The 9 Benefits and Side Effects of MSM (A Must-Read for People with Joint Pain!)

What is MSM?

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic sulfur compound with the chemical formula (CH3)2SO2. It is an organic substance found in green plants, animals, and humans, and can also be synthesized in the laboratory.

Currently, MSM is widely used in the field of alternative medicine to provide a natural approach for alleviating joint pain, reducing inflammation, and enhancing immune function in patients. Additionally, research has explored its potential for treating various conditions, from arthritis to conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus [1].


What are the recommended proven benefits and advantages of MSM?

MSM is a naturally occurring compound found in sources like fresh vegetables, meats, and dairy products. It serves as a natural source of sulfur, playing a role in various processes within the body. People can obtain MSM through supplements, often in synthetic form. The benefits of MSM are related to its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a common factor in many health conditions, including joint issues, allergies, and skin disorders. By reducing inflammation, MSM may alleviate or eliminate certain symptoms [2]. Scientific research has indicated several uses of MSM in treating different conditions:


1. Reducing Joint Pain and Improving Quality of Life

Research has found that MSM effectively reduces joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, thus helping improve quality of life. MSM significantly reduces internal inflammation and inhibits cartilage breakdown [3].

💡A study involving 100 patients aged 50 and above revealed that a 12-week treatment with 1,200 mg MSM daily resulted in reduced joint pain, stiffness, swelling, improved overall quality of life, and less pain during walking and rising from bed compared to a placebo group [4].

💡Another study involving 32 patients with lower back pain found that a supplement containing MSM and glucosamine significantly decreased lower back stiffness and pain during movement, leading to improved quality of life [5].


2. Anti-Inflammatory Effect and Elevated Glutathione Levels

MSM can decrease the release of inflammatory molecules such as TNF-α and IL-6 and increase the levels of potent antioxidant glutathione. Research indicates that methylsulfonylmethane inhibits NF-kB, a protein complex involved in the body’s inflammatory response, and reduces the production of cytokines like tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin 6 (IL-6).

💡Studies demonstrate that MSM supplementation significantly reduces inflammatory cytokine release, including TNF-α and IL-6, and boosts glutathione levels, effectively reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in gastric ulcer mice [6].

💡In another study involving 40 males, pre-exercise ingestion of 3 grams of MSM helped decrease the release of inflammatory cytokines and prevent immune cell overreaction [7].


3. Reducing Muscle Damage and Stress, Facilitating Post-Exercise Recovery

MSM can assist in alleviating post-exercise pain, muscle damage, and oxidative stress, promoting quicker recovery.

💡A study on 18 males showed that consuming 50 mg MSM powder per 8 kg body weight for 10 days significantly reduced exercise-induced muscle damage and increased antioxidant activity after an 8.7-mile (14 km) run [8].

💡In a study involving 22 healthy females taking 3 grams of MSM or a placebo daily for 3 weeks, the MSM group experienced less muscle soreness and joint pain after a half marathon compared to the placebo group [9].

💡Other research found that athletes consuming 3 grams of MSM daily for two weeks had lower IL-6 levels and less muscle pain after intense resistance exercise [10].


4. Alleviating Pain and Stiffness for Arthritis Relief

MSM has been shown to help reduce pain and stiffness in arthritis patients, contributing to improved physical function. It can also enhance the effectiveness of other common supplements used for treating arthritis, such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid.

💡A study involving 49 knee osteoarthritis patients found that consuming 3.4 grams of MSM daily for 12 weeks significantly reduced pain, stiffness, and improved physical function compared to a placebo [11].

💡Research also suggests that using MSM in conjunction with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can more effectively reduce pain and stiffness in knee osteoarthritis patients [12].


5. Reducing Inflammation to Alleviate Allergic Symptoms

MSM can help alleviate allergy-related symptoms by reducing inflammation, including coughing, shortness of breath, mucosal congestion, sneezing, and fatigue. It can achieve this by inhibiting the release of cell mediators and prostaglandins that trigger allergic reactions [13].

💡A study involving 50 allergic rhinitis patients found that consuming 2,600 mg of MSM daily for 30 days reduced symptoms, including itching, congestion, shortness of breath, sneezing, and coughing [14].


6. Enhancing Immune Function for Overall Health Maintenance

MSM may help boost the immune system by reducing inflammation and increasing glutathione levels. Sulfur compounds like MSM play a significant role in immune system health, effectively reducing oxidative stress and inflammation that can weaken the immune response. By decreasing the levels of inflammatory compounds like IL-6 and TNF-α, MSM can alleviate immune system stress. Moreover, it contributes to glutathione production, a primary antioxidant critical for overall immune system health and function[15] [16].


7. Possessing Anti-Cancer Properties

Several studies have shown that MSM can inhibit the growth of gastric, esophageal, liver, colon, skin, and bladder cancer cells [17][18] [19] [20] [21]. It appears to achieve this by damaging cancer cell DNA, stimulating cancer cell death, and potentially preventing the spread of cancer cells [22][22].

💡A study on liver cancer mice indicated that injecting MSM resulted in fewer, smaller tumors and less liver damage compared to untreated mice [23].

💡Another study on mice foundthat MSM inhibited the growth of human breast cancer cells [24].


8. Preventing or Treating Ulcers

Stomach ulcers, which are sores that form in the inner lining of the stomach, can cause symptoms like stomach pain, bleeding, vomiting, and weight loss.

💡A study on mice suggested that supplementing with MSM can help prevent gastric ulcers. Mice receiving MSM showed some protective effects on the stomach’s mucous layer, which can be damaged by peptic ulcers. The anti-inflammatory properties of MSM may aid in inhibiting oxidative stress in stomach tissues [25].


9. Treating Rhinophyma and Skin Inflammation

MSM can be used topically on the skin, and some believe that its anti-inflammatory capabilities can help with specific skin conditions. MSM is a natural source of sulfur, and topical sulfur has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that could benefit the skin and be used to treat skin conditions. By acting as a sulfur donor for keratin, MSM can improve skin health by strengthening keratin and reducing inflammation.

💡An early double-blind study in 2008 involving 46 rhinophyma patients found that symptoms improved, especially skin redness, papules, itching, hydration, and skin color, after using a combination of silibinin and MSM [26].


Are there any side effects of MSM?

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is generally considered safe and is usually well-tolerated with minimal side effects. Regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have categorized it as “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS). However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, there isn’t sufficient reliable information to determine the safety of using MSM, so it’s advised to err on the side of caution and avoid its use.

Nevertheless, some individuals may experience mild reactions if sensitive to MSM. These reactions could include minor stomach issues such as nausea, bloating, and diarrhea. When applied to the skin, it might also cause slight skin or eye irritation. For certain individuals, MSM could lead to symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, itching, or exacerbation of allergic symptoms [27] [28]. Additionally, concerns exist about potential adverse reactions when MSM is mixed with alcohol, similar to what occurs with other sulfur-containing medications mixed with alcoholic beverages [29].


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