MSM Benefits: Thick Hair to Healthy Joints

You’ve probably heard and read about the varied MSM benefits. Or maybe you’ve seen it on the shelves in pill, capsule, cream or gel form, and wondered exactly what the hype is about.

Well, curious Netizen, wonder no more: here’s what you need to know.

What is MSM?

MSM (aka DSMO2) is an odorless, tasteless, pure white organic compound that primarily contains sulfur. Though it looks like salt and sounds like something you’d find in a cleaning product, it’s actually a very important micro-mineral.

If you love raspberries, tomatoes, fresh corn, or even drink tea, coffee and beer, then you've already been consuming MSM –and given the laundry list of reported benefits associated with it, be glad you do!

A Brief Background of MSM

MSM as a nutritional supplement has a pretty interesting origin story. In the 1950s, Russian scientists synthesized a compound called dimethyl sulfoxide (DSMO) to help preserve tissue during organ transplants. Later that same decade, British scientists used DSMO in their experiments with cryogenics.

In 1955 an American medical doctor, Stanley Jacob, while researching how to keep organs viable during kidney transplants, met chemist and DSMO researcher Robert Herschler Ph.D. Together they discovered that DSMO was incredibly effective at reducing pain and inflammation.

The downside of DSMO? Patients reported a fish-like taste in the mouth and really bad body odor.​

Not satisfied with having a great pain-reliever and anti-inflammatory that made patients healthier but incredibly smelly, Herschler continued researching.

He later found that most of the DSMO broke down into a compound called methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) once it hit the bloodstream, and that it had the pain reducing, anti-inflammatory effects of DSMO, sans the fishy odor!

So What's the Big Deal?

MSM is, in essence, an organic sulfur compound which happens to be the third largest nutrient found in the human body and in all vertebrates. It is 34% sulfur by weight, which is attributed to be the main reason behind the many, varied benefits of MSM.

You see, sulfur is becoming more and more known as a very critical nutrient in the human body, a component that plays a crucial role in everything from detoxification to inflammatory conditions. ​And that's no surprise when you consider that sulfur is found in over 150 different compounds within the human body. There are sulfur components in pretty much every type of cell so it is extremely important to overall bodily health. 

We do get MSM from food, such as fresh fruits and veggies, meat, seafood and some grains​ - but most of us don't get enough since MSM is depleted or lost during food processing, cooking, drying, steaming and even washing or storing food for too long. 

And this is precisely why the benefits of MSM go on and on. Without sulfur, many crucial bodily functions just don't work properly. One such example: sulfur is part of our bodies' master antioxidant, gluthathione, which is believed to be the most important molecule to stay healthy and prevent oxidative stress, free radicals, infections, aging, and cancer. 

Since the 60s, Jacob says he’s treated over 18,000 patients with varying ailments with MSM and seen overwhelmingly positive results.

He hypothesized that most people suffering from illnesses related to chronic stress are MSM deficient and that taking MSM supplements would be an effective treatment for everything from low energy and low immunity to tissue and organ malfunction as well as asthma, arthris, candida, and allergies.

“Dr. Stanley Jacob said DMSO – and MSM together with that – in his opinion is much more of a therapeutic principle. It’s similar to exercise or proper nutrition. Instead of that singular focus that is so prevalent within the drug or pharmas per se, it’s much more of a therapeutic principle, which is overall body wellness [opposed to treating a specific symptom or ailment].”​

Indeed, a plethora of chemists, scientists and nutritionists have reported the near miraculous benefits of MSM and these days, those in the know use MSM for:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Joint inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tendonitis
  • Muscle cramps
  • Scar tissue and stretch marks
  • Haris loss
  • Wrinkles
  • Eye inflammation
  • Oral hygiene
  • Wound healing
  • Allergy relief
  • Chronic constipation
  • Ulcer
  • Obesity
  • Poor circulation
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

​...And the list goes on and on...

How MSM works is quite simple: your body needs sulfur as a building block, and MSM supplies it in spades, allowing your body to create other chemicals you need to heal yourself. 

