What is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), and How Does it Work?

What is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), and How Does it Work?

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic sulfur compound found naturally in some foods and the human body. It is a white, crystalline powder with a mild, sulfur-like odor and taste. MSM has gained attention in recent years as a potential nutrient with numerous health benefits.

MSM is made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur atoms arranged in a unique structure. It is a source of bioavailable sulfur, which is important for the formation of proteins, enzymes, and connective tissues in the body. Sulfur is also a component of several essential amino acids, including methionine and cysteine, which play important roles in cellular metabolism and antioxidant defense.1


The Health Benefits of MSM?

Health experts are still exploring its health benefits. However, some of its better-known health effects are:


  • Joint health: MSM is effective in reducing joint pain and inflammation, which makes it useful in the management of joint health conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and joint injuries. It may also help improve joint function and mobility, allowing people to move freely without pain or discomfort. MSM has been tested in clinical studies, and studies confirm that it is significantly better than a placebo for joint pain or managing osteoarthritis.2
  • Skin health: MSM has been found to have benefits for the skin, including reducing inflammation, promoting collagen production, and protecting against oxidative damage. It may also help to improve skin hydration, elasticity, and texture, making it a valuable addition to skincare products.1
  • Allergies: MSM may have anti-inflammatory effects that can help to reduce symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as sneezing, congestion, and itching. It has been shown to reduce the release of histamine, a compound that contributes to allergy symptoms, and may also help to boost the immune system's response to allergens.1
  • Exercise performance: Some studies suggest that MSM may help to improve exercise performance by reducing muscle damage and soreness and promoting muscle recovery. It may also help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation associated with exercise, allowing people to train more effectively and recover more quickly.1
  • Digestive health: MSM has been found to benefit digestive health, including reducing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and promoting healthy gut function. It may also help reduce inflammation in the gut, which can contribute to various digestive issues.3


How Does MSM Work for the Body?

MSM, or Methylsulfonylmethane, works in the body by providing a source of bioavailable sulfur, which is essential for forming proteins, enzymes, and connective tissues. In addition, sulfur is a component of several important amino acids, including methionine and cysteine, which play critical roles in cellular metabolism and antioxidant defense.

In addition to its sulfur content, MSM has been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may contribute to its health benefits. It may help to reduce inflammation in the body by inhibiting the production of inflammatory cytokines and reducing the activity of inflammatory enzymes. It may also help to protect against oxidative damage by scavenging free radicals and enhancing the activity of antioxidant enzymes.


How safe is MSM?

The appropriate dosage of MSM can vary depending on the individual and the reason for use. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is no established Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for MSM. However, most MSM supplements on the market recommend a daily dose of between 500-6000 mg.

MSM is generally considered safe for most people when taken in appropriate amounts. It is worth understanding that MSM has a GRAS (Generally accepted as safe) status granted by the US FDA.1,4

In rare cases, some people may experience side effects from taking MSM. The most common side effects include gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. Additionally, some people may experience headaches, insomnia, or an allergic reaction to MSM supplements. Additionally, it is worth understanding that though highly safe, but it has not been tested in pregnant women.


How to Get MSM?

MSM is found naturally in some foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk, and meat. However, the amounts of MSM in these foods are relatively low, and it may be difficult to consume enough through diet alone to reap the health benefits. Therefore, one of the effective ways to experience its health benefits is by using MSM supplements.



  1. Butawan M, Benjamin RL, Bloomer RJ. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients. 2017;9(3):290. doi:10.3390/nu9030290
  2. Kim LS, Axelrod LJ, Howard P, Buratovich N, Waters RF. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2006;14(3):286-294. doi:10.1016/j.joca.2005.10.003
  3. Amirshahrokhi K, Bohlooli S, Chinifroush MM. The effect of methylsulfonylmethane on the experimental colitis in the rat. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. 2011;253(3):197-202. doi:10.1016/j.taap.2011.03.017
  4. Butawan M, van der Merwe M, Benjamin RL, Bloomer RJ. Chapter 32 - Methylsulfonylmethane: Antiinflammatory Actions and Usage for Arthritic Conditions. In: Watson RR, Preedy VR, eds. Bioactive Food as Dietary Interventions for Arthritis and Related Inflammatory Diseases (Second Edition). Academic Press; 2019:553-573. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-813820-5.00032-5
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