More often than not, people want to know if MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is natural. The short answer is YES — it’s found naturally in the human body and many foods. But it gets a little more complicated when you examine how we can get more into our bodies. A popular follow-up question is: can one type of MSM be more “natural” than another? The short answer is NO because it’s not what’s in the product but just how you put it all together that differentiates one MSM from another.
Contrary to some misconceptions, commercially available MSM does not come from wood, plants or the ground. You can’t simply squeeze MSM from a tree, extract it from plants or remove it from fossil fuels. 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 highest natural concentration of MSM is in mammal’s milk, but only in parts per million. Therefore, you cannot extract, isolate or grow the compound from a “natural” source.
That’s why all commercially available MSM is manufactured by reacting dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) with hydrogen peroxide. The raw materials used to synthesize MSM have many sources, but their source has no relationship to the quality or purity of the end product. Therefore it’s not what is in the product; it’s how the product is created that matters most.
The most “natural” MSM would be the purest or that which mimics the formation, function, and structure of the biologic substance. The purity of MSM is achieved by two different methods: distillation (distillation uses heat to separate impurities) or crystallization ( during crystallization, occlusions can develop in the crystals as they form that entrap contaminants present). The accepted view is that distillation is the superior method. Bergstrom Nutrition is the only manufacturer that uses 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 comes from DMSO — which is produced synthetically using several starting materials (methanol and hydrogen sulfide, or methanol and carbon disulfide) — the origin of the DMSO isn’t relevant. 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 starts with the same base raw materials — but there is a difference, and that boils down to the purification process, testing levels, specifications and commitment of the manufacturer to produce the purest and consistent quality product.