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Sulfur as Essential Mineral: How to Use MSM for Health and as an Anti-parasite

Organic sulfur (MSM) is a surprisingly effective - and probably the most neglected - natural supplement. MSM provides the mineral sulfur, which is needed in many biochemical processes and molecules and therefore acts as a functional, regenerative agent. Learn about the benefits, research, and use of the miracle supplement.

Sulfur is one of the most important missing links that I have “discovered” along my fruit journey. I have greatly benefited from using a dietary MSM (organic sulfur or methylsulfonylmethane) supplement myself. Only now do I understand the true scope of sulfur, why we most of us fall short of this important mineral, and why it’s being so severely overlooked.

Why we hardly get enough sulfur from our diet

We get sulfur from our diet: the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine, the vitamins thiamin and biotin, glutathione, MSM, and plant metabolites that serve as plant protection (glucosinolates) or to create a functional smell in fruits, leaves, and flowers (volatile sulfur compounds). Tropical fruits, for example, contain attractively-smelling compounds to attract primates; They are the staple foods of apes and also the pillar food in the natural, species-specific human diet (we are frugivores).

Durian has its special flavor and smell due to its volatile sulfur components! The exceptionally high sulfuric content is unique to durian and is a key feature that contributes to its health benefits! It is one reason why this fruit (the fruit, leaves, roots, and bark) is used as medicine by natives of tropical regions.

Nuts, seeds, and tropical fruit tree leaves (like guava leaves) are also rich in sulfur. Other dietary sources are broccoli, garlic, onions, and eggs (if you eat them), but it is challenging to get enough sulfur via diet naturally because most soils are sulfur-depleted (Feinberg et al., 2021).

Many users report the incredible and positive effects of MSM, but somehow, the mineral supplement and sulfur deficiency, in general, are hardly ever mentioned in health. It feels like it is still a secret ingredient, despite the natural compound’s many benefits and optimal safety profile! By addressing deficiencies, MSM acts as a functional, regenerative agent and has shown to have other benefits, too – like anti-parasitic effects.

Let’s explore!

The many amazing effects of MSM in your body

MSM has multiple mind-blowing documented benefits and is gaining momentum in health research (see here)! Why? Because it enables improved biochemical function and integrity by addressing a nutrient deficiency that often escapes the radar! Therefore the list of benefits of organic sulfur is sheer endless.

Check out these functions and benefits of organic sulfur:

  • MSM provides the essential mineral nutrient sulfur.
  • Sulfur is part of important co-factors for enzymatic activity.
  • MSM aids the building of the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. Methionine is produced by the microbiome requiring sulfur as a building block. Sulfur-containing amino acids are not only needed as protein building blocks but also in proper protein folding, 3D-shape, and thus function through disulfide-bonds (read more here).
  • improves cell permeability for nutrient uptake and elimination of waste products (toxin mobilization)
  • Sulfur supports phase II detoxification in the liver, which is easily overburdened by the toxic burden of the “modern world” (see here).
  • natural anti-inflammatory and pain killer (see here)
  • boosts hair and nails in their growth and strength
  • Dr. Herschel documented the anti-parasitic and anti-microbial effects of MSM while having low host toxicity (see here): against intestinal worms and nematodes. Also against urogenital and intestinal infections with, i.e., Trichomonas vaginalis, Enterobius, and Giardia. But also several systemic infections (Histoplasma capsulation, Coccidioides, Toxoplasma). Moreover, it has antifungal effects.
  • boosts collagen (read more here)
  • decreases histamine (natural anti-histamine)
  • Improves cholesterol profile
  • Mental stability and inner calmness (see here)
  • MSM is an antioxidant

We can only guess how reduced the performance of bodily processes must be without a sufficient supply of this critical mineral – and the far-reaching implications on health and well-being!

How does MSM work? Is it completely safe?

MMS stands short for methylsulfonylmethane, and while the chemical nomenclature might sound unnatural, it is a natural compound found in plant foods and the human body itself.

MSM is a natural molecule that serves as a sulfur donor for the body. MSM is typically used in cartilage supplements for skin issues and nail and hair growth, however, in relatively low dosages.

Why do we need to supplement MSM if we can produce it ourselves? Because sulfur is falling short in the modern food supply, as the plants themselves grow on sulfur-depleted soils. Moreover, MSM in natural foods is lost through processing and over time after harvesting fresh produce, as the compound is fugitive and volatile. Therefore, we see a widespread but silent deficiency of sulfur in humans. This condition is hardly ever mentioned in health topics, but we see the symptoms everywhere around us. 

In the words of its discoverer and reseracher Dr. Robert J. Herschler:

“I have found that notwithstanding its extreme lack of toxicity and inertness of the diverse chemical reactions involved in the life processes, surprisingly methylsulfonylmethane nevertheless is metabolized sufficiently to supply the nutritional sulfur requirements of animals, including humans and other vertebrates, whose diet is deficient in assimilable sulfur. The incidence of such assimilable sulfur-deficient diets is very high because of the high percentage of processed foodstuffs therein in advance cultures.”

