by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit
MSM is a sulfur compound found in foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, fish and grains. Processing quickly destroys it.
Hawkers of MSM for arthritis say MSM boosts sulfur levels; they also say it is a “natural” product, but MSM is actually a derivative of DMSO.
DMSO (which stands for dimethyl sulfoxide) is a compound with many uses and a checkered reputation.
It is both a prescription drug and an industrial solvent. It’s formed as a byproduct of wood pulp processing; its use is determined by the quality: industrial-grade DMSO is used in paint thinners and antifreeze; medical-grade DMSO is found in medical laboratories. It is an excellent solvent which is why it is used in industry. Its medical usefulness comes from its ability to transport other substances through cell membranes. It is purported to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Medical-grade DMSO is the chemical used to protect human tissue (such as bone marrow, stem cells and embryos) when frozen for storage. It’s also an FDA-approved prescription drug (called Rimso) administered via catheter for interstitial cystitis, an extremely painful bladder condition.
Stanley Jacob, MD, the doctor who developed MSM, in an interview with Arthritis Today, acknowledged that the “arthritis cure” claims were over-hyped. While Dr. Jacob stood by the many benefits of MSM, he was quick to point out that it was not a “cure.”
He stated, “I don’t know of a single disease that MSM cures. We are not curing arthritis - I want that understood,” said Dr. Jacob. He said MSM’s major benefit for those with OA and RA was pain relief: MSM has not been shown to repair or preserve cartilage or to modify or stop progression or joint destruction caused by arthritis, and its effects last only as long as the supplement is taken.
Dr. Jacob mentioned that thousands of scientific papers had been published about DMSO’s chemistry, including test tube, animal and human studies. Some had shown DMSO can relieve muscle and joint pain; reduce inflammation; soften collagen to relieve scleroderma symptoms; help heal skin ulcers caused by diabetes and scleroderma; and relieve blood vessel constrictions common to Raynaud’s phenomenon. Other research has suggested it may help prevent brain damage after stroke or head injuries. And it appears to have few side effects, even at very high dosages.
DMSO is approved for use in many other countries for arthritis and related conditions. In fact, a new drug, combining DMSO with the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac is marketed as the topical preparation, Pennsaid for use in osteoarthritis of the knee.
DMSO also has a harmless but unpleasant side effect: it can cause a bad taste in the mouth and makes those who use it smell like garlic or oysters.
According to the article in Arthritis Today, Dr. Jacob and other researchers continued to study DMSO and found that 15 percent of DMSO was broken down into another sulfur compound in the human body. The compound, which they called MSM, had many of the helpful qualities of DMSO, with some distinct advantages: It lacked the distinctive oyster-garlic smell; it didn’t have the “history” of DMSO; and it could be sold directly to consumers as a dietary supplement.
Animal studies found MSM eased RA-like symptoms in mice, and it prolonged life for mice with a condition similar to lupus nephritis.
Dr. Jacob and others have conducted human studies that they say show MSM relieves the pain of OA and other conditions.
Arthritis Today goes on to say, "So far, MSM shows most promise as a pain reliever. As for DMSO, rheumatologists don’t know much about the scientific evidence and have been skeptical, and patients have said they don’t like the oyster-garlic smell.
"MSM may be safe, but there is no convincing scientific evidence it helps arthritis. And DMSO may help with a number of arthritis-related conditions, but it is not safe for consumers to use products available on the open market."
DMSO and MSM are both taken several ways including orally or applied externally as lotions or gels.
People who decide to try these compounds, either DMSO or MSM should get regular blood, kidney and liver function tests.
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