MSM, short for methylsulfonylmethane, is a compound that many people take as a supplement for joint pain and inflammation.
Though it was originally used as an injury liniment for racing horses, it’s gained wide popularity as a supplement for humans, too.
This small, sulfur-containing molecule is highly permeable inside the body, and scientific research suggests that it may help ease inflammation and pain in your joints from athletic injuries, arthritis, and more.
Looking for the best MSM to treat your joints? Our researchers have reviewed your options and ranked the ten best supplements on the market.
1. NOW MSM
NOW specializes in straightforward, no-nonsense supplements, and its MSM supplement is a great showcase of this approach.
It’s a great choice if you want a high dosage, as each capsule contains an impressive 1500 mg of MSM.
Those who are very picky about supplement purity might scoff at including silica as an anti-caking agent, but aside from that, it’s hard to find any faults with this MSM supplement.
2. Nature’s Way MSM
With a high dose and a simple supplement design, Nature’s Way MSM is a good bet if you are looking for a reliable and pure MSM supplement.
Each vegan-friendly capsule delivers 1000 mg of MSM with a minimum of additives—just glycerine, magnesium stearate, and acacia gum to maintain the integrity of the capsule.
3. Schiff Move Free Joint Health
Schiff Move Free is a popular and well-constructed multi-ingredient joint health supplement that’s one of the best options on the market if you are looking for MSM in combination with other joint supplements.
It uses glucosamine and MSM in a 1:1 combination, which means you get 500 mg of each per capsule. You’ll also get chondroitin and hyaluronic acid in smaller amounts for further joint benefits.
Though purists will find the capsules bloated with additives and binders, it’s still one of the most effective multi-ingredient joint supplements on the market that takes full advantage of MSM.
4. Jarrow Formulas MSM
Jarrow Formulas has a solid MSM dosage with a respectable 1000 mg of MSM per capsule, and a very clean supplement design.
It only uses a touch of magnesium stearate, and aside from the cellulose that makes up the capsule, it has no additional ingredients. For a pure MSM supplement at a reasonable dosage, Jarrow Formulas is the way to go.
5. Happy Body Pure Organic MSM Sulfur Crystals
Happy Body makes a loose powder form of MSM, which makes it highly pure but not very convenient for accurate dosing.
The real draw of this supplement, though, is your ability to use it as a hot water soak—if you have a foot or hand injury, for example, you can soak the injured body part directly in a solution of hot water and these MSM crystals.
Of course, since it’s food-grade purity, you can also mix it into a smoothie and take it, but unless you have a microgram-accurate scale, it’s going to be hard to get consistent doses day to day.
6. No Boundaries Health and Wellness MSM Organic Sulfur
No Boundaries Health and Wellness MSM Organic Sulfur is another powder-based MSM supplement that shares the same benefits and drawbacks.
It’s highly pure, so it’s suited for both consumption and for use as a hot-water soak. Again, if accurate dosing is important, look for a capsule-based supplement instead, but if you want to be able to do hot water soaks or wraps, this is a good product.
7. Zenwise Health Advanced Joint Support
If you are looking for MSM in combination with other supplements that can support healthy joints and fight injury and arthritis-related inflammation, Zenwise Health makes a great product.
The MSM dosage is only 333 mg per capsule, but you’re getting that alongside glucosamine, chondroitin, boswellia, curcumin, and hyaluronic acid, all intended to support your joint health.
Those looking for a high MSM dosage may want to choose something else, but for MSM in combination with other ingredients, this is a stand-out choice.
8. Nature’s Craft MSM
With a respectable dose of 1000 mg of MSM per capsule and a pretty clean supplement design, Nature’s Craft is a pretty high quality product, though it has two practical drawbacks.
First, the capsules are gelatin-based, meaning vegetarians and vegans who are strict about animal products will have to look elsewhere.
Second, the number of capsules in a bottle is a lot smaller than many other competitors.
9. Pure Encapsulations MSM
Pure Encapsulations MSM makes a super-pure MSM supplement, whose only ingredients are MSM and cellulose.
The price you pay for this is a lower than average dosage: each capsule only has 850 mg of MSM, somewhat lower than what you’ll find elsewhere. Pure Encapsulations is a good pick if you are more focused on purity than dosage.
10. Vimerson Health Glucosamine Chondroitin Turmeric MSM
Vimerson Health Glucosamine Chondroitin Turmeric MSM uses MSM in combination with other joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, but unlike some of its competitors, the actual MSM content is pretty small.
While you might get some joint benefits from this supplement, it won’t be from the MSM content, so if you are after MSM’s specific benefits, you may want to look elsewhere.
Who should buy MSM?
MSM is safe for most individuals and is great for people looking to relieve joint pain and inflammation. MSM is great for bodybuilders and athletes since it can help support muscle growth and recovery. People who have seasonal allergies may also benefit from MSM.
