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Methylsulfonylmethane (also known as MSM, DMSO2, methyl sulfone, and dimethyl sulfone) is a naturally occurring organosulfur compound that can be found in several plants, grains, fruits, and vegetables. In the 1970s, two chemists, Drs. Robert Herschler and Stanley Jacob, experimented extensively with the compound looking for possible clinical and therapeutic uses. In the early 1980s Dr. Hershler patented the compound for many things including skin softening, nail strengthening, and stress relief.
MSM's mechanism of action is unclear, but it is thought to have influence on some processes that involve inflammation and oxidative stress at the subcellular level. There are several published animal and human studies that have investigated its potential for a variety of ailments and conditions. Some studies included testing for improved skin quality, seasonal allergies, range of motion and physical function, arthritis, and inflammation. Results from these studies have been variable, but there seems to be some evidence to support possible benefits in improving symptoms of osteoarthritis such as stiffness, swelling, and pain.
Although we can obtain it naturally from eating certain foods, the compound is also synthetically produced. In the US, MSM is sold as a dietary supplement usually in the form of capsules or powders. It is frequently sold in combination with other supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin. A common suggested dose for arthritis and other joint conditions for adults is 2–6 grams/day in 2 or 3 divided doses. In general, MSM seems to be safe and well-tolerated. Some common side effects include bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion. It is important to keep in mind that as a dietary supplement, MSM is not regulated for safety and effectiveness by the US Food and Drug Administration. If you are considering using MSM, always speak with your physician first and purchase products through trusted and reliable sources.
If you suspect an adverse reaction to MSM, are concerned about an unintentional overdose, or have a child who might have swallowed some MSM, immediately check with the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for guidance.