Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

MSM- Research Articles

Editorial Comment: Long before MSM was approved by the FDA for human consumption, I had been researching and using MSM in my feeding protocols. I learned years ago from the horse industry that MSM was a remarkable component to add to a diet to even out growth patterns in young dogs with developmental orthopedic diseases; HOD, OCD, Pano, as well as Arthritis and Wobblers Syndrome. I have used MSM for over 20 years and find the Vita-Flex brand the best and longest used on the market. I purchase my MSM from Dr. Wagner at


(A Preliminary Correspondence)

By Ronald M. Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor U.C.L.A. School of Medicine
Los Angeles, California

Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane (M.S.M.) is an organic sulfur compound which is a metabolite of dimethyl-sulfoxide (D.M.S.O.). It is a white, odorless, slightly bitter tasting, crystalline substance, which contains 34 percent elemental sulfur. It is easily soluble in water. Its chemical formula is (DH3)2SO2. It has been suggested by Lovelock and his associate's (1) that M.S.M. and its related compounds D.M.S.O. and D.M.S. (dimethyl-sulfide) provide 85 percent of the sulfur found in all living organisms.

The cycle of these naturally occurring sulfur compounds begins in the ocean where microscopic plankton release sulfur compounds called dimethyl-sulfonium salts. These salts are transformed in the ocean into the very volatile compound D.M.S. which escapes from the water as a gas which rises into the upper atmosphere. Exposed to ozone and high energy ultraviolet light the D.M.S. is converted to D.M.S.O. and M.S.M. Both the D.M.S.O. and M.S.M. are very soluble in water and they return to the surface of the earth in rainwater. Plants then take up the two compounds into their root systems concentrating them up to one hundred fold. M.S.M. (sulfur) is incorporated into the plant structure. Through the process of plant metabolism the M.S.M., along with the other sulfur compounds it has spawned, are ultimately mineralized and transported back to the ocean and the sulfur cycle begins again.

M.S.M. is found naturally in the human body. It occurs in the blood and in other organs and has been detected in normal human urine (2). The level of M.S.M. in the circulatory system of an adult human male is about 0.2 parts per million (3). Normal human adults excrete from four to eleven milligrams M.S.M. per day in their urine. Experiments using radiolabled sulfur (S35) in M.S.M. have shown that after ingestion the sulfur in M.S.M. helps form the essential amino acids methionine and cysteine (4).

M.S.M. is rated as one of the least toxic substances in biology, similar in toxicity to water (5). The lethal dose (LD50) of M.S.M. for mice is over 20 grams per kilogram of body weight. Hundreds of patients have been treated at the Oregon Health Sciences University (6) with oral M.S.M. at levels above two grams daily for many years without serious toxicity. Since sulfur is found to be needed for the formation of connective tissue, M.S.M. has been studied for its use in treating arthritis of various types (7). Sulfur concentration in arthritic cartilage has been shown to be about one-third the level compared to normal cartilage (8). In addition, the amino acid cystine has been noted to be diminished in arthritic patients.

Personal communication with Stanley Jacob, M.D., Gerlinger Professor, Department of Surgery, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon, substantiated his personal experiences using M.S.M. in the treatment of patients with degenerative (osteoarthritis) arthritis.

Study Design

M.S.M. was provided in a crystalline form (LIGNISULmsm) which we encapsulated in a clear gelatin capsule providing 750 mgms of LIGNISUL MSM per capsule. The placebo substance, which was also placed in clear gelatin capsules, consisted of sugar (sucrose) to which a small amount of quinine sulfate was added to create a slightly bitter taste. This was done in case the capsule was opened and tasted, Since M.S.M. also has a slightly bitter taste.

A total of sixteen patients were studied over a period of four months. Initially twelve patients were admitted to the study and subsequently (two months later) additional four patients were added to the study group. The initial twelve patients were divided as follows. Eight were given the M.S.M., while four received the placebo. Later, the additional four patients were divided into two on M.S.M. and two on placebo. Totally, therefore, we had ten patients on M.S.M. and six patients on placebo.

