it can raise someone’s energy levels and fight fatigue, since it helps with proper digestion and nutrient absorption, reducing the amount of energy the body needs to use on breaking down nutrients and redirecting these to other efforts.
MSM Dosage, Plus Where to Buy MSM Powder or Supplements
How much MSM do you need or should you use? The FDA doesn’t recognize a recommended dietary allowance for an MSM supplement or for sulfur (which it contains), because there’s no proven symptoms of sulfur deficiency described in medical literature as of now. Therefore the dosage you’ll want to take depends on what you’re using MSM for and your current state of health.
Usually, 500 milligrams of MSM, taken three times daily, is the starting dose recommended for treating osteoarthritis. Other reports show that up to three to six grams daily (divided into three doses normally) seems to be safe and well-tolerated. (15)
You can either buy an MSM supplement in powder form, cream form or capsule/tablet form. It’s available in powder form most often, and you might find it in powdered supplement mixes, such as green powders or digestive aids. Read the directions carefully, and start with about one to two teaspoons of MSM powder taken along with water. You can increase your intake as your body gets used to it and you assure you don’t experience any digestive side effects.
If you choose to use MSM powder (which is believe to be the most absorbable kind), try simply adding it to water (usually about 16 ounces for one serving), and look for pure powder. You’ll get the best results when you use MSM along with antioxidants/anti-inflammatory compounds like vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.
Make sure you buy MSM from a reputable seller, and always check for the correct chemical compound name “MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).” Keep in mind that many MSM supplements contain synthetic byproducts and fillers. You want to look for an organic brand that sells “100% naturally derived MSM.”
Are There Any Potential MSM Side Effects?
MSM seems to be well-tolerated since it’s completely natural and already found in the human body. There haven’t been many reported side effects of MSM. To date, however, there also haven’t been many large, well-controlled human studies looking at its long-term effects.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, based on the most reputable studies conducted so far on MSM — such as a 2006 pilot study that analyzed the effects of 6,000 milligrams of MSM taken daily by patients with osteoarthritis — it effectively helps improve symptoms of pain and physical function without any major side effects. (16)
That being said, MSM is capable of causing mild side effects for some people, including indigestion, upset stomach or diarrhea. It’s also not suitable for people taking blood-thinner medications. If you’re pregnant, you’ll want to speak with a doctor before taking it regularly.
MSM Supplement Takeaways
- MSM, also called dimethyl sulfone or DMSO2, is called the miracle supplement because it’s been shown to lower inflammation, fight the effects of stress and pain, raise immunity and increase energy levels.
- This “miracle supplement” provides biologically active sulfur, which is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the body and is needed for many different critical bodily functions every single day.
- MSM supplement benefits include treating osteoarthritis and joint pain; improving digestive problems like leaky gut syndrome; repairing skins and treating skin problems like rosacea, allergies and wounds; lowering muscle pain and spasms; restoring hair growth and helping the body adapt to stress.
- Three uses that MSM has gained the most notoriety for include: acting like an anti-atherosclerotic (preventing the hardening/thickening of arteries), chemo-preventative compound and natural anti-inflammatory.
- MSM supplements are generally well-tolerated and rarely cause side effects. However, some people may experience digestive issues.