MSM Benefits

By providing the body with a very bioavailable, natural form of sulfur, MSM benefits the entire body. Curious how? Let us count the ways...

1. MSM Reduces Pain and Inflammation in the Joints and Bones

The most popular of all the MSM benefits is that its ability to reduce pain and inflammation.

Does it work?  Yes,  and there is reliable, peer-reviewed scientific research to back it.

One example is a 2004 randomized controlled trial (RCT) where 118 patients suffering from osteoarthritis were randomly given glucosamine, MSM, both, or a placebo. After 12 weeks those who were given the combined pill of glucosamine and MSM had the best results: significant reduction in joint inflammation and pain.

Since then, similar studies into osteoarthritis have found parallel results: either some or significant reduction in swelling and pain for people taking MSM.​

2. MSM is one of the best beauty vitamins for skin, hair and nail health

Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in the human body, after calcium and phosphorus. Why's that important for beauty?

​Keratin, which is found in skin, hair and nails is particularly abundant in the amino acid cystine, which is found in sulfur. Collagen, which gives our skin its youthful elasticity, is our body's most abundant protein (which are made up of amino acids, many of which are found in sulfur).

This explains why MSM is often dubbed the 'beauty mineral' - the sulfur provided by MSM boosts both collagen and keratin production, which enhances the thickness and strength of hair and nails as well as improves skin elasticity and heals skin conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema. 

3. MSM Boosts Your Body's Ability to Produce its Own Antioxidants

MSM is crucial to the production of glutathione in our bodies and this is huge news since glutathione isn't just any old antioxidant - it may be the most powerful antioxidant. It's so important that it’s been dubbed “The Super Antioxidant” and “The Mother of All Antioxidants.”​

Basically, glutathione (pronounced “gloota-thigh-own“) is a substance naturally produced by our livers. And it's a multi-tasking marvel. Glutathione has been shown to be critical for immune function and controlling inflammation. It acts as the master detoxifier and the body’s main antioxidant. And it is not only a potent antioxidant, but it recycles antioxidants by destroying free radicals in our bodies and helping to regenerate another protective gluthathione molecule to boost our immunity to disease.

A glutathione-deficiency has been linked to a variety of illnesses from chronic fatigue syndrome and asthma to the more deadly, like cancer and heart disease. On the other hand, raised glutathione levels have been shown to prevent aging, heart disease, cancer, dementia, as well as decrease muscle damage, reduce recovery time, increase strength and endurance and even shift metabolism from fat production to muscle development. 

Although our bodies do make glutathione, without sulfur - glutathione cannot work. And this is where one of the best benefits of MSM comes in - by supplying a highly bioavailable source of natural sulfur, MSM helps the body makes its own antioxidants. 

4. MSM May Help Slow the Growth of Cancer

There are promising animal studies that show taking MSM orally can slow the spread of some types of cancer in rats and mice, but for now there are no human trials, so we don’t know if it would have the same effect in people.​

5. MSM Improves Digestion and Increases Energy

​Did you know that what we think of as the simple act of digestion accounts for 60% to 80% of the energy you use on a daily basis?

Imagine what you could direct that energy toward if your digestive system functioned more efficiently...

MSM boosts digestive function in a few ways. Firstly, because sulfur improves the permeability of cells, it enhances your body's ability to absorb nutrients from food.

Sulfur is also a large component of a particular amino acid, taurine, which is not part of body tissues but helps produce bile acid for digestion. The sulfur compounds in MSM also work together with B vitamins, especially thiamine, to improve the muscle tone of your stomach and intestines, which again helps to move digested food along more efficiently. This is ​a big reason why MSM is so effective for chronic constipation. 

Last but not least - MSM also help balance your internal pH, which in turn contributes to regular stomach function as well as preventing the overproduction of stomach acids (good news if you suffer from heartburn or stomach ulcers). 

About the Author Jessica

After growing up a perpetually pudgy kid, Jessica discovered real food - and her waistline shortly afterward. When she's not crafting concoctions in the kitchen, she spends her free time writing about food, making her own deodorant, watching sci-fi, doing headstands, and looking for gluten free food that doesn't suck.

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