Criteria for Selection

Patients ranged from age 55 to age 78. All patients had x-ray evidence of degenerative joint disease (degenerative arthritis). All patients had pain in the involved area ranging from four weeks to six months. Most of the patients had tried non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin type compounds. None had taken steroids either orally or by injection. All non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or other anti-arthritic medications or non-sterol alternative health remedies were stopped a least three days prior to their entering the study.

Patients were randomly chosen by lot and assigned to either the active (M.S.M.) group or the placebo group. The treating physician did not have knowledge as to which patient received which agent until after the completion of the study. Records were kept by an independent evaluator until the study was terminated. Both the patients and the physicians were blinded.

Of the eight patients on LIGNISULmsm, two had osteoarthritis in their hands, three had lumbar degenerative joint disease, two had degenerative arthritis in their knees, and one had arthritis in the shoulder.

Of the six patients who received the placebo, two had degenerative arthritis in the knees, two had lumbar degenerative joint disease, one had degenerative arthritis in the hip, and one had osteoarthritis in the neck.


Patients were instructed to take two capsules on an empty stomach in the A.M. after arising and one capsule before lunch. This constituted a 2250 milligram dose of LIGNISULmsm daily and zero dose of M.S.M. on the placebo.


Each patient was administered a visual analog scale (V.A.S.) which consisted of a 10-cm line anchored at one end by a label of "no pain" and at the other end a label of "pain as bad as could possibly be." The scoring is accomplished by having the patient mark the line indicating pain intensity, and the line is then measured to the mark on a 1 -100 scale (9).


The V.A.S. was completed by each patient at the four week and at the six week visit. Records were measured by an independent evaluator.

At the four week visit, the patients on the LIGNISULmsm, showed a 60 percent improvement on average, while at the six week V.A.S. evaluation the patients showed and 82 percent improvement in pain on average. Those on the placebo showed an improvement of 20 percent on average at four weeks and an 18 percent improvement on average at six weeks.


This preliminary simple study was performed to initially evaluate 16 patients suffering from degenerative arthritis as to the effect of using LIGNISULmsm to control their pain. Eight patients, randomly chosen, were treated with 2250 mgms of M.S.M. per day. Six patients received placebo capsules. Results indicate a better than 80 percent control of pain within six weeks of beginning the study, while only two patients showed a minimal improvement (less than 20 percent) on the placebo. Although this was only a simple preliminary study, it appears that a more intensive investigation of M.S.M. is warranted. A larger group of arthritic patients and additional measurement evaluation (such as range of motion, etc.) should be utilized in such a future study. LIGNISULmsm may offer a significant new nutritional substance for the control of arthritic pain as a safe, non-toxic method.


1. Lovelock, J.E. et al. Nature, Vol. 237, p452, 1972
2. Williams, K.I.H. et al. Arch Biochem Biophys, Vol. 113, p251, 1966
3. Jacob, S.W. and Herschler, R., Ann NY Acad Sci, Vol. 411, pxii 1983
4. Richmond, V.L., J Nutrition, Vol. 116 NO. 6, June, 1986
5. Deichman, W.B. & Gerarde, H.W. "Toxicology of Drugs & Chemicals, 4Ih Edition, Arcadia Press, 1969
6. Jacob, S.W., Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon, Personal communication
7. Jacob, S.W., Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon, personal communication
8. Rizzo, R. et al. Jour Exp Zool, 1995 September, 1,273(l):82-6 9. Carlson, A.M. Pain, 16:86, 1983

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, Vol. 7, #2: 1987
Reprinted with permission, ©1987

William E. Jones, DVM, PhD

Veterinary interest in dimethyl-sulfoxide (DMSO) and its derivative methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) has increased in recent years. Topical use of DMSO is FDA approved, but as internal use of DMSO increases (such as IV injections) researchers and practitioners are turning to MSM because of the absence of the objectionable taste/smell. Sometimes referred to as DMSO2, MSM is a stable, odorless and colorless crystalline end product of the methyl-S-methane chemical series.5 This series of compounds has been recently determined to be an important supplier of bio-available sulfur to the earth's plant and animal life.

