There are many myths surrounding MSM. Read the most frequently asked questions on MSM and their answers.
Q: What regulations cover MSM?
A:In the U.S. MSM is regulated as a dietary supplement. Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA requires that product claims ("structure and function claims") are truthful, not misleading and supported by scientific studies. The FDA has the right to recall or ban dietary supplements that are found to be unsafe. The FDA requires that all dietary supplements are manufactured in accordance with Good Manufacturing practices (GMPs) using documentation and consistent methods. Information about FDA regulations can be found at the FDA website.
In other countries, MSM is also federally regulated. In Japan, MSM is regulated by the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. In Canada, MSM is regulated by the Natural Health Products Directorate, a division of Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the FDA. The Canadian government provides a unique product registration number and approval for products to be marketed in that country. Regulations in other countries vary.
Q: Where does MSM come from? Does MSM come from pine trees?
A:All commercially available MSM is manufactured by reacting dimethyl sulfoxide with hydrogen peroxide. The raw materials used to synthesize MSM have many sources, including plants or other organically-based material. The source of these raw materials has no relationship to the end product of MSM.
A synthesis process produces MSM that is chemically identical to that which occurs in nature. There is no commercially viable way to "extract" MSM in quantity from any organic or plant source. Methyl groups may originate from plant sources, such as the processed pulp of Southern Pine, but the sulfur does not. Although MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur compound, the microscopic amounts occurring naturally in food are too small to permit "extraction" sufficient for commercial production of dietary supplements. The most "natural" MSM would be that which is closest to what is found in nature (i.e., the purest MSM). Purity of MSM is achieved by distillation or crystallization. Distillation is universally accepted as the superior purification method. Read more in MSM Manufacturing.
Q: How does MSM work?
A:The exact mechanisms of how MSM works are still being identified in ongoing scientific research. However, scientific studies have now confirmed that MSM is a safe and effective anti-inflammatory agent. It may also contribute to the integrity of joint cartilage and other connective tissue.
In recent animal research conducted in Japan, MSM was found to act as an immunomodulator, preventing the immune system from mounting dangerous autoimmune responses to noxious stimuli. See study . It also prevented local inflammation to a significant enough degree as to halt an autoimmune reaction at the genetic stage of induction. It appears to affect autoimmune responses, such as the immune system's development of antibodies against its own tissues.
MSM has been shown to inhibit the development of abnormal antibodies to collagen, and to prevent production of rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibodies (ANA).
Though the pain relieving properties of MSM are well known, mechanisms by which it accomplishes this are still under investigation. MSM most likely inhibits inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes, hormone-like substances that create inflammatory cascades in the body associated with pain production.
MSM's effects on connective tissue are also well known. It is presumed, though not proven, that the beneficial clinical effects noted in humans on skin, hair, nails, and joint cartilage (as well as on hooves and coats in animals) has to do with MSM's sulfur content. Sulfur is abundant in connective tissue, and sulfur depletion in connective tissue is known to lead to problems. Because MSM is 34% sulfur, it is likely that the integrity of connective tissue is enhanced with MSM supplementation.
MSM's benefits are those of a dietary supplement. It should not be used to treat serious diseases unless under the supervision of a medical doctor.
Q: Can I take MSM if I am pregnant?
A: There are no known adverse side effects from use of MSM immediately prior to and during pregnancy or during breast-feeding, however use of MSM among this group is highly discouraged. Women of childbearing age who intend to become pregnant or who are pregnant or breast-feeding should always consult with their physician before taking any supplement or medication.
Q:I am allergic to sulfur. Can I take MSM?
A:Strictly speaking, the concept of a “sulfur allergy” is a misconception: sulfur is an element, the third most abundant mineral in the human body. It's not possible to be allergic to sulfur because it has no protein component. When people say they are "allergic to sulfur", what they really mean is that they are allergic or sensitive to certain sulfur-containing substances, most notably to sulfa antibiotics (sulfonamides) or to sulfites (preservatives used in wines and some foods), or to foods with a high sulfur content (broccoli or cauliflower).
