MSM: An effective sulfur supplement to ease those aching joints


Last Updated June 13th, 2021

What is methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)?

Methylsulfonylmethane is a sulfur-based compound present in plants, animals, and also the human body. It is a source of sulfur for your body. In humans, sulfur is present in the hair, skin, and nails and is an important entity in proteins such as hormones (insulin), enzymes (glutamate synthase), collagen, keratin, etc. It is naturally present in foods. You can find this compound in the following foods:

Processing such foods will reduce the MSM content in them. MSM supplements consumed at a dose of 2000 to 2500 micrograms per day is safe generally.

What are the health benefits of using MSM supplements?

MSM can help in treating joint pain

MSM is suggested for those with joint regressions. Joint regressions can be because of an inflammation or an injury or an infection. They commonly result in joint pains. When you have joint pains, you won’t be able to carry out your day to day activities well. It will reduce the quality of your everyday activities and even prevent you from performing to your best.

MSM is good for joint pains because of its anti-inflammatory property. It dwindles the levels of substances that are involved in inflammation(for example interferon). It is very effective in treating osteoarthritis. An investigation was done on people who had joint pain. These people had pain while walking, etc. About 1200 mg of MSM was given and the investigation was carried out for 12 weeks. It decreased the swelling, stiffness, and pain to a great extent.

Muscle recovery and anti-aging effects

Stress, pollution, aging – all of these result in damage even at the molecular level. The damage is caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Such oxidative stress lowers the stamina for athletes. Antioxidants are compounds which nullify the effect of ROS and thus protect the cells and tissues. MSM is not an antioxidant but provides sulfur and methyl groups to amino acids that naturally have antioxidant property.

This property is explored in applying MSM for the treatment of muscle recovery and skin aging. A study was done on men who workout routinely. These men were given 50 mg MSM per kg of body weight for 10 days. The end result was reduced muscle soreness and joint related pain. MSM reduces muscle stiffness as well. When MSM supplements are combined with other supplements that are used to treat arthritis, there is a notable reduction of arthritis-related symptoms.

MSM gives your immunity a boost

MSM plays an important role in the synthesis of glutathione (the master antioxidant) and helps in pumping up the glutathione levels. Glutathione is a vital amino acid for overall health including immunity. A study was done on cells infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) proteins. These cells were treated with MSM. The glutathione levels were replenished and the cells showed a drop in the levels of inflammatory proteins.

MSM helps in reducing the allergic responses

Allergy response is usually triggered by substances such as pollen, dust, certain foods, materials, drugs, rubber, etc. The following are the symptoms of an allergy:

  • Prolonged coughing
  • Itchy skin rashes
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sneezing, runny nose, or stuffy nose
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath and even wheezing
  • Teary eyes
  • Tongue or the face tends to swell up

There will be an increase in the reactive proteins or other substances in the body. An experiment was done on adults for 30 days. These volunteers were given 2600 mg of MSM. The volunteers showed a decrease in allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, shortness of breath, etc.

MSM strengthens your skin

The main component of the nails, hair or skin is the protein called keratin. This protein is sulfur-rich. The amino acid called cysteine is sulfur-rich and this amino acid is largely present in keratin. That is why burnt hair gives you sulfur-like smell. Keratin maintains the integrity of the skin. This protein is very useful to slow down the process of aging.

There are reports that this protein reduces even skin conditions such as rosacea. MSM application on the skin showed reduced irritation and effective healing from rosacea. Psoriasis is a condition of auto-immunity. It is characterized by whitish red patches on the skin and itching. MSM helps in treating psoriasis due to its anti-inflammatory properties, as well.

MSM combats digestive problems

Digestive problems such as a leaky gut are mainly characterized by cellular damage and inflammation. MSM supplements lower the pain, swelling, and also aid in restoring the digestive lining. MSM is very useful in treating hemorrhoids (a condition of an inflamed colon and rectum resulting in bleeding and discomfort).

MSM and anti-cancer properties

A new angle for MSM supplements is its application in cancer treatment. A study was done in human breast cancer cells supplemented with 100, 300, and 500 mM of MSM. The cell viabilities showed a substantial decrease at 500mM. Molecular analysis of these cancer cells showed inflation in the gene activity and the protein levels pertaining to cell death. The microscopic analysis also showed that the cells treated with MSM had lost the ability to spread. Some researches on cancer cell death under MSM treatment point to DNA damage.

Are MSM supplements safe? What are the side effects?

It is safe to consume MSM supplements (tablets). The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has considered MSM supplements under the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list.

For the skin related problems, it is very effective if you consume MSM or apply on your skin along with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. This is very helpful in treating skin problems.

Before you take MSM, remember this…

Before you take any supplement, it is better to consult a doctor. There is insufficient research on the use of MSM supplements on pregnant and breastfeeding women. So it is better to avoid in such cases as there is no guaranteed safety. MSM based lotions will be problematic when applied on the skin where there are varicose veins. A varicose vein is a state of inflamed veins in the feet and legs. This aggravates the swelling and pain.

Do not mix MSM with alcohol. You need to know that it is because of the reaction products of sulfur and alcohol, the hangover effect is induced. As of now, no investigation has been done on this. Never use MSM supplements if you are on any blood thinning medications

The Bottom Line

Sulfur from MSM supplements aids in the synthesis of important sulfur-based amino acids that confer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This helps to accelerate the functioning of the immune system. Muscle recovery, skin aging, digestive inflammations, joint pain, cancer, autoimmune diseases, etc., are some of the vital areas where MSM supplements can be applicable.


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