Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a popular supplement with a wide range of health benefits.
It can reduce joint pain and inflammation, improve skin health, reduce symptoms of allergies, and speed up recovery after exercise.
It is a compound containing sulfur that can be found in plants, animals, and humans.
Evidence supports its use in the treatment of several conditions, ranging from asthma to rosacea.
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Scientific research has well documented the anti-inflammatory properties of MSM.
It is believed to inhibit NF-kB, a protein responsible for inflammation in your body (1).
It also inhibits the production of cytokines, such as alpha (TNF-ɑ average), tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 6 (IL-6), which signal systemic inflammation-related proteins (2).
In addition, MSM will raise the body’s levels of glutathione, a potent antioxidant.
For example, supplementing with MSM reduced stomach ulcer inflammation in mice by inhibiting the release of inflammatory cytokines, including TNF-ɑ and IL-6, and increased the glutathione levels (3).
A study in 40 active men showed that consuming 3 grams of MSM before rigorous exercise reduced inflammatory cytokine release and prevented immune cell over-stress compared to a placebo (4).
May Help People with Arthritis
Arthritis is a common inflammatory joint condition that causes pain, stiffness, and a reduced range of motion.
MSM has strong anti-inflammatory properties. People with arthritis often use MSM as a natural alternative to medication.
A study conducted on 49 people with knee osteoarthritis showed that taking 3.4 grams of MSM per day for 12 weeks had the health benefits of decreasing pain and rigidity and enhancing physical function compared to placebo (5).
It can also increase the effectiveness of other popular supplements used to treat arthritis, such as glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and boswellic acid.
One study found that combining MSM with glucosamine and chondroitin in humans with knee osteoarthritis was more effective than glucosamine and chondroitin alone in reducing pain and stiffness (6).
Another study found that a daily supplement containing 5 grams of MSM and 7 grams of boswellic acid had the health benefits of reducing pain and improving function in people with knee arthritis (7).
The people who received MSM and boswellic acid supplements were less reliant on anti-inflammatory drugs than the glucosamine group.
Improves Skin by Enhancing Keratin
Keratin is a protein that functions in your hair, skin, and nails as the main structural component. This component comprises the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine.
As you may notice, burnt hair gives off a smell of sulfur. By acting as a sulfur donor to keratin, MSM can be beneficial to skin health.
This can help reinforce its essential protein, in effect.
MSM supplements also have the health benefit of reducing inflammation that can destroy skin cells, which can cause premature aging, such as wrinkles (8).
It can even reduce symptoms of skin conditions such as rosacea, which can cause skin redness, itching, and inflammation.
One study showed that MSM improved redness, itching, swelling, hydration, and color of the skin in people with rosacea when applied to the skin (9).
Decreases Muscle Pain
MSM supplements are often used to reduce muscle and joint pain. Those with joint dysfunction, a common cause of knee, back, hands, and hip pain, can benefit from MSM supplementation.
By restricting your movement and flexibility, joint pain can have a negative impact on your quality of life.
Research has shown that MSM supplements have the health benefits of reducing inflammation in your body (10).
It also prevents cartilage breakdown, a flexible tissue that protects your joints.
A review of 100 people over the age of 50 showed that treatment with a supplement containing 1,200 mg of MSM for 12 weeks reduced joint pain compared to a placebo (11).
Also reported by the community, receiving the supplement improved their overall quality of life.
Another study in 32 people with lower back pain found that taking a glucosamine supplement containing MSM reduced lumbar rigidity and movement, plus an increased quality of life (12).
Can Speed Recovery
Muscle damage occurs as a result of strenuous exercise and increased oxidative stress. It results in muscle soreness and discomfort felt by athletes, which can impair athletic performance and preparation (13).
After intense exercise, MSM can speed up muscle recovery by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Research in 18 men found that taking 50 mg of MSM powder per kg of body weight for 10 days (14).
After 10 days, they reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness and improved activity after a 14-kilometer run.
In three weeks leading up to a half marathon, 22 healthy women got 3 grams of MSM or a placebo per day in one experiment.
The MSM group reported less muscle soreness than the placebo group (15).
One of MSM’s newest research areas is the review of its efficacy in fighting cancer cells. While the research is limited, the results have so far been promising.
It can damage cancer cells to boost the killing of cancer cells (20).
MSM also seems to prevent cancer cells from spreading, also known as metastasis (21).
A review of liver cancer in mice found that those treated with MSM had fewer tumors, less damage to the liver than those not (22).
Another mouse study showed that MSM inhibited the development of human breast cancer cells (23).
While these results are encouraging, we need more research to determine their use for cancer.
Helps Allergy Symptoms
Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction that causes symptoms like watery eyes, sneezing, itching, and a runny nose (24).
Animal dander, pollen, and molds are common triggers for allergic rhinitis. It releases some inflammatory substances such as prostaglandins and cytokines after exposure to an allergen, resulting in unpleasant symptoms.
Studies have shown that MSM can help reduce allergic rhinitis symptoms (25).
It can reduce allergic reactions by reducing inflammation and inhibiting cytokine and prostaglandin release.
A study of 50 people with allergic rhinitis showed that a dosage of 2,600 mg of MSM per day for 30 days had the health benefit of decreasing symptoms (26).
These symptoms include itching, nausea, shortness of breath, sneezing, and coughing. However, by day 14, the participants experienced a significant increase in energy.
Boosts Immune System
Your immune system is a network of specialized tissues, cells, and organs that protects your body from infection and disease.
Factors such as stress, disease, poor diet, inadequate sleep or lack of activity may weaken it.
Sulfur compounds like MSM play a major role in protecting your immune system protection (27).
MSM can be active, for example, in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation that may weaken immunity.
Because it is effective in reducing levels of inflammatory compounds such as IL-6 and TNF-ɑ.
It also plays a role in creating glutathione, the main antioxidant in your skin, which can help increase these essential compound levels.
Levels of glutathione are crucial to your immune system’s overall health and function (28).
A test-tube study showed that the MSM supplement had the health benefits of restoring glutathione and decreasing inflammatory markers in mouse cells damaged by HIV proteins (29).
MSM Safety and Side Effects
GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) certification has been granted by the FDA and other major regulatory organizations.
Many toxicity studies have been conducted to evaluate the safety of MSM, and doses as high as 4,845.6 mg per day (4.8 gram) appear to be safe (30).
However, some people who are sensitive to MSM may develop moderate responses such as nausea, bloating, and diarrhea.
There is also a worry about combining MSM with alcohol because other sulfur-containing drugs can produce severe effects when taken with alcoholic beverages (33).
However, no research has yet looked into this possibly dangerous combination.
MSM is healthy and only minor side effects are reported. While the current findings on MSM are encouraging, there is a need for more studies to understand all its potential benefits and side effects.