MSM: Methylsufonylmethane

What is MSM, what does it do, and why is it important?

methylsulfonylmethaneMSM is an organic form of sulfur. All organisms require sulfur to live. It is the third most abundant mineral in the human body helping to build bones, skin, muscle and healthy cells.

MSM was first studied by Dr. Stanley Jacobs, the former head of organ transplant at Oregon Health Sciences University. He was studying dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) for use in transplant medicine and discovered its ability to quickly and deeply penetrate skin without damage. The problem was the smell and aftertaste of garlic as well as skin irritation.

Dr. Jacob discovered that DMSO could be broken down into MSM as a much safer form of sulfur with all of the benefits and none of the side effects. Since that day in 1965, Dr. Jacob continued studying and publishing his findings on the “Miracle of MSM” until his recent death at the age of 91. Due to a fight with the FDA, clinical human studies were unable to be conducted until a number of years ago.

Since 2000, clinical trials are increasingly being published. MSM appears to not only be a source of elemental sulfur but also works as an efficient delivery system of nutrients to the cells with all kinds of medical and natural health applications. While elemental sulfur in human nutrition has NOT been studied extensively, despite its’ obvious importance to our health, scientist are beginning to wake up to the results of the lack of sulfur in our soil and food chain.

Here are a few reasons why sulfur is so important:

  • Sulfur/ MSM is found in important amino acids which are responsible for giving cells their structure, properly balanced cell pressure and flexibility of connective tissue. Healthy cells absorb adequate nutrients while releasing toxins and waste from metabolism. Without this, inflammation of the cells can occur causing pain, stiffness, and muscle soreness.
  • Amino acids which contain sulfur, aid liver detoxification.
  • Help with insulin production.
  • Needed in collagen for healthy skin and scar/wound healing.
  • Sulfur is vital to glutathione development which repairs DNA, neutralizes free radicals (which lead to cancer), is responsible for your immune system, nervous system, and gastrointestinal system as well as healthy lungs.
  • Organic sulfur increases the synthesis of SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) laurine, NAC (N-acetylcysteine) and GSH (glutathione) which may have clinical applications for treatment of depression, fibromyalgia, arthritis, interstitial cystitis, congestive heart failure, diabetes, cancer and AIDS. (Altern Med Rev 2002, Sulfur in human nutrition and applications in medicine study)
  • Sulfur is a potent aluminum antagonist (aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s). Alzheimers’ victims have been clinically shown to be severely deplete of sulfur.
  • Below normal sulfur levels have been diagnosed in children and adults with ADD/ADHD as well as people with concentration problems and poor memory.
  • Over consumption of coffee, colas, nuts chocolate, shellfish, and soy products which contain copper can lead to depletion of sulfur.

Sulfur deficiency and disease

Numerous studies show not only a sulfur deficiency in our plant based food but in soil as well. Is there a correlation between depleted sulfur, chemical based fertilizers, quality of plant based foods and diseases?

Greece, Italy and Japan have low heart disease, low obesity and enjoy longevity. In the US, Oregon and Hawaii are among the lowest obesity rates in the nation. Icelanders also enjoy low rates of depression, despite living in northern latitudes where the incidence of Seasonal Affects Disorder should be rampant. Their heart disease and diabetes is half, life expectancy is higher and obesity is significantly lower. What is the common denominator? Volcanoes! Soil rich with sulfur which lead to foods rich in sulfur.

Another article suggests that “low CG syndrome” (glutathione and cysteine, which require sulfur in order to function) coined by the author, are chronic in conditions such as HIV, cancer, major injuries, sepsis, Crohn’s (IBS), colitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and athletic over training. Are we more susceptible to these kinds of health problems because we are no longer getting enough sulfur from our diet?

Our MSM, Our Story

Mercy MSM LotionTrish, one of the founders of Cloud 9 Naturally, has had four knee surgeries. She was tired of living on pain killers and the resulting side effects. She and Joann decided to explore alternative pain relief. They experimented with various essential oils, capsicum peppers, emu oil, everything they could think of or had heard about. Trish had heard about MSM and was eager to explore its uses. Joann had been working with a combination of essential oils in a bath soak called Mercy.

Eventually, they managed to acquire some veterinary MSM to use with their “Mercy” essential oil blend. Now they just needed a delivery system, or a way to get the MSM and oils into the affected area of pain! It took two years of experimenting, lost wages, expenses and failed experiments before finding the perfect fast-absorbing, chemical-free lotion that worked as a natural delivery system. It seemed to work great on Trish’s knees, but would it work on others? Would it work for other kinds pain, like arthritis?

