Nutritional Significance and Medical Applications of MSM | Equine Clinical Research

Nutritional Significance and Medical Applications of MSM-
a biologically active sulfur compound

ABSTRACT: Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a naturally occurring dietary derivative of DMSO, serves as an important source of bioavailable dietary sulfur and, when administered orally, is effective in ameliorating symptoms of physiological response to stress including gastrointestinal upset, inflammation of the mucous membranes, pain associated with musculoskeletal system disorders, and infectant allergens. MSM appears to augment immunological competence through a natural, vitamin-like moderating or normalizing activity for various body functions and is noted for its exceptionally non-toxic nature. MSM has proved useful as a dietary supplement for both children and adults, including geriatric patients.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring sulfur containing compound with multiple functions in the body. MSM is naturally present in body fluids and tissues and is found in milk and a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains in small amounts. At low levels of ingestion, it functions as a normal dietary ingredient and assimilable source of essential dietary sulfur. At higher levels it functions as a pharma-ceutically active agent which can be used safely and effectively for a variety of purposes.

The development of MSM as a dietary supplement stemmed from research on DMSO (dimethylsulfoxide). As a stable, odorless dietary metabolite of DMSO, MSM possesses certain biomedical properties similar to DMSO together with additional biological activity not possessed by DMSO. MSM, unlike DMSO, is a dietary factor and is free of the unpleasant odor found with the use of DMSO. MSM, like DMSO, enhances urinary taurine secretion produced by aromatic hydrocarbons in man and neutralizes the toxicity of anticholinesterases, thereby providing protection against insecticide exposure or ingestion.

Nutritional implications of MSM

MSM, and many precursor compounds which are readily converted to MSM in the body, are found in most natural, unprocessed foods. However, because of its volatility, it is readily lost when fresh food is processed and/or stored. Unless the diet consists largely of raw, unprocessed foods, it is unlikely that sufficient MSM will be ingested to contribute significantly to the daily nutritional sulfur requirement, thus furthering the high incidence of sulfur-deficient diets which exist globally.

Sulfur plays an indispensable role in human nutrition which is often overlooked. It is responsible for the conformation of body proteins through the formation of disulfide bonds, thereby holding connective tissue together. Thiol (i.e. sulfhydryl) groups are vital for the catalytic function of several body enzymes. To perform these roles, constant intake of assimilable sulfur is needed by the body.

Although MSM has not yet been established to be a vitamin, it does have a vitamin-like moderating or normalizing

activity for various body functions, as there appears to be a high correlation between abnormal physiological symptoms and low MSM blood levels in human beings. Although MSM is found as a natural constituent of foodstuffs, like vitamin D, the principle supply is believed to be synthesized by the body using one of its naturally occurring precursor compounds. Also, excretion data show that MSM occurs in lower concentrations with increasing age. Too low a body concentration of MSM may potentially result in adverse physical and psychological stress, tissue and organ malfunction, fatigue, and increased susceptibility to disease.

Effects of oral administration of MSM dietary supplements

Oral preparations of MSM have been found useful in the normalization of body functions in patients displaying physiological symptoms of stress, particularly those sources of stress which cause gastrointestinal upset, inflammation of mucous membranes, and allergic reactions. MSM ameliorates these symptoms thereby permitting more rapid recovery.

Conditions which have favorably responded to oral MSM include the following:


MSM has a broad and profound beneficial effect in ameliorating diverse allergic responses. MSM ameliorates allergic reactions to inhalant, ingestant, contact, and infectant allergens. Subjects find a direct correlation between concentration of MSM used and resistance to allergens.

Environmental Allergies: Subjects with chronic to severe allergies to environmental materials such as house dust, pollen, wool, animal hair, feathers, and other diverse allergens report substantial to complete relief of their allergy symptoms after successive daily doses of MSM varying from 50 to 1000 mg. per day. Allergy symptoms ranged from respiratory congestion to inflammation, itching, mucoid discharges, and general discomfort. Although MSM alone may not totally eliminate allergic responses, the majority of subjects report a significant reduction in concurrent anti-allergy medication required to keep their allergic symptoms to a minimum. Individuals with allergic asthma or hay fever typically report equivalent or better control of symptoms with one-quarter or less of the prior required level of medication.

Food and Drug Allergies: Individuals who manifest an allergic response to drugs, such as aspirin, non-steroidal anti-arthritic agents (Indocin7, Motrin7) and oral antibiotics, as well as those who are mildly to severely allergic to various foods, such as cereals, shrimp and other seafood, milk, etc., report either a lessened intolerance or a complete tolerance to these substances when ingesting 100 to 1000 mg. of MSM concurrently. Thus, a major application of MSM may be as a safeguard against allergic response to orally ingested drugs, foods, or beverages which are allergens or irritants to individuals sensitive to these substances.


MSM is effective in ameliorating gastrointestinal upset such as that produced by the ingestion of aspirin and other pharmaceuticals or parasitic infections. Individuals with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, chronic constipation, nausea, hyperacidity and/or epigastric pain, or inflammation of mucous membranes experience dramatic relief through the oral administration of 500-1500 mg. of MSM daily.