Special populations such as children and pregnant women should not take MSM unless otherwise directed by a medical professional.
Best MSM overall: NOW MSM
NOW specializes in making simple and pure supplements, and when it comes to MSM, their product is great. The 1500 mg per-capsule dosage leads the market, making it a powerful supplement for joint pain or inflammation.
Best MSM for arthritis: Schiff Move Free Joint Health
When it comes to joint pain caused by arthritis, the anti-inflammatory and cartilage-reinforcing properties of glucosamine and MSM are combined in Schiff Move Free. For all-purpose arthritis use, it’s our go-to recommendation.
Best MSM for joint inflammation: NOW MSM
For cutting down inflammation in a joint, NOW MSM’s high dosage comes in very handy. MSM’s natural anti-inflammatory properties, plus NOW MSM’s high purity, make a good pairing in this high-dose supplement.
Best MSM for athletes: NOW MSM
For athletes dealing with sports injuries who want to keep things simple when it comes to supplementation, we recommend NOW MSM. Its supplement design is super-clean and the dosage is great.
Best MSM with glucosamine: Schiff Move Free Joint Health
MSM and glucosamine are a great one-two punch for joint pain caused by arthritis or old injuries. The 1:1 ratio in Schiff Move Free Joint Health is perfect for a comprehensive joint supplement.
Best MSM for soaking: Happy Body Pure Organic MSM Sulfur Crystals
MSM doesn’t have to be taken as a pill. Though it’s a niche application, Happy Body Pure Organic MSM Sulfur Crystals is the perfect choice if you want to soak a painful knee, ankle, or foot in a hot bath. The crystal-form MSM dissolves in water and can be absorbed through the skin, akin to how a joint pain lotion would work.
How we ranked
The first thing we looked at when ranking the best MSM supplements was the dosage. Research shows that the clinically effective dosage of MSM ranges between 2600-6000mg per day, ideally divided into two doses. Products like Vimerson Health and Pure Encapsulations, while pure, ranked low for providing a minimal dose of MSM per serving.
Nature’s Craft and Nature’s way made our list for providing a healthy 1000mg MSM dose per serving. Our top pick, Now MSM, provides the highest dosed MSM supplement on our list at 1500mg per capsule.
The delivery method was also important. No Boundaries and Happy Body both provide a pure powder-based MSM supplement that is better for soaking in rather than consuming orally. Due to the difficult dosing, we ranked them both in the middle of the pack. All capsule-based products that were of equal purity were almost always ranked higher.
Supporting ingredients and fillers were also considered. While Zenwise Health, contained a low dose of MSM, it chose to include other joint supporting ingredients such as curcumin and glucosamine, which is why it made our rankings. Schiff Move Free ranked very high for providing a joint support formula with MSM alongside clinically backed ingredients like chondroitin.
For capsule-based products, we preferred products that were cellulose-based instead of gelatin-based – although the other factors on our list were more important. This is why Nature’s Design didn’t rank high, despite its potent dose and quality.
MSM supplements may lower your levels of systemic inflammation. In both arthritis and other conditions that cause joint pain, the primary culprit that causes joint pain is inflammation.
That’s why almost all treatments for joint pain, both pharmacological and herbal, focus on fighting inflammation. Biological evidence suggests that MSM supplements lead to a decrease in whole-body inflammation, which could provide a mechanism for its use in reducing joint pain.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2014 examined a group of older adults who provided urine and blood samples, and who were asked about their use of supplements containing MSM (1).
After comparing MSM intake with blood and urine markers of inflammation, the researchers found a correlation between higher MSM supplement intake and lower levels of systemic inflammation, providing credence to the theory that MSM can fight joint pain by reducing inflammation.
MSM can improve symptoms of osteoarthritis-related joint pain. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, MSM appears to be an effective way to reduce pain from arthritis.
That was the conclusion of a small pilot study published in 2006 in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage (2). The study involved fifty men and women randomly assigned to take an MSM supplement or a placebo twice daily.
All of the subjects had mild to moderate symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, and took their assigned supplement for a period of twelve weeks.
After analyzing the results, the researchers found that the MSM supplement group experienced significant decreases in knee-related pain and activity impairment.
Later research published in the same journal by researchers at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom aggregate the results of two larger studies on MSM and knee osteoarthritis to get a more accurate measurement of the efficacy of MSM on treating knee osteoarthritis pain (3).
This systematic review pooled together data from 168 subjects who were randomly assigned to take MSM or a placebo for knee osteoarthritis.
The results showed that the subjects who took the MSM supplement had significant improvements in knee pain and knee function compared to placebo, providing further evidence that MSM could be a useful supplement for people with arthritis.