Many individuals with allergies to sulfa drugs or to sulfites do not experience problems taking MSM, because apart from sulfur, MSM bears no relation to these substances. However, people who are allergic to one drug are more likely to be allergic to another, regardless of its chemical structure. So if you have a known allergy to sulfonamides or to sulfites, consult with your physician before taking MSM.
Q: Does MSM have any proven effects on insulin, blood sugar, blood pressure, or peptic ulcer?
A: No. Sulfur is a component of many amino acids and hormones, and is required for the production of many more. But just because sulfur is required to produce insulin, it is not correct to believe that taking sulfur as a supplement (e.g., in MSM) would have any effect on the body's production or secretion of insulin. The regulatory pathways for blood sugar metabolism are far more complex than that.
Q: For what conditions has MSM been tested in clinical trials?
A: Osteoarthritis, seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and snoring are the primary areas of clinical studies. There are many additional studies related to MSM safety in humans.
Q: Is MSM effective for allergies?
A: A preliminary 2002 clinical study found that MSM consumption at 2600 mg per day for 30 days reduced allergy-associated symptoms in people clinically diagnosed with allergies. Read more
Q: What questions should I ask my MSM product provider to ensure that the MSM is of appropriate high quality?
A: The Arthritis Foundation suggests to “choose products sold by large, well-established companies that can be held accountable.” Consumer Reports in a 2006 article cautioned, “Be wary of dollar-store brands…our experience suggests mainstream brands may be more reliable.” Additionally, ask your manufacturer to answer these questions:
Be wary of products that simply list "not detectable" for contaminants. Because there is no industry standard for the sensitivity of measuring equipment, a "not detectable" score may indicate unacceptably high levels of contaminants. For example, if the scale for indicating impurities is greater than 0.1 ppm (parts per million). A product that lists "not detectable" for lead at 1 ppm would have 20 times more lead than a product whose lead level is 0.05 ppm or less. Some manufacturers are taking extra steps to ensure product safety. Read more.
Q: How much MSM can I take? Are there any side effects?
A: Clinical trials have investigated doses ranging from 1,500 mg per day up to 6,000 mg per day. Stanley Jacob, MD reports using MSM in his patients at doses of up to 100 grams per day with no ill effects under highly controlled medical treatment regimens in a hospital clinic (MSM: The Definitive Guide). MSM toxicity studies indicate that these large doses do not present safety issues, however it is possible that they could result in occasional loose stools or other minor effects.
Q: Is MSM depleted from foods by food processing?
A: MSM is widely distributed in nature, but the amount in any given food is very small (just a few parts per million at most). Because of these low levels, any depletion from foods is insignificant.
The reason to supplement with MSM is that it has beneficial effects on the structure and function of the human body, when taken in amounts exceeding dietary intake levels. MSM dietary supplements, if manufactured correctly, are extremely stable over time, even under conditions of extreme heat. Stability studies have demonstrated that some brands of distilled MSM have a shelf life exceeding thirteen years.
Q: Are people sulfur-deficient? Can MSM help?
A: The idea that people should take MSM because of sulfur deficiencies has not been proven scientifically. Outright sulfur deficiency is uncommon in humans because protein foods usually contain cysteine and methionine, which are sulfur-containing amino acids. Nevertheless, scientists have shown that the sulfur content of cartilage decreases as we age, and that this decrease parallels degeneration in the joints. They have also shown that certain arthritis drugs deplete the body's sulfur reserves. Separately, MSM has been shown to be a sulfur donor, and to alleviate the pain of knee osteoarthritis. Taken together, these results suggest that the sulfur in MSM is possibly being used to replenish depleted sulfur in the joints.
Q: Does the body produce MSM naturally? What functions does it serve in the body?
A: Yes. MSM does occur naturally in the body in small amounts. It is probably synthesized by gut bacteria, and appears to have a function in the liver’s processing of toxic agents that enter the body from outside.
Q: What effect will MSM have on my skin, hair, and nails?
A: Extensive anecdotal reports suggest that MSM supplementation improves the suppleness of skin and the shininess of hair and nails, which also become less prone to cracking and splitting.