MSM is a chemical found in plants, animals, and humans. It can also be made in a laboratory. People use it as a medicine.
MSM is used for chronic pain, osteoarthritis, joint inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, bursitis, tendonitis, tenosynovitis, musculoskeletal pain, muscle cramps, scleroderma, scar tissue, stretch marks, hair loss, wrinkles, protection against sun/wind burn, eye inflammation, oral hygiene, periodontal disease, wounds, cuts, and abrasions/accelerated wound healing. It is either taken by mouth or applied to the skin for these uses. You may have heard about MSM because of the book The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain. There isn’t much published scientific research to support its use.
MSM is also used 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 used for type 2 diabetes, liver problems, Alzheimer’s disease, 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).
Other uses of MSM include 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 infections, insect bites, radiation poisoning, and to boost the immune system.
MSM is also used to control snoring. In fact, directions for making MSM nose drops for snoring have been published, but there’s no evidence that MSM has any effect on snoring.
Contrary to some MSM promotional literature, there is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for MSM or sulfur, which it contains. Sulfur deficiency has not been described in the medical literature.
How does it work?
MSM might supply sulfur to make other chemicals in the body.
Possibly Effective for:
- Hemorrhoids. Applying a gel containing MSM, hyaluronic acid, and tea tree oil seems to improve symptoms of hemorrhoids.
- Osteoarthritis. Taking MSM by mouth seems to slightly reduce some symptoms of arthritis of the knee, such as pain and joint movement. But the changes seem to be small, and it might not reduce other symptoms such as stiffness.
- Rosacea. Applying a cream containing MSM and silymarin seems to improve skin color and other symptoms of rosacea.
- Stress brought on by exercise. Taking MSM by mouth before running seems to reduce muscle damage and other markers of stress caused by exercise.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Exercise performance. MSM taken by mouth, as well as cream containing MSM plus magnesium, did not improve flexibility, endurance, or overall performance when taken before exercising.
- Varicose veins and other circulatory problems (chronic venous insufficiency). Topical application of lotion containing MSM might cause increased leg, ankle, and foot swelling in patients with chronic venous insufficiency.
- Hay fever. One preliminary research study suggests MSM taken by mouth might relieve some symptoms of hay fever.
- Shoulder surgery. One study suggests that MSM, taken by mouth in combination with other nutrients, may reduce pain and improve healing following rotator cuff (shoulder) surgery.
- Swelling of foot tendons (tendinitis). One clinical study suggests that MSM, in combination with other nutrients, may improve the outcomes of certain therapies used to treat tendinitis.
- Chronic pain.
- Muscle and bone problems.
- Scar tissue.
- Stretch marks.
- Protection against sun/wind burn.
- Eye swelling.
- Dental disease.
- Stomach upset.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Mood elevation.
- Poor circulation.
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
MSM is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for 3 months or less 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: Not enough is known about the safety of using MSM during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For osteoarthritis: 500 mg three times daily up to 3 grams twice daily.