Robert J Herschler, 1989

MSM distributes very quickly within the body and across tissues (“broad tissue distribution“) and is able to cross the brain barrier! A rare property that may make it interesting (or even essential) for brain regenerative processes, too.

MSM is non-toxic, generally recognized as safe by the FDA, and recommendations are around 5 g per day (see here and here). In fact, MSM has even been successfully administered intravenously, as reported by the discovering university researcher Dr. Herschler:

“In U.S. Pat. No. 4,296,130, I teach that methylsulfonylmethane is so inert and non-toxic that aqueous solutions thereof can be used as a blood diluent. In healthy humans or other animals having adequately high methylsulfonylmethane blood levels, methylsulfonylmethane is in fact “inert” in the sense the term is used in that patent. However, in acutely ill patients, dramatic beneficial benefits are often obtained by the intravenous administration of large doses of methylsulfonylmethane…

Methylsulfonylmethane, alone or in combination with an appropriate pharmaceutically active agent, has demonstrated usefulness when introduced into other body cavities, e.g., vaginally and rectally. Methylsulfonylmethane can be introduced into the lungs and bronchial tree as an aerosol of a solution thereof or as a sublimate produced by heating, which can be inhaled.”

Robert J Herschler, 1989

How to use MSM

The dosage is individual because requirements differ from person to person. It is noteworthy that MSM is a dietary supplement, not a pharmaceutical. Sulfur – like magnesium or calcium – is a mineral we need in “bulk” in the gram range, not milligrams. The more raw, high-quality foods you consume, the more dietary sulfur you naturally get. However, depending on how deficient your body is in the mineral and how much detoxing your body has to do, the more you need.

Recommendations are around 5 grams per day in the US: “generally well tolerated, effective doses typically range from 3 to 6 g daily” (Smithson et al., 2017). However, in Germany, MSM is allowed in dietary supplements for up to 50 mg per day. The wide range results from basically the lack of toxicity found in animal studies and few studies performed on humans. 

Experienced users basically agree that the dosage is highly individual, which does not make recommendations easy. However, it is safe to take higher dosages than 5 grams:

“One can safely administer 1-2 grams/kg body wt. of methylsulfonylmethane on a daily basis (equal to 1000-2000 ppm w/w basis).”

Robert J Herschler, 1989

Thus the recommendation of experienced users is as followed:

  • Start with a small dosage of approximately a tip of a spoon / a quarter of a teaspoon once or twice a day.
  • Work your way up to your individual dosage until you see improvements. 1/4 teaspoon holds around 1 gram or 1 teaspoon 4-5 grams.
  • Take a fruit or vitamin C to intensify the effect of MSM.
  • However, be aware that starting with a high dosage can induce detox symptoms.
  • You can aid the process by taking zinc, B vitamins, and Magnesium to aid detoxification.

I luckily stumbled across this high-dosage MSM protocol on websterkehr.com, recommended by a user that shrank her dog’s growths.

Side effects or detox symtpoms?

Side effects of MSM apparently include “nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and stomach discomfort” (medlineplus.gov). However, those are often temporary and are attributed to the increased detoxification that sulfur induces! Sulfur boosts phase II detoxification enzymes! Those metabolic effects and the “side effects” or detox symptoms are usually underrated, forgotten, or simply not known to the user! This is why those effects can be easily misinterpreted as “side effects”.

Detox symptoms, when starting with MSM, often involve intestinal symptoms but also skin outbreaks, dry skin, tiredness, dizziness, or generally feeling unwell. Those are all typical symptoms when starting a new detox regime, such as supplements, fasting, or dietary changes.

To avoid those detox symptoms, it is strongly recommended to start with a small dosage and take other nutrients that support and facilitate the elimination of toxins.

Too beneficial to be fair?

Is MSM too beneficial to be fair? Or, rather, too good to be true! This may be why despite the well-studied and documented success of MSM (organic sulfur), it still is a true secret and treasure in health – even though it has been around a long time! MSM is used in keeping horses healthy and is well-known for its strengthening effect on racing horses.

MSM works so well that it is considered an “unfair advantage in horse races” by the British Horse Racing Authority and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, and has therefore been limited by them as a “banned” substance in 2022 – along with other known substances that give an advantage in horse racing (morphine, DMT, atropine, caffeine etc.):

“The BHA say the reason that MSM has been prohibited is that the substance has demonstrated to reduce oxidative stress and hepatotoxicity in horse liver cells and cortisol-induced stress in racehorse skeletal muscle, and the purpose of introducing banned substances (meaning introducing them to the list of banned substances) has always been to keep the sport of racing fair.”

www.farmstable.com

I won’t say I applaud this decision, as I am “pro-health”! However, this is the best example to show how effective MSM is and that it has been used in the most “valuable”, pampered and healthy animals in the world.