Many human guinea pigs later, they found they were on to something. It not only worked but worked within minutes of application, but it also worked for up to eight hours at a time! Combining the two aspects of their creation, they called it Mercy MSM and started selling it at farmers markets in 2002.

Soon, customers started reporting different kinds of pain that the lotion worked on. It was no longer just for bad knees and mild arthritis. Joann and Trish started receiving phone calls from people who wanted to tell their stories… Moving fingers pain free for the first time in years, walking without a cane, sleeping through the night….and best of all, no side effects!

One of the best discoveries was that it worked on Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Customers and friends started to notice that when they used Mercy MSM, they would not experience RLS symptoms. Again they got it out to our volunteers. It seemed to work on 75% of the people who tried it. It was persistent customers who discovered that on really bad days of RLS, they could just simply re-apply a second time, making sure they got the soles of their feet and up the leg. This brought Mercy MSM’s success rate up to approximately 90%!

Fibromyalgia patients had similar stories. A second application within 15 minutes of first application usually brought pain to a more manageable level. It was a very pregnant woman in 2008, who used Mercy MSM for lower back strain that informed told Joann and Trish about her amazing results using it in the labour room. Of course they had to get bottles out to every pregnant woman they knew, including the mothers of their grandchildren! Since them, thousands of women have used it during their pregnancies as well as through delivery.

Unfortunately, because clinical trials are so expensive, Mercy MSM’s success has been based on customer experiences as well as Joann and Trish’s own personal results. They have been selling their Mercy MSM successfully since 2002 with no reported side effects for long term continuous use. They also recently received their NPN number, a government regulated natural health number which means that their lab and batch production have to meet certain standards. It also means that a professional lab has to test each batch to ensure quality and purity, so you can be assured you’re getting the best quality possible with every bottle.

Interesting facts and story, but what does this mean for me?

What can supplementing MSM by skin application or oral application do? Here are some of the claims put forward by Dr. Jacob, numerous naturopaths, chiropractors, scientists, manufacturers of MSM, health food stores and believers of MSM:

Many of these claims have scientific studies to support them – noted with an asterisk (*). These studies have been referenced below. More and more studies are being conducted on the benefits of MSM, so there is likely new research not included in our list. Other claims come from customer testimonials since Mercy MSM was first launched in 2002.
 Arthritis* Fibromyalgia* Rheumatoid arthritis*
 Anti-oxidant Growing pains * Rosacea
Anti-inflammatory* Herpes Restless Leg Syndrome *
Acne repair Headaches and migraines* Scar tissue repair
Allergy reducer* Healthy cartilage Skin tightening
Alzheimer’s helper Increased flexibility * Strong bones, teeth, hair, nails
Analgesic Immune booster Sports injury recovery*
Bursitis* Joint and muscle repair * Snoring*
Burns Knee pain reducer * Scleroderma
Cancer Liver regenerator Sciatica *
Cell repair Labour pain / false labour* Tendonitis / Tennis elbow*
Chronic pain* Lower back pain* Wound healing
Colitis Muscle pain* Whiplash
Cramps* Muscle relaxant / muscle spasms*
Degenerative disk disease Neck pain*
Detoxification Osteoarthritis*

