MSM is the common name used for the chemical methylsulfonylmethane. MSM is one of two forms of the mineral sulfur that is used as a dietary supplement.
Why MSM is used
Sulfur has long been used as a treatment for the pain of arthritis and other joint pain, including mud-bath treatments in hot springs containing sulfur and other minerals. As a supplement, MSM is often combined with glucosamine to relieve joint inflammation and pain. MSM works in the body to help form connective tissue including cartilage that cushions bone joints, and tendons and ligaments that work with muscles to allow for movement. MSM is also believed to reduce pain by slowing down the signals between nerves that carry pain signals to the brain.
Some studies show that MSM can help relieve the symptoms of seasonal nasal allergies, but more study is needed to confirm this. MSM has also been suggested as a treatment for shingles to reduce inflammation, but more study is needed.
As a side benefit, MSM may also increase the thickness and strength of hair and nails.
How MSM is used
MSM occurs naturally in some protein-rich foods including eggs, meat, poultry, and fish. It can also be found in some plants including Brussels sprouts, asparagus, kale, and wheat germ. MSM is created in small quantities in the body, possibly as part of the digestive process.
Dietary MSM supplements are available as powder and in capsules. Other applications of MSM include ointments, creams, lotions, and dusting powders. MSM supplements are made from a variety of plants. Processing creates MSM that is chemically matched to the MSM found naturally in the body. MSM does not exist in sufficient quantities in any natural product to extract the chemical directly.
Cautions for MSM
MSM is generally considered safe. Side effects may include diarrhea, rashes or headaches. Other cautions for MSM include:
• Sulfa allergy – If you are allergic to sulfa drugs, you may also be allergic to MSM.
• Blood thinners – MSM can act as a blood thinner, which may affect the amount of medication you need to take.