MSM can be administered orally to horses and other animals without rejection due to unusual smell or taste. Although the use of MSM has been mostly for prophylaxis of just about every unhealthy condition,4 those who have prescribed MSM make many claims as to the benefits it brings to the patient. While, these claims tend to make me skeptical, nevertheless, we have published several articles over the years about this seemingly amazing product. Some of the potential pharmacological uses of MSM are:

Moderating allergic reactions.
Moderating gastrointestinal tract upset from many causes, including diet and oral drugs.
Correcting malabsorption of other nutrients such as minerals whose imbalance relate to problems such as osteochondrosis.
Antiparasitic action.
Pain and inflammation relief.
Natural antimicrobial and antioxidant.
Without FDA approval, it is natural to worry about toxicology. The published data, together with methyl-sulfonylmethane's historical presence in plants and animals is encouraging. Dr. John Metcalf, who has used the product for years, says "we are dealing with quite a safe substance."4

Using radiolabeled S35, quite a bit has been learned about MSM movement and metabolism in the body. Taken orally, a portion binds to receptor sites of the mucosal membranes. Any excess is absorbed, passing to the blood and then to the unit body structures, or cells. It quickly crosses the cell membrane and can thereafter be found in the inner or subcellular fractions including nuclear, mitochondrial, lysosomal and microsomal structures. In specialized structures within these cells, the sulfur is biotransformed into the multitude of organo-sulfur molecules required by the horse in good health. In mammals, MSM not metabolized is eventually excreted by the renal pathway, and through perspiration and respiration. Only traces pass with the feces.2

While sulfur is required by both plants and animals, neither can use elemental sulfur directly. Dr. Robert Herschler, a leading MSM researcher, believes that methyl-S-methanes are important sources and storage forms of bioavailable sulfur for both plants and animals. Following ingestion of S35 labeled MSM, every normal organo-sulfur compound so far isolated assays positive for the incorporated label. This confirms both bio-availability and nonselective utility. MSM donates sulfur for the biosynthesis of both methionine and cysteine, important protein-building blocks. Sulfur derived from MSM is also found in keratin, (hoof, horn and hair protein), serum albumins, connective tissue, immunoglobulin G and transferrin. Sulfur bonds, derivable from MSM, also sustain proper conformation of specific enzyme molecules; an absolute requirement for proper function. This means MSM is the most stable and convenient source of the macronutrient supplement for the horse. It is a readily accepted food, and is legally marketed as such.3

It has been suggested that most mammals are chronically deficient in bio-available sulfur, as young horses fed a ration of MSM seem friskier, huskier and simply look better.

Classified as a drug, MSM falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA. But, as a food, it does not. There are substances, such as sodium chloride, which can be considered both a food and a drug. Sprinkled on your eggs in the morning, salt is a food. Dissolved in sterile water and given IV, salt is a drug. Currently the daily amount of MSM given as a food (on grain) is two heaping teaspoonfuls night and morning. It works best if the powder is dissolved first in warm water and then poured over the grain. Used orally as a drug, the dosage of MSM may be as high as 100 grams, or more, per week.

DMSO and MSM have tremendous potential in improving equine health. The third decade of research on these products is beginning, yet political barriers still block their widespread use as legal drugs. The non-medical biological uses for these products steadily unfold, demonstrating an amazing diversity of applications.1


1. Jacob SW and Herschler R: Introductory remarks: DMSO after twenty years. An NY Acad Sci 411:xii-xvii, 1983.
2. Herschler, RJ Personal communication.
3. Herschler, RJ MSM - A nutrient for the horse. Eq Vet Data 7(7) 268, 1986.
4. Metcalf, JW. MSM - Status report. Eq Vet Data 7(21) 332-333, 1986.
5. Metcalf, JW. MSM - A dietary derivative of DMSO. J Eq Vet Sci 3(5), 148.1983.


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