Scientific Studies

Toxicity and Safety of MSM
  • A Multi-Centered, Open Label Trial on the Safety and Efficacy of Methylsulfonylmethane in the Treatment of Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis Barrager E, Veltmann JR, Schauss AG, Schiller RN.
    • Research summary: Fifty participants completed the study. They consumed 2,600 mg of MSM orally per day or 30 days. Clinical respiratory symptoms and energy levels were evaluated by a Seasonal Allergy Symptom Questionnaire at the beginning of the study and again on days-7, 14, 21 and 30. Immune and inflammatory reactions were also determined by laboratory tests. After one week, the frequency of upper respiratory signs and symptoms (e.g., runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, nasal obstruction, paroxysmal sneezing) were significantly improved compared to initial levels. At the three-week mark, participants also had significant improvements in lower respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, shortness of breath and other lung or chest symptoms). All respiratory improvements were maintained through the 30-day visit. Energy levels increased significantly by day-14, an increase that continued through day-30. Minimal side effects were associated with use of MSM
  • Magnuson, B.A., Appleton, J., Ryan, B., Matulka, R.A., Oral Developmental Toxicity Study of Methylsulfonylmethane in (Pregnant) Rats, Food and Chemical Toxicology (2006).
    • The objective of these studies was to determine the developmental toxicity potential of MSM when administered orally to pregnant rats during the period of major organogenesis and histogenesis…. No evidence of maternal or fetal toxicity was observed. For the definitive developmental study… Maternal feed consumption, body weight, body weight gain, uterus weight and corrected body weight/body weight gain were unaffected by treatment. No evidence of maternal toxicity, and no significant differences in litter viability, litter size, or litter body weight were detected. Fetal evaluations failed to show any biologically significant increase in the incidence of anomalies in the MSM treated groups, and no malformations were seen in any of the fetuses. No evidence of fetal mortality, alterations to growth, or structural alterations were observed in the fetuses of dams administered 50 to 1000 mg/kg/day. Therefore, under the conditions of this study, the no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) for maternal and developmental toxicity was 1000 mg/kg/day
  • 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.
    • In vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) was used to detect and quantify MSM in the brains of four patients with memory loss and in three normal volunteers all of who had ingested MSM at the recommended doses of 1-3 g daily. MSM was detected in all subjects at concentrations of 0.42-3.40 mmole/kg brain and was equally distributed between gray and white matter. MSM was undetectable in drug-naive normal subjects (N=25), patients screened for ‘toxic exposure’ (N=50) or patients examined with 1H MRS for the diagnosis of probable Alzheimer Disease (N=520) between 1991 and 2001. No adverse clinical or neurochemical effects were observed. Appearance of MSM in significant concentrations in the human brain indicates ready transfer across the intact blood-brain barrier.
  • Hixson O. Acute intragastric toxicity (LD-50). Dimethyl sulfone (methylsulfonylmethane, MSM). Laboratory of Vitamin Technology, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, 1958.Study to assess acute intragastric toxicity of MSM. LD50 could not be established because even the maximum dose of 20g/kg failed to kill any of the animals (n = 10); no adverse effects were noted (the maximum recommended dose in humans approximates 300mg/kg).
  • Flora Research Laboratories. Ocular and dermal irritation assays for methylsulfonylmethane. Grants Pass, OR; August 1999Ocular and Dermal Irritancy results are classified as a Minimal Irritant. Actual scores from the Irritection Draize Equivalent (IDE) and Human Irritancy Equivalent (HIE) were found to be the lowest scores that can be achieved by any compound.
  • Pharmacokinetics and Distribution of [35S]Methylsulfonylmethane following Oral Administration to Rats, Ames, B.A., Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2006).
    • The objective of this study was to evaluate the pharmacokinetic profile and distribution of radiolabeled MSM in rats. Soft tissue distribution of radioactivity indicated a fairly homogeneous distribution throughout the body with relatively lower concentrations in skin and bone. Approximately 85.8% of the dose was recovered in the urine after 120 h, whereas only 3% was found in the feces. No quantifiable levels of radioactivity were found in any tissues after 120 h, indicating complete elimination of [35S]MSM. The results of this study suggest that [35S]MSM is rapidly absorbed, well distributed, and completely excreted from the body.
  • Cecil KM, Lin A, Ross BD, Egelhoff JC. Methylsulfonylmethane observed by in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in a 5-yearold child with developmental disorder: effects of dietary supplementation. J Comput Assist Tomogr 2002
  • McCabe DP, O’Dwyer PJ, Sickle-Santanello BJ, et al. Polar solvents in the chemoprevention of dimethylbenzanthracene-induced rat mammary cancer. Arch Surg 1986;121:1455-9.
    • Authors used 5% DMSO, 1% and 4% MSM, 0.3% N-methylformamide (NMF), and retinol acetate in the chemoprevention of rat mammary breast cancer. Tumor incidence was not statistically affected. Time to appearance (latency period) of both tumors and cancers were prolonged by NMF, DMSO, and 4% MSM. No group exhibited toxic reactions or significant weight loss.
  • Three nuclear magnetic resonance studies (Rose et al, 2000; Lin et al, 2001; Cecil et al, 2002) have found that MSM appears to cross the blood-brain barrier. However, none of these studies reported any neurotoxicity. A fourth NMR study demonstrated that MSM is a “regular” constituent of cerebrospinal fluid and plasma, noting that it derives from dietary sources, intestinal bacterial metabolism, and from human endogenous methanethiol metabolism (Engelke et al, 2005)
  • Morton JI, Siegel BV. Effects of oral dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone on murine autoimmune lymphoproliferative disease. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1986;183:227-30.
    • At a dose of 6-8 gm/kg/day, MSM demonstrated “significant protection against the development of murine autoimmune lymphoproliferative disease….(there were) no signs of toxicity…possible mechanisms of protection are discussed.” Mouse model
Uses and Effects of MSM


