MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally-occurring substance found in the human body and many foods. The highest concentration of MSM in nature is in mammal’s milk, but these food sources contain MSM only in parts per million. Therefore, you cannot extract, isolate or grow the compound from a “natural” source.
Contrary to some misconceptions, commercially available MSM does not come from wood, plants or fossil fuels. You can’t simply squeeze MSM from a tree, extract it from plants or remove it from fossil fuels. Rather, a chemical reaction is required to make MSM. All commercially available MSM is manufactured by reacting dimethyl sulfoxide with hydrogen peroxide. The raw materials used to synthesize MSM have many sources, but the source of the raw materials has no relationship to the end product of MSM.
There is no commercially viable way to “extract” MSM in quantity from any organic or plant source. Methyl groups at one time originated from plant sources, such as the lignin-based processed pulp of Southern Pine or other wood chips, (a process discontinued circa 2010) but the sulfur never did. Today the methyl groups come from methanol. Methanol acquired the name “wood alcohol.” because it was once produced chiefly as a byproduct of the destructive distillation of wood. Today, industrial methanol is produced in a catalytic process directly from carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen. All of the sulfur produced in North America is the result of environmental measures implemented to reduce emissions.
Although MSM is a naturally-occurring sulfur compound, the microscopic amounts occurring naturally in food are too small to permit "extraction" sufficient for commercial production of dietary ingredients or dietary supplements. The most "natural" MSM would be the purest or biomimetic or that which mimics the formation, function, and structure of the biologic substance. The purity of MSM is achieved by distillation or crystallization. The accepted view is that distillation is the superior purification method. Bergstrom Nutrition® based in the U.S. is the sole manufacturer using a multi-stage distillation process for MSM purification.
All commercially available MSM is synthetic and created through a chemical reaction of DMSO and hydrogen peroxide. Since all commercial MSM produced comes from DMSO, and all commercial DMSO is produced synthetically, the origin of the DMSO is not relevant. DMSO is produced using several starting materials: methanol and hydrogen sulfide, or methanol and carbon disulfide. Whichever starting materials used; chemical reactions are required to produce DMSO.
In summary, there is a misconception that one supply of MSM is more “natural” than another. All MSM produced for commercial use utilizes the same base raw materials—but there is a difference, and that boils down to the quality of the raw materials, the purification process, testing levels, specifications and quality of the manufacturing.
Commercial MSM is produced from a chemical reaction between dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). In the reaction, the hydrogen peroxide provides an available atom of oxygen to the DMSO, forming MSM, which is also called DMSO2, and water (DMSO + H2O2 = DMSO2 + H2O).
After the reaction is complete, the MSM must be separated from the water and other reaction by-products. Separation is commonly done utilizing one of two differing processes; either crystallization or distillation. Chemical engineers recognize distillation as the superior separation method for MSM purification and if properly performed will consistently yield a product of > 99.9% purity1.
Crystallization separates the MSM from the water (parent solvent) by decreasing the solubility of the MSM by cooling the solution. During crystal formation occlusions, small pockets or imperfections, from within the crystal that can entrap impurities present within the reaction mixture2,3,4. These impurities can come from additional water added during the reaction phase, side reactions, the reactants themselves, or the catalyst which usually contains a strong mineral acid. It is pertinent to remember that one of the primary reactants is DMSO (dimethylsulfoxide). DMSO is a very strong industrial solvent, one of the few that can dissolve most epoxies. A technical bulletin from a major DMSO manufacturer states “DMSO, one of the strongest organic solvents, has been used commercially for over forty years. It is an effective solvent for a wide array of organic materials, including many polymers. “ DMSO also dissolves many inorganic salts, particularly transition metal nitrates, cyanides, and dichromates” 5.
Distillation uses boiling point differentials to separate the MSM from the water and other impurities. Distillation is usually performed using either multiple distillation columns or multiple distillation steps within a single column. Ultimately the purified MSM is vaporized and distilled overhead resulting in an extremely pure final product. Distillation is energy intensive and a more expensive separation technique, but it ensures a product that is virtually contamination-free regardless of the level of impurities in the reaction mixture 6.