Individuals presenting signs and symptoms of pain and inflammation associated with various musculoskeletal system disorders, including arthritis, reported substantial and long lasting relief while including from 100 to 5000 mg. of MSM in their daily diet. Most, trying first MSM alone, then a combination with ascorbic acid, reported greater benefit with the combination.

The use of MSM with ascorbic acid is particularly useful in correcting night leg cramps. MSM is capable of reducing the incidence of or entirely eliminating leg and back cramps, muscle spasms, and general soreness, particularly in geriatric patients who experience cramps at night or after long periods of inactivity. It is also effective for athletes who experience severe leg cramps during their sports activity. Migraine suffers have also obtained substantial relief at oral doses of 50-500 mg. MSM per day while arthritic patients report relief from pain and stiffness as well as reduced swelling and inflammation.


In vitro and in vivo tests suggest that MSM has ameliorating or curing activity against a variety of medically important parasitic, microbial, and fungal problems of the intestinal and urogenital tracts. MSM is active against Giardia lamblia (traveler=s diarrhea), Trichomonas vaginalis, Nematodes, Enterobius and other intestinal worms, systemic infections by Histoplasma capsulation, Coccidioides Toxo-plasm and other in vitro susceptible organisms. Effective doses have been in the range of 750-1500 mg. per day. MSM may affect such infections by competing for binding or receptor sites at the mucous membrane surface presenting a blocking interface between host and parasite. MSM appears to augment immunological competence which may also partly explain its effectiveness in treating parasitic infections.

Dosage and Administration Considerations

A single dose of MSM is usually not effective in ameliorating symptoms. Thus, MSM is usually administered periodically throughout the day or on successive days, or both. Noticeable results are usually seen within 2 to 21 days. The amount of MSM in each dose is not critical. The usual individual dose is about 100-1000 mg., preferably 250-500 mg. Total daily dosages of 100-5000 mg., preferably 250-2000 mg. are usually employed.

The effective dosage depends to some extent on the nature and severity of symptoms manifested, the cause of those symptoms, and the MSM blood level of the patient prior to administration. Healthy persons appear to have MSM blood levels of at least 1 ppm, while patients displaying the above mentioned symptoms often have depressed MSM blood levels. Blood sampling for MSM, however, is not ordinarily required because oral ingestion of amounts of MSM in excess of that required to elevate MSM blood levels is not harmful because of the non-toxic nature of MSM.

Purified MSM can be administered orally in any convenient manner, such as ingesting crystalline MSM or its aqueous solution. Preferably, MSM is given in unit dosage form such as tablets or capsules, each containing 100 to 500 mg. MSM.

MSM is of exceedingly low toxicity to all forms of plant and animal life. Except for its beneficial, inhibitory effect on cross-linking of collagen and proteins whereby it reduces hardening of skin and connective tissue, MSM appears to be inert in tissues and body fluids. Because of its inertness, MSM is nonallergenic, nonpyretic, and has no interfering or undesirable pharmacological effects. In fact, MSM is especially suitable as a safe blood diluent because subjects do not react allergically to MSM as they do when dextran is used. It can also be employed as a stable, neutral vehicle for pharmaceutical substances to deliver the pharmaceutical while simultaneously improving the condition of the patient's connective tissue.


Methylsulfonylmethane, MSM, a dietary derivative of DMSO, provides a rich nutritional source of bioavailable sulfur (approximately 34% by weight). MSM has proven useful as a dietary supplement in the normalization of body functions in a variety of conditions resulting from the effects of physiological stress. Its major discovered uses include the amelioration of gastrointestinal upset, moderation of allergic responses, control of gut and urogenital infections, and alleviation of chronic pain. As a naturally occurring dietary constituent, MSM has important nutritional and medical implications for the maintenance of optimum health.


Note: MSM is a patented substance, protected by a number of U.S. Patents. The above material has been excerpted largely from these patents. These are referenced below, along with other relevant documentation.

Baker, DH: Utilization of Isomers and analogs of amino acids and other sulfur-containing compounds. Progress Food Nutr Sci 1986;10:133-178.

Herschler, RJ: Methylsulfonylmethane and methods of use. United States Patent 4,296,130; October 20, 1981.

Herschler, RJ: Dietary and pharmaceutical uses of methylsulfonylmethane and compositions comprising it. United States Patent 4,514,421; April 30, 1985.

Herschler, RJ: Methylsulfonylmethane in dietary products. United States Patent 4,616,039; October 7, 1986.

Jacob, SW and Herschler RJ: Introductory remarks: Dimethylsulfoxide after twenty years. Ann NY Acad Sci 1983; 411: xiii-xvii.

Pearson TW, Dawson HJ, and Lackey HE: Natural occurring levels of dimethylsulfoxide in selected fruits, vegetables, grains, and beverages. Am Chemical Soc 1981.