  • Randomised, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled study of oral glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane and their combination in osteoarthritis  PR Usha, MUR Naidu – Clinical drug investigation, 2004 – Springe
  • Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. LS Kim, LJ Axelrod, P Howard, N Buratovich, RF Waters. 2006 Mar;14(3):286-94. Epub 2005 Nov 23
  • Suppressive effect of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) on type II collagen-induced arthritis in DBA/1J mice. T Hasegawa, S Ueno, S Kumamoto… – Japanese Pharmacology …, 2004
  • Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis  of the knee: a randomized controlled study EM Debbi, G Agar, G Fichman… – BMC …, 2011
  • The effectiveness of Echinacea extract or composite glucosamine, chondroitin and methyl sulfonyl methane supplements on acute and chronic rheumatoid arthritis  rat …NMS Arafa, HM Hamuda, ST Melek… – … and industrial health, 2013
  • Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (msm) A Double Blind Study Of Its Use In Degenerative Arthritis. RM Lawrence – Journal Of Equine Veterinary Science.


  •  Aspirin and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): a search for common mechanisms, with implications for cancer prevention. K Ebisuzaki – Anticancer research, 2002
  • A study published in 1986 showed that MSM was “effective in the chemoprevention of … mammary cancers .” (Study by Dr. D. McCabe, Dr. P. O’Dwyer, Dr. B. Sickle-Santanello, Dr. E. Woltering, Dr. H. Abou-Issa, Dr. A. James, Archives of Surgery 1986)
  •  Methylsulfonylmethane suppresses breast cancer growth  by down-regulating STAT3 and STAT5b pathways. EJ Lim, DY Hong, JH Park, YH Joung, P Darvin… 2012
  • Combination of AG490, a Jak2 inhibitor, and methylsulfonylmethane synergistically suppresses bladder tumor growth  via the Jak2/STAT3 pathway YH Joung, YM Na, YB Yoo… – International …, 2014
  • Palliative Treatment for Advanced Biliary Adenocarcinomas  With Combination Dimethyl Sulfoxide–Sodium Bicarbonate Infusion and S-Adenosyl-L-MethionineBa X. Hoang, Hung Q. Tran, Ut V. Vu, Quynh T. Pham, D. Graeme Shaw Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy Sep 2014, Vol. 28, No. 3, Pages 206-211: 206-211.
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide and Sodium Bicarbonate in the Treatment of Refractory Cancer Pain.  Ba X. Hoang, Dao M. Tran, Hung Q. Tran, Phuong T. M. Nguyen, Tuan D. Pham, Hong V. T. Dang, Trung V. Ha, Hau D. Tran, Cuong Hoang, Khue N. Luong, D. Graeme Shaw
  • Synergistic effect of Tahitian Noni Juice (TNJ) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) on mammary breast cancer prevention  at the initiation stage of chemical carcinogenesis induced by DMBA in female Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats Wang M-Y, Anderson GL, Nowicki D

Sports Medicine

  • Effect of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on exercise-Induced muscle damage and total antioxidant capacity . S Barmaki, S Bohlooli, F Khoshkhahesh… – The Journal of sports …, 2012
  •  Influence of methylsulfonylmethane on markers of exercise recovery and performance in healthy men: a pilot study. DS Kalman, S Feldman, AR Scheinberg… – Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition…, 2012
  • Moore, R.D. and Morton, J.I.: Diminished Inflamatory Joint Disease  in Mice Ingesting Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) or Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). Fed. of Am. Soc. for Exp. Biol., Proceedings 69th Ann. Meeting 1985: 692
  •  Efficacy of glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane for spinal degenerative joint disease and degenerative disc disease : a systematic review K. Stuber, S Sajko, K Kristmanson – The Journal of the Canadian …, 2011


