Methylsulfonylmethane (known as MSM) is a widely used alternative medicine that's found naturally and organically in fruits, vegetables, milk, and grains.
MSM is often sold as a dietary supplement and can be often found in combination with glucosamine or chondroitin.
MSM has historically caused a bit of a stir as many claim that its potent properties can treat anything from fine lines and wrinkles to tendonitis and heart disease.
Are you thinking of taking MSM?
We’re here to break down the current science behind MSM and find out whether there’s any truth to the proposed benefits.
Does MSM Powder Grow Hair?
This sulfur-rich compound is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which are usually used to treat the symptoms of tendonitis, arthritis, osteoarthritis, and more.
However, MSM powder is also believed to help stimulate hair growth in balding patients.
According to a study conducted in 2009, various percentages of MAP (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate) and MSM solutions were applied to the backs of mice to determine if these compounds stimulated hair growth.
The results of this study were inconclusive, but the results seem to suggest that the growth was dependent on how much MSM solution was applied in conjunction with MAP.
Since then, human research has sought to determine a link between MSM and the appearance of hair and nails.
Two dosages of 1 gram and 3 grams were trialled, and the 3 gram dosages appeared to deliver faster and more pronounced benefits.
Although this improved the appearance of hair, it’s unclear whether MSM stimulated hair growth.
However, researchers suggest that MSM may strengthen bonds between keratin molecules by giving sulfur to keratin.
The deliverance of sulfur to the hair may also promote the conversion of the telogen part of the hair cycle to anagen.
This means the hair will switch from a state of resting or shedding to growth.
Many studies are definitely promising in showing MSM as a useful supplement for hair health and growth, however, some research on the topic is conflicting.
More human trials are needed to confirm the effects of MSM on hair growth.
Does MSM Affect Your Hormones?
There isn’t much clinical evidence available yet to determine how MSM affects our hormones.
However, one study discovered that MSM could down-regulate the triple-negative hormone receptor expression in hormone-responsive cell lines.
This study was performed to assess if MSM can treat breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer (the type examined in this study), is thought to be determined by a lack of estrogen or progesterone receptors in the triple-negative breast cancer cells.
MSM was shown to be able to reduce or suppress the response of the hormone receptor, which was thought to help suppress the growth of breast cancer.
While this is incredibly promising news for people living with breast cancer, much more research is required to determine just how adequate MSM is.
Unfortunately, this study doesn’t tell us much about the ways that MSM influences our hormones, either.
However, we do know that it has the power to suppress or reduce the response of hormone receptors, which will likely be a focus of future research into MSM.
Does MSM Tighten Skin?
MSM is believed to help tighten the skin and protect against photoaging - the visible signs of aging caused by sun exposure.
There are a few different ways that MSM benefits the skin, and we’ll explore these in more detail below.
Firstly, MSM may increase the body’s ability to fight off oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is one of the major causes of skin damage, and it plays a significant role in the aging process of human skin.
Studies have discovered that Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) can reduce oxidative stress markers in the body.
However, these studies examined the presence of oxidative stress in the body after exercise, so it’s unclear whether or not MSM can effectively reduce oxidative stress under other conditions.
MSM is a huge source of sulfur, which is a critical component of collagen. This may help promote the tightening of skin fibres on a cellular level, helping to stop cellulite from developing.
Again, more research is needed to confirm this, however, many MSM users report seeing noticeable benefits from taking MSM powder to tighten the skin.
Does MSM Affect The Heart?
Can taking MSM powder benefit our heart health?
In recent years, researchers have become interested in the protective properties of MSM, and whether or not these can benefit our cardiovascular health.
One study found that MSM may help protect against inflammation in the heart, which may also prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases. Further research is needed to confirm this, though.
Inflammation in the heart (often called myocarditis) can lead to complications such as heart failure, heart attacks or strokes, arrhythmias, or sudden cardiac death. Reducing inflammation in the heart may help play a role in helping to prevent many of these cardiac events.
MSM is also an efficient antioxidant and antioxidants can help protect the body against free radicals which are thought to contribute to the development of heart disease and other diseases like cancer.
Is MSM Good For Your Eyes?
Although research is in its infancy, it seems the science already swings in MSM's favour for this one.
Current research indicates that MSM can benefit our eye health in numerous ways.
Maintaining our eye health is necessary to prevent vision impediments and a loss of eyesight, particularly as we age.
However, protecting our eyes is usually not many people's top priority. If you want to protect your vision, you should be visiting an eye doctor regularly, and eating foods rich in omega-3 and vitamin A - to name a few.
You could also add MSM powder into your diet to give you extra protection.
So, how does MSM protect our eyesight? Well, research has shown that MSM may improve cellular permeability, and this may improve nutrient circulation and absorption in the eyes.
In addition, MSM eye drops are already being manufactured and offered as an alternative to steroid drops, which can be used to elevate intraocular pressure.
