Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a byproduct of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). DMSO is defined as "an alkyl sulfoxide" that has the abilities to "penetrate plant and animal tissues" and use as a cryogenic agent. Other uses have been topical, anti-inflammatory, and as an "agent to increase the penetrability of other substances." DMSO has been approved by the FDA as a prescribed treatment for interstitial cystitis, a severe bladder infection.
MSM has most notably been linked with Drs. Robert M. Herschler, Ph.D., and Stanley W. Jacob, M.D. of Oregon Health Sciences University. It is a compound containing over 30 percent sulfur by weight, which ranks after water and sodium as being a prominent compound in the human body. How it works is still under research as there are not many clinical trials or studies to follow at the moment, but it appears to be gaining interest. The most recent Reader's Digest (October 2004) listed a short article in the medical update section on a study done using MSM in conjunction with glucosamine for arthritis sufferers.
One of the most touted advantages of using MSM over DMSO is that fact that it doesn't give off a "sulfuric" taste or smell, when taken orally or applied topically to the body. Any toxicity studies that have been done also seem to indicate that the body uses what is needed and discards the rest within about 12 hours. Part of the reason MSM may work as a supplement for some is the connection between the high rate of sulfur within the compound and the role sulfur compounds play in many of the body's organs and systems. One continuing "side effect" listed has been stronger hair and nails, and softer skin. At least one testimonial given by a man who had suffered severe burns from a car accident, touted the effects of using MSM as a topical cream in reducing the size of his scars as well as the pain associated with his injuries.
Those with muscle and joint problems, such as arthritic conditions, tendonitis, etc. may find some relief from using MSM because of it's close connection with DMSO which has the anti-inflammatory properties used to relieve pain in these conditions. Dosage amounts vary, as does length of usage. It may take up to 2-4 weeks to find the right combination of both. MSM is most popular in the powdered form, which is a white, crystalline powder. It has no odor, but is somewhat bitter tasting, which is why it is typically supplied in capsule form.
Medical Dictionary Online, published at the Department of Medical Oncology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Reader's Digest, October 2004. The End of Arthritis Pain? p.59
Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter. MSM and DMSO