These two separation processes will both yield MSM that is equally bio-available. Many people take relatively high dosages, some reportedly as high as 6-15 grams per day. The highest level of purity is essential to ensure the end user can achieve desired therapeutic results without having to worry about potential health issues from trace impurities.REFERENCES:
1 Jacob SW, Appleton J. MSM: The Definitive Guide. California: Freedom Press, 2003 188-189
2 King CJ. Separation Processes, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hil Book Company, 1980, 732-3
3 Bennett RC, Corder WC, Finn RK, et al. Miscellaneous separation processes. In: Perry RH, Chilton CH, eds. Chemical Engineer’s Handbook, 5th ed. New York: Mcgraw-Hill Book Company1973, 17-1 to 17-58
4 Van Hook A. Crystallization: Theory and Practice. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1963 192-237.
5 [No authors listed] DMSO: Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) Solubility Data technical bulleting #102B. Gaylord Chemical Corporation, Slidell, Louisiana
6 Jacob SW, Appleton J. MSM: The Definitive Guide. California: Freedom Press, 2003 190
MSM is sometimes referred to as “Organic Sulfur” because it is a carbon-containing molecule. Carbon-containing molecules are organic substances by definition. However, this is not to be confused with food items, botanical or herbal supplements marketed as Certified Organic (a very rigorous process), Organic, 100% Organic or Made with Organic Ingredients.
In these cases, Organic is a labeling claim (regulated by the USDA) that indicates a food or agricultural product is produced through approved methods without certain chemicals, fertilizers etc.and then certified. Because of its synthetic origin, MSM is not and cannot be produced in a manner to certified as Organic by the USDA.
Biomimetic refers to human-made processes, substances, devices or systems that imitate nature. Or another way to say it is that the term refers to a compound that mimics a biological material in structure or function.
MSM’s mechanism of action is not fully understood. In a very general sense, MSM reduces inflammatory markers and oxidative stress. It does this through various biochemical processes and pathways, but most of these are either oxidative or inflammatory in nature. What is known is that MSM can modulate upstream inflammatory signals (NF-κβ, Nrf2, NLRP3), reduce downstream inflammatory cytokines (IL-1, IL-6, TNF-α), and support the process that maintains proper levels of glutathione.
MSM has been shown to inhibit the development of abnormal antibodies to collagen and to prevent the production of rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibodies (ANA).
Though the pain-relieving properties of MSM are well known, mechanisms by which it accomplishes this are still under investigation. MSM most likely inhibits inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes, hormone-like substances that create inflammatory cascades in the body associated with pain production.
MSM's effects on connective tissue are also well known. It is presumed, though not proven, that the beneficial clinical effects noted in humans on skin, hair, nails, and joint cartilage (as well as on hooves and coats in animals) have to do with MSM's sulfur content. Sulfur is abundant in connective tissue, and sulfur depletion in connective tissue is known to lead to problems. Because MSM is 34% sulfur, it is likely that the integrity of connective tissue is enhanced with MSM supplementation. MSM's benefits are those of a dietary supplement. It is not intended as and should not be used to mitigate or treat any diseases or abnormal conditions unless under the supervision of a medical doctor.
Human studies have shown that MSM enters the blood very quickly and will start working within 30-45 minutes. Most people will begin to notice the effects of MSM within two weeks of supplementation, but individual results may vary and are dependent on dose (serving size) and formulation. The benefits of MSM also may depend on the other dietary ingredients used in the supplement especially for joint support and synergistic effect.
Recommended doses or serving sizes are usually 1- 6 grams per day.
In terms of Chemistry 101, Glucosamine and Chondroitin are much larger, more complex molecules. MSM is a small, simple molecule that is essentially carbon-based organic sulfur.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are components, or building blocks, of normal cartilage. Glucosamine is a substance found naturally in the fluid that surrounds your joints; Chondroitin is found in the cartilage around your joints. Both substances play a role in keeping your joints cushioned and lubricated. MSM is a sulfur compound and may offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
The synergistic action of MSM with glucosamine and chondroitin has been demonstrated in human clinical trials. MSM may help mitigate inflammation and enhance cell permeability allowing the body to make better use of these important joint supporting compounds. (We note at this point that under current FDA regulations and policy, the claim of “anti-inflammatory” is considered to be a drug claim, rather than a supplement claim. But these FAQs are intended to convey the science and mechanism of MSM in the body, and not the legality of claims for a finished product.)
For MSM the smaller the particle, the greater the tendency to clump and therefore, negatively impact flowability.
Dependent on the liquid and the amount of MSM you are trying to dissolve, MSM will dissolve in water to a concentration of about 15-17% by weight at room temperature.
Silicon dioxide as an inactive ingredient added to help prevent clumping.
Silicon dioxide is “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The European Food Safety Authority has also found silicon dioxide to be safe for food supplement purposes.