Research has found that MSM may also inhibit the production and activity of ‘pro-cytokines’. Pro-cytokines can promote inflammation in the body, causing a number of issues, from tissue death to fevers.
If you’re experiencing a problem with your vision that's related to inflammation or tissue swelling, such as Sjogren's syndrome, MSM may help alleviate your symptoms.
While there is limited research in this area, MSM eye drops are popular, and many patients claim they are effective.
However, it’s unclear whether taking MSM in powder form will have the same benefits.
Before starting MSM treatment for an eye problem (or any other ailment), we’d always advise talking to your doctor first before choosing a method.
Does MSM Help Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be caused by many different factors including salt or fat-rich diets, kidney and hormone problems, stress, high cholesterol, diabetes, or a genetic predisposition.
High blood pressure can lead to heart failure, aneurysms, heart attacks or strokes, metabolic syndrome, and even dementia if left untreated.
So, could adding MSM to your daily life reduce high blood pressure?
Current animal studies indicate that MSM may help to lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels while also reducing the amount of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body.
However, research into this matter is inconclusive, and as of yet, there’s nothing out there to confirm whether or not MSM can alleviate blood pressure or raise it.
However, we do know that oxidative stress is one of the leading mechanisms responsible for the development of hypertension, and current research indicates that MSM is an effective antioxidant that can reduce the presence of free radicals.
This may suggest it could be beneficial in treating hypertension, but as always, more studies are required to confirm this.
Many people are now taking MSM to help with blood pressure issues, however, you should always consult medical advice before starting treatment, as MSM may interact with certain prescribed drugs and cause adverse reactions.
Does MSM Help Joints?
When we age, our joints often feel the strain first.
Hips can become tense, knees ache more than usual, and our range of motion can decline drastically.
If you were once physically active with few ailments, having an issue with your mobility can profoundly influence your sense of well-being.
One of the most popular uses of MSM powder is to treat joint or muscle pain, but is there any evidence to support its effectiveness?
Studies have found that MSM may reduce inflammation in the body- which in turn may also help prevent the breakdown of cartilage, which protects our bones and joints.
Another human study performed on 100 patients over 50 tested the effects of MSM on joint pain.
The study found that when treated with an MSM supplement of 1,200mg, joint pain and swelling were significantly reduced after just 12 weeks of treatment.
A further study in 32 patients complaining of lower back pain found that a supplement of MSM reduced the presence of joint pain with movement and lumbar stiffness.
Does MSM Boost Collagen?
Collagen is one of the most essential proteins in the human body. Collagen is found throughout the body, but it's most often found in the skin, tissues, and bones.
Collagen provides structural support to our tissues and is also responsible for maintaining skin elasticity and stretchiness.
When we age, our bodies produce less collagen. This makes our skin lose elasticity and increases the dryness and thinness of the skin.
Increasing the presence of collagen in the body may reduce the most common signs of aging, including wrinkles and thin skin.
Many people use MSM as a plant-based or vegan collagen booster - but how does it work?
Current trials indicate that MSM may help with the natural production of collagen, thanks to its sulfur content. MSM is not sulfur in itself, but it does contain organic sulfur.
Sulfur is one of the most common elements in the body, and it can be found in many animal and plant-based proteins.
Research has found that diets rich in sulfur can increase collagen production. Sulfur helps build DNA and protect cells from damage, which can cause diseases such as cancer and heart failure.
It’s also necessary for the formation of collagen in the body. Sulfur is also found in keratin, which is responsible for hair, skin, and nail health - so the presence of sulfur in MSM may help increase collagen levels in the body.
Does MSM Reduce Wrinkles?
As discussed above, evidence suggests that MSM may help increase collagen levels, reduce the signs of aging and help increase skin health - but can it get rid of those deep-set wrinkles we’re all desperate to eliminate?
While there’s limited research in this area, evidence suggests that taking MSM orally can reduce the presence of fine lines and wrinkles on the skin.
The pilot study consisted of 20 participants, each of which was given either 3g a day of MSM or a placebo for 16 weeks.
In part two (the dose-response study), 63 participants were given either 1 or 3g of MSM for 16 weeks.
This research found that in part one of the study, oral ingestion of MSM reduced the most prominent signs of aging, such as skin roughness and wrinkles, compared with the placebo group.
After taking MSM, users also reported greater skin firmness, elasticity, and hydration (even at doses as low as 1g, MSM reduced wrinkling and skin roughness).
Although this is one of the only studies to explore the link between MSM and anti-aging, it shows promising results.
Furthermore, it’s thought that MSM may also be an effective treatment for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
There is a lot of mounting evidence to show that MSM supplementation may be useful to treat a wide variety of different ailments and health issues.
In fact, MSM arguably has more clinical research backing it than any other alternative medicine on the market!
However, we can’t state it enough though - these are all preliminary results and all of the health benefits mentioned in this article require further analysis and investigation.
We are regular users of MSM at The Bircher Bar, but as with any supplement or alternative medicine, you should be sure to consult your GP before taking it.