Find out all about MSM including what it does, the benefits to taking it and how much you might need
Written by Helen Foster on March 19, 2019
Reviewed by Dr Sarah Schenker on March 20, 2019
MSM stands for methlysulfonylmethane, a natural compound that contains the mineral sulphur. It’s found in small quantities in fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy foods, cereals and grains.1
What is MSM and what does it do?
MSM has anti-inflammatory activities, so people often take MSM supplements to ease arthritis and other joint or muscle aches and pains – including after exercise. MSM is also believed to help calm inflammatory conditions such as allergic rhinitis; hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis.2
While organic methylsulfonylmethane is found in fresh, raw foods, MSM – the compound used in supplements – is a white, crystalline powder and contains 34% sulphur.3
Benefits of MSM
What does MSM do in the body?
MSM is rapidly absorbed by the body,4 where it’s said to have a number of effects, such as:
It eases arthritis symptoms – MSM specifically inhibits the activity of a chemical called NF-kB, which plays a key role in regulating the immune response to infection, and is linked to inflammatory disease. MSM also suppresses the production of other inflammatory chemicals in the body.5
This may explain why it’s a popular arthritis remedy; a 2004 study of 118 people with osteoarthritis found those taking MSM, glucosamine, or a combination of both, showed a significant improvement in pain and joint swelling compared with those taking a placebo.6
It tackles allergies – MSM may also have a role to play in suppressing the overactivity of inflammatory compounds that can trigger allergic reactions.7 A trial published in JMIR Research Protocols in 2018 reported that a daily dose of 3g of MSM could reduce the main symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including a stuffy, runny nose, by more than 50% in just two weeks.8
It can support post-exercise recovery – a 2013 study of 16 unfit men revealed that taking MSM could reduce the signs of oxidative stress on their bodies after exercise, helping to protect against damage caused by free-radicals.9 Meanwhile, a 2015 study of 22 runners found that taking 3g of MSM for three weeks before a half marathon and two days afterwards, reduced post-race muscle and joint pain.10
It soothes problem skin – thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, MSM could be an effective skin-care product. Italian researchers discovered that a cream containing a combination of MSM and milk thistle applied to the skin could reduce symptoms of rosacea.11 This may be because MSM is source of sulphur, and sulphur has antibacterial properties that have been shown to tackle mild acne.12
How much MSM is safe to take?
Most people can tolerate doses of MSM up to 4000mg (4g),13 but do not start taking MSM without talking to your GP first. Research also shows that taking more MSM will not give you better results,14 so higher doses are not necessary.
If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, talk to your GP or a dietitian if you’re interested in taking MSM.
What are the side-effects of taking MSM?
There’s some anecdotal evidence that MSM can increase sensitivity to alcohol, but this has not been clinically studied.15
However, it may have a blood-thinning effect, so it should be avoided if you’re taking blood-thinning medication such as warfarin. It may also cause digestive issues, like diarrhoea, too.16
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
1. Jennifer Berry. Medical News Today. Uses of methylsulfonylmethane
2. Butawan M, Benjiman RL, Bloomer RJ. Methylsulfonlymethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement
3. Versus Arthritis. MSM
4. As Source 2
5. As Source 2
6. Usha PR, Naidu MU. Randomised, Double-Blind, Parallel, Placebo-Controlled Study of Oral Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane and their Combination in Osteoarthritis
7. As Source 2
8. Hewlings S, Kalman DS. Evaluating the Impacts of Methylsulfonylmethane on Allergic Rhinitis After a Standard Allergen Challenge: Randomized Double-Blind Exploratory Study
9. Nakhostin-Roohi,et al. Effect of Single Dose Administration of Methylsulfonylmethane on Oxidative Stress Following Acute Exhaustive Exercise
10. Withee ED, et al. Effects of Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) on exercise-induced oxidative stress, muscle damage and pain following a half-marathon: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial
11. Berardesca E, et al. Combined effects of silymarin and methylsulfonylmethane in the management of rosacea: clinic and instrumental evaluation
12. Decker A, Graber EM. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments – A Review
13. As Source 2
14. As Source 8
15. As Source 2
16. The Arthritis Foundation. MSM