There have been some misconceptions about silicon dioxide suggesting that it blocks the absorption of nutrients. Silicon dioxide is not absorbed in the intestinal tract. When consumed, silicon dioxide is non-toxic and is effective in maintaining supplement quality. A preliminary study found that MSM containing 0.5% added silicon dioxide had a bioavailability of 100 percent. This study thus demonstrated that absorption is not inhibited by including silicon dioxide.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance caused when oxidative damage becomes too great for the body to remove or repair effectively. Oxidative damage occurs when free radicals, usually reactive oxygen or nitrogen species (RONS), come into contact with parts of the cell like proteins, lipids, or DNA. The damaged cell parts are then unable to function normally. Oxidative stress can be caused by excessive exercise, poor diet, toxins, UV light, and many other factors. It is a normal process used for cell signaling, normal cell death, and for killing infectious pathogens. However, when levels become too high, it causes lasting damage to cells and tissues. The body has innate processes for neutralizing oxidation, but it can still be problematic if too much is created or the body isn’t properly supported to address oxidative levels effectively. Inflammation is a response to some provocation that causes increased blood flow, increased capillary permeability, and most importantly white blood cell (or leukocytes) response. Characteristics of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Inflammation is how the body responds to infections, foreign substances, or tissue damage. It is a natural process that helps protect the body. However, when inflammation becomes too extreme in one area it can cause localized damage, or when subtle, chronic inflammation is not addressed it can create harmful pathologies.
Inflammation and oxidative stress are closely related and are in many ways two sides of the same coin. They are inextricably linked because each can be induced by the other. Inflammatory cells release a number of RONS at the site of inflammation, as a way of killing pathogens or signaling for further inflammation. Conversely, RONS induce intracellular signaling cascades that induce inflammatory responses. The complicated feedback loop between oxidation and inflammation needs balance to be effective without creating harm.
Yes. There have been no verifiable cases of an allergic reaction to MSM including through pathways similar to sulfa-drugs. Although both contain sulfur, that is where their similarities end. Sulfa-drugs contain a chemical group called sulfonamide, which generally is the cause of allergic reactions as they metabolize, and specific side chains are released. The allergy-causing compounds bear no resemblance structurally or functionally to MSM.
Indeed, strictly speaking, the concept of a “sulfur allergy” is a misconception: sulfur is an element, the third most abundant mineral in the human body. It's not possible to be allergic to sulfur because it has no protein component. When people say they are "allergic to sulfur", what they really mean is that they are allergic or sensitive to certain sulfur-containing substances, most notably to sulfa antibiotics (sulfonamides) or to sulfites (preservatives used in wines and some foods), or to foods with a high sulfur content (broccoli or cauliflower).
Many individuals with allergies to sulfa drugs or sulfites do not experience problems taking MSM, because apart from sulfur, MSM bears no relation to these substances. However, people who are allergic to one drug are more likely to be allergic to other substances, regardless of its chemical structure. So, if you have a known allergy to sulfonamides or sulfites, consult with your physician before taking MSM.
Whenever you receive a prescription medication, always consult your physician about any supplements you are taking. However, there are no known interactions between MSM and sulfa drugs, and each works through different mechanisms within the body.
OptiMSM® is the purest and only GRAS-designated and distilled MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). Bergstrom Nutrition® uses a proprietary multi-stage distillation process, and every batch is third-party tested, ensuring optimal purity, quality, and consistency. In contrast to OptiMSM, other commercially-available MSM uses crystallization to isolate the MSM molecule. As this crystallized material cools, occlusions can develop that trap contaminant within the MSM and lead to material that may contain heavy metals, residual water, and other impurities.
OptiMSM is made exclusively in the USA and manufactured in a single purpose cGMP-compliant, ISO-registered facility to help provide essential traceability.
Kosher and Halal certified, non-GMO, gluten-free, allergen-free, non-shellfish-derived, and vegan, our OptiMSM backed by extensive toxicology data.
The Bergstrom Nutrition technical team alone has over 100 years of combined experience in the manufacturing uses and application of MSM.
MSM is available in many products as well as a variety of forms (powder, tablets, capsules, liquids).
MSM is available in Health, and Nutrition specialty retailers, Major Supermarkets, Drugstores Pet, and Feed stores. MSM is available Online (suggested search terms: MSM supplement, MSM benefits, MSM Sulfur, OptiMSM®, methylsulfonylmethane ).
Many Multi-Level Marketing companies also include MSM in their product offerings.