References

  1. Prasad, R. (2014) ‘Major sulphur compounds in plants and their role in human nutrition and health – an overview’, Proceedings of the Indian National Science Academy, 80(5), p. 1045. doi:10.16943/ptinsa/2014/v80i5/47972. 
  2. Cannon, R.J. and Ho, C.-T. (2018a) ‘Volatile sulfur compounds in tropical fruits’, Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, 26(2), pp. 445–468. doi:10.1016/j.jfda.2018.01.014. 
  3. A Aziz, N. and Mhd Jalil, A. (2019a) ‘Bioactive compounds, nutritional value, and potential health benefits of indigenous durian (Durio Zibethinus Murr.): A Review’, Foods, 8(3), p. 96. doi:10.3390/foods8030096.
  4. Feinberg, A. et al. (2021) ‘Reductions in the deposition of sulfur and selenium to agricultural soils pose risk of future nutrient deficiencies’, Communications Earth & Environment, 2(1). doi:10.1038/s43247-021-00172-0. 
  5. US4914135A – use of methylsulfonylmethane to treat parasitic infections. Google Patents (available at https://patents.google.com/patent/US4914135A/en).
  6. Muizzuddin, N. Beneficial effects of a sulfur-containing supplement on hair and nail condition (2022) Natural Medicine Journal. Available at: https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/beneficial-effects-sulfur-containing-supplement-hair-and-nail-condition (Accessed: March 31, 2023).
  7. Parkhitko, A.A. et al. (2019) “Methionine metabolism and methyltransferases in the regulation of aging and lifespan extension across species,” Aging Cell, 18(6). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/acel.13034. 
  8. Wiedemann, C. et al. (2020) “Cysteines and disulfide bonds as structure-forming units: Insights from different domains of life and the potential for characterization by NMR,” Frontiers in Chemistry, 8. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fchem.2020.00280. 
  9. Smithson, J., Kellick, K.A. and Mergenhagen, K. (2017) “Nutritional modulators of pain in the aging population,” Nutritional Modulators of Pain in the Aging Population, pp. 191–198. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-805186-3.00016-3. 
  10. Guo, D. et al. (2022) “Effect of dietary methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on growth performance, hair quality, fecal microbiota, and metabolome in ragdoll kittens,” Frontiers in Microbiology, 13. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2022.838164.
  11. Miller, L. et al. (2021) “The effect of daily methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) consumption on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in healthy overweight and obese adults: A randomized controlled trial,” Nutrients, 13(10), p. 3620. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13103620. 
  12. Butawan, M., Benjamin, R.L. and Bloomer, R.J. (2020) “Methylsulfonylmethane as an antioxidant and its use in pathology,” Pathology, pp. 277–288. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-815972-9.00027-5. 
  13. Castori, M. (2012) “Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, hypermobility type: An underdiagnosed hereditary connective tissue disorder with mucocutaneous, articular, and systemic manifestations,” ISRN Dermatology, 2012, pp. 1–22. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5402/2012/751768. 
  14. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews. WebMD(available at https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-522/methylsulfonylmethane-msm).
  15. E.-L. S. Hinckley, C. T. Driscoll, Sulfur fertiliser use in the midwestern US increases as atmospheric sulfur deposition declines with improved air quality. Nature – Communications Earth & Environment3 (2022), doi:10.1038/s43247-022-00662-9. 
  16. Butawan, M., Benjamin, R.L. and Bloomer, R.J. (2020) “Methylsulfonylmethane as an antioxidant and its use in pathology,” Pathology, pp. 277–288. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-815972-9.00027-5. 
  17. Kaiser, L.G. et al. (2019) “Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): A chemical shift reference for 1 H mrs of human brain,” Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, 83(4), pp. 1157–1167. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/mrm.27997. 
  18. M. Butawan, R. Benjamin, R. Bloomer, Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and safety of a novel dietary supplement. Nutrients9, 290 (2017).
  19. Kritik an MSM – Kritikpunkte und nebenwirkungen von methylsulfonylmethan – CARA CARE. Available at: https://cara.care/de/behandlung/alternativ/msm-kritik/ (Accessed: April 1, 2023). 
  20. Smithson, J., Kellick, K.A. and Mergenhagen, K. (2017) “Nutritional modulators of pain in the aging population,” Nutritional Modulators of Pain in the Aging Population, pp. 191–198. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-805186-3.00016-3. 
  21. What does MSM do? understanding its importance (no date) Cancer Tutor. Available at: https://websterkehr.com/faq_msm_importance/ (Accessed: April 1, 2023). 
  22. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): Medlineplus Supplements. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/522.html (Accessed: April 1, 2023).
  23. T.B.H. (2023) Handicapper’s blog: Flat rating qualification changesBHA. Available at: https://www.britishhorseracing.com/press_releases/minor-changes-to-rules-of-racing-august-2022/ (Accessed: April 1, 2023). 
  24. MSM is added to the BHA list of prohibited substances: What you need to know, MSM banned by BHA – KnowledgeBase | Farm & Stable. Available at: https://www.farmstable.com/knowledgebase/post/msm-is-added-to-the-bha-list-of-prohibited-substances-what-you-need-to-know (Accessed: April 1, 2023). 
  25. Residue Limits – Urine and Plasma (no date) International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. Available at: https://www.ifhaonline.org/default.asp?section=IABRW&area=18 (Accessed: May 6, 2023). 

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"We are frugivores - specialized fruit-eaters!" It was passion at first sight when I came across the intriguing concept that humans are adapted to a high-fruit diet, similar to chimpanzees...

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