  • The effect of methylsulfonylmethane on the experimental colitis in the rat K Amirshahrokhi, S Bohlooli, MM Chinifroush – Toxicology and applied …, 2011
  • Assessment of methylsulfonylmethane as a permeability enhancer for regional EDTA chelation therapy. M Zhang, IG Wong, JB Gin, NH Ansari – Drug delivery, 2009
  • Methylsulfonylmethane as a treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis: additional data on pollen counts and symptom questionnaire. E Barrager, AG Schauss – The Journal of Alternative & …, 2003
  • The anti-inflammatory effects of methylsulfonylmethane on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory responses in murine macrophages. YH Kim, DH Kim, H Lim, DY Baek, HK Shin… – Biological and …, 2009
  • Combined effects of silymarin and methylsulfonylmethane in the management of rosacea: clinical and instrumental evaluation. E Berardesca, N Cameli, C Cavallotti… – Journal of cosmetic …, 2008
  • Alam SS, Layman DL. Dimethyl sulfoxide inhibition of prostacyclin production in cultured aortic endothelial cells. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1983. Dimethyl sulfoxide inhibition of prostacyclin production in cultured aortic endothelial cells. They also studied MSM. MSM inhibited PGI2 synthesis by cultured aortic endothelial cells by 50%. Suggests anti-inflammatory mechanism with potential cardiovascular applications
  • Topical Treatment of Rosacea. U Wollina – Pathogenesis and Treatment of Acne and Rosacea, 2014 – Springe.
  • The efficacy of aqueous extract of Iranian garlic (with MSM) on the healing of burn wound: a clinical and microbiological study FSS Jalali, S Saifzadeh, H Tajik, S Hobbi – Asian J Anim Vet Adv, 2008 –

Human Trials

  • 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, … N Joksimovic, G Spasovski, V Joksimovic… – Updates in surgery, 2012
  • Usha PR, Naidu MUR. Randomised, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled study of oral glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane and their combination in osteoarthritis. Clin Drug Invest 2004
  • Vidyasagar S, Mukhyaprana P, Shashikiran U,et al. Efficacy and Tolerability of glucosamine chondroitin sulphate – methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM) in osteoarthritis of knee in Indian patients. Iran J Pharmacol Ther 2004
  • Kim LS, Axelrod LJ, Howard P, Buratovich N, Waters RF. Efficacy of methylsulfonyl-methane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 2006
  • Barrager E, Veltmann JR, Schauss AG, Schiller RN. A multi-centered, open label trial on the safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. J Altern Complement Med 2002
  • Blum JM, Blum RI. The effect of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in the control of snoring. Integrative Medicine 2004;3(6)24-30. Childs SJ. Dimethyl sulfone (DMSO2) in the treatment of interstitial cystitis. Urol Clin North Am 1994;21:85-8.
  • Lawrence RM. Methylsulfonylmethane (M.S.M.) A double-blind study of its use in degenerative arthritis. Int J Anti-Aging Med 1998

Animal Studies

  • Pharmacokinetics and distribution of [35S] methylsulfonylmethane following oral administration to rats BA Magnuson, J Appleton… – Journal of Agricultural 2007
  • Robert A DiSilvestro, David J DiSilvestro, and Daniel J DiSilvestro, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) Intake in Mice Produces Elevated Liver Glutathione and Partially Protects Against Carbon Tetrachloride-Induced Liver Injury FASEB J. 2008
  • Hasegawa T, Ueno S, Kumamoto S. Anti-inflammatory effect of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in mice Jpn Pharmacol Ther 2005;33:1217-23. Researchers investigated three aspects of the anti-inflammatory activity of MSM: skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, skin inflammation, and itching. Mice models were used in these experiments: Application of topical MSM suppressed the skin inflammation caused by UV radiation, improved weight gain, and prevented a rise in sialic acid. Oral MSM (2.5% ad libitum) had suppression the immediate phase swelling reaction induced by ovalbumin injections. Lastly, scratching behavior was considerably less in mice that were allowed to drink 2.5% MSM solution starting one week prior to the histamine injections.
  • Moore RD, Morton JI. Diminished inflammatory joint disease in MRL/1pr mice ingesting dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) or methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 69th Annual Meeting, Anaheim, California, April 21-26, 1985: Abstract 692….rheumatoid arthritis-like joint lesions. Knee joint examination revealed proliferation of synovial lining cells in all control animals and in only 71% of the MSM-treated mice. The degree of proliferation was less marked in the experimental group. 95% of the control animals had an synovial inflammation, compared with only 50% of the MSM-treated animals. The degree of inflammation was also judged to be less severe in the MSM-treated group. Pannus formation was present in 50% of controls but only in 14% of MSM-treated mice. The decreases in inflammatory joint disease observed with MSM treatment in this study are consistent with previously reported decreases in autoantibody titers and abnormal T cell proliferation in similar animals; moreover, they are consistent with the clinical effects of MSM we have seen in RA patients at Dr. Jacob’s clinic at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

**We have successfully used Mercy MSM on arthritic dogs and horses since 2005 with no adverse reactions. However, we do not recommend using it on cats**

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