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MSM - Bioavailable Sulphur for arthritis and pain relief

What is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)?

Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) is a naturally occurring sulphur compound found in our body, as well as in many common beverages and foods. It is found in low concentrations in a variety of fresh foods, including milk, coffee, tea and green vegetables. Although MSM is present in most unprocessed foods, it is readily lost due to its volatile nature. Unless one's diet is composed of mainly raw foods, it is unlikely that sufficient MSM will be ingested to significantly contribute to the nutritional sulphur requirement.

In its purified chemical form, MSM is an odourless, essentially tasteless, white, water-soluble, crystalline solid. It is one of the least toxic substances in biology, similar in toxicity to water.
MSM possesses vitamin-like moderating or normalising influence on body functions. There appears to be a relationship between abnormal physiological symptoms and low MSM blood levels in humans. It has been found that MSM can normalise certain body functions in patients displaying physiological symptoms of stress.

MSM can reduce the pain, inflammation and cartilage degeneration associated with arthritis, as well as improving circulation, especially to painful joints.

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How is MSM produced?

The cycle of MSM begins in the ocean, where microscopic plants, called plankton, release sulphur compounds. These salts are transformed in the ocean water into the very volatile compound dimethyl sulphide (DMS), which escapes from the ocean as a gas. DMS rises into the upper atmosphere and in the presence of ozone and high-energy ultraviolet light, is converted into its cousins, dimethyl sulphide (DMSO) and MSM.

Unlike the DMS, both DMSO and MSM are very soluble in water and they return to the earth in the form of rain. On earth, plants take MSM into their root systems and concentrate it. MSM and the sulphur it contains is incorporated into the plant's structure. Through the plant's metabolism, MSM, along with other sulphur compounds it has spawned, is ultimately mineralised and transported back to the sea.

How important is MSM?

Sulphur is essential, as it is the foundation for proper conformation of extra-cellular body proteins, thus holding connective tissue together. It is present in hair, tissues, and in nails. About 2% of the dry weight of most animals is sulphur. As one of the principle elements, sulphur is a constituent of all proteins and is absolutely essential for man, animals, plants and micro-organisms.

The main things Sulphur is required for are:

  • Maintaining the structure of body proteins
  • The formation of keratin (for hair and nails) and collagen for healthy bones and skin
  • The production of immunoglobulins for the immune system
  • The reactions that convert food into energy
  • Elimination of toxins from the body


The adult body contains only 100g of sulphur. However, without this essential element, life cannot exist. Sulphur is principally present in the three amino acids cysteine, cystine and methionine, the amino acid taurine and the vitamins, thiamine (vitamin B1) and biotin.

Cellular renewal requires a daily sulphur supply of at least 850mg. This sounds like an easily accomplishable task, until you realise that this non-metallic element is insoluble on its own. But the miracle nutrient, MSM makes it easy. MSM has a means of providing this essential mineral in a readily absorbed form. As we age, our own natural levels of MSM decline, resulting in a range of health problems. This is where MSM supplementation comes in.

MSM for Arthritis and inflammation

Dr Stanley Jacob, leading American authority on MSM and author of the book, "MSM, the miracle nutrient to combat the effects of ageing", has been researching sulphur compounds for 30 years - MSM for the past 22 years. He states that there is evidence of more than 12,000 patients confirming the wide benefits of this natural compound and its safety.

Reported benefits of taking MSM

· Analgesia and pain relief
· Anti-inflammatory
· Builds and maintains healthy joints through its effects on collagen
· Reduces muscle spasms and relieves muscle soreness
· Helps to normalise the immune system
· Readily absorbed orally and through skin
· Dilates blood vessels and improves circulation
· Normalises bowel function and restores regularity
· Essential for the production of keratin and other proteins
· Adjusts body pH
· Needed for bile production and the formation of taurine

Many people with arthritis - particularly osteoarthritis, have benefited from MSM supplementation

Here is what was found:

It can reduce pain and inflammation
It can reduce muscle spasm around arthritic joints and lessen scar tissue formation
It can increase and improve circulation throughout the body, including painful joints
It may slow cartilage degeneration
It delivers biologically active sulphur to the body

Theses findings are consistent with earlier research that shows that arthritic cartilage has only about 1/3 the amount of sulphur that is present in normal cartilage. Sulphur containing nutrients, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulphates, are widely used for cartilage, ligament and tendon damage. Taking MSM in conjunction with glucosamine enhances pain relief.

In a study conducted by Dr Jacob and his colleagues, patients with x-ray evidence of degenerative joint disease who were given MSM, had an 82% reduction in pain after six weeks, compared with only 18% reduction in the group who received placebos.

Dr Jacob's studies in tennis elbow and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, frequently associated with RSI or Occupational Overuse, show MSM improved these conditions as well.

Year long research, using arthritis sufferers, was conducted at the International Preventive Medicine Clinic in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The study, involving 60 men and women aged 40 to 82, was directed by Dr. Olszewer. The results with MSM were shown to be good in 90% of the cases. Patients taking part in the study were on no other medication during the trial. They were given 750mg of MSM twice daily and reported effective pain relief in 2 to 14 days. In cases where only one joint was affected, Dr Olszewer had patients apply MSM lotion to the affected area, since the nutrient can also be absorbed through the skin.

No side effects have been noted, although some patients did not find any benefit from the MSM treatment.

There are reports of dosages up to 80 grams (80,000mg) daily, when given by mouth and under the care of a physician. However, from the research done by Dr Jacob and his colleagues at the Oregon Health Science University, it appears that 2g to 8g (2,000mg - 8,000mg) daily is sufficient in most situations and this can be reduced when required - the body uses only what it wants and discards the surplus.

At Healthonline we stock MSM Capsules, 1000mg each. As well as this, we also have Joint Connection - a product containing MSM with Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

Please be aware that we recommend also using oils high in essential fatty acids for any inflammatory condition. A suggestion is Evening Primrose or Salmon Oil

Dr. S. Jacob, Dr. Lawrence: MSM the miracle nutrient to combat the effects of ageing, New York, 1999, ISBN 0-399-14474-9

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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