MSM may also help prevent muscle damage. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that MSM is a supplement only for older people who have arthritis.
There’s more research connecting MSM with resistance to sports-related muscle damage. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness by researchers in Iran split a group of male athletes into two groups (4).
The first took an MSM supplement before a long and fatiguing run, while the other group completed the same run but took a placebo beforehand.
After the run, the researchers tested the men for biomarkers of muscle damage. The results showed that the MSM group displayed lower levels of these biomarkers, which the scientists interpreted as a sign that the MSM was protecting the athletes’ bodies from damage during the difficult workout.
Though it’s tricky to extrapolate from one small study, MSM does show promise for athletes who want to recover better after a tough workout, and this finding is in keeping with earlier research showing that MSM reduces systemic inflammation.
MSM may be able to treat seasonal allergies. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, MSM has shown some interesting effects related to the immune system.
A clinical trial conducted by researchers at the GENESIS Center of Integrative Medicine in Washington studied 50 people with seasonal allergies, all of whom took a 2600 mg MSM supplement every day for a month (5).
The researchers compared the subjects’ symptoms of allergies to their scores at entry into the study, and they found that the subjects had significant decreases in both upper and lower respiratory symptoms.
There were a few issues with this small pilot study: first, without a control group, it’s hard to tell whether the improvements in symptoms were related to the supplement—maybe the levels of airborne allergens was decreasing during the same time period.
Still, it’s an interesting finding that may spur bigger and more comprehensive studies on whether MSM can calm down the immune system overreaction that’s at the core of seasonal allergies.
Again, there is a biological link to MSM’s other functions, as arthritis is, in many cases, related to an inflammatory reaction precipitated by an overactive immune system.
As for side effects, MSM is quite well-tolerated. None of the clinical trials on MSM reported any adverse side effects, and animal studies have established that MSM is not acutely toxic even at very high doses (6).
MSM is rated “generally recognized as safe” by the Food and Drug Administration, indicating that it is not known to have any significant side effects at doses usually used in food products (7).
For treating joint problems, the typical dosage of MSM per day used in clinical research is between 2600 and 6000 mg per day.
At the high end of the dosage range, this dose is usually divided into two daily doses of 3000 mg, but studies with smaller doses sometimes use just one daily dose.
If you want to follow the clinical research as closely as possible, you should take MSM alone, but you might have a better shot at joint relief by taking a combined supplement that includes MSM alongside other beneficial compounds for joint health.
Can MSM be consumed with alcohol? It is not recommended that MSM be consumed with alcohol since sulfur-containing medications have shown adverse reactions when mixed with alcohol. That being said, more studies are needed to confirm this.
What is MSM? MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a dietary supplement used to treat a variety of conditions, including joint pain and inflammation. MSM comes directly from a natural source of sulfur that is most commonly associated with several types of grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Can MSM help treat skin issues? A 2008 double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 46 patients looked at how MSM could help the patients rosacea. After one month of treatment, it was found that MSM help reduces itching, redness, and inflammation in patients with rosacea (8).
Does MSM benefit osteoarthritis? MSM has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics that can help improve a variety of conditions. There is evidence that MSM can help preserve and rebuild collagen, which can be extremely beneficial for those with osteoarthritis. Collagen restoration can also improve the strength of the hair and nails, as well as the appearance and texture of the skin. Additionally, MSM can help improve the range of motion of major joints and reduce post-exercise muscle soreness (9).
How long does it take for MSM to work? The time it takes for MSM to benefit the body varies based on several factors, including current health status and the amount of MSM taken. For the most part, some results should occur after a few days, but it could take up to several weeks to experience any type of significant results. Depending on the severity of the condition or symptoms being treated, it may take months. While results may be slow, there will be minor changes occurring in your body that you will not notice immediately.
Does MSM cause GI side effects? There are a few side effects of taking MSM, but most of them are mild. The most common side effects are nausea, diarrhea, headache, and insomnia. MSM can also interact with alcohol and any medications you may currently be taking. Individuals taking other medications should consult a doctor before starting MSM.
Does MSM really work? There is evidence that MSM is effective for those with collagen-deficient conditions, while some studies have produced inconclusive results in proving its effectiveness. One study analyzed the effects of taking 3 grams of MSM twice daily in those with arthritis. In the short-term, these participants noticed a reduction in knee pain and improvement in physical functioning. Another study showed that participants who engaged in a half marathon did not see a difference in their muscle and joint healing when supplementing with MSM. Despite a lack of definitive evidence, there is great potential when it comes to the efficacy of MSM (10).
Is it safe to take MSM long term? There is no guarantee of the long-term safety of MSM, so it is best to consult a doctor before adding it to a daily regimen. Generally speaking, it should be safe to consume MSM on a daily basis for up to six months. Taken longer, it may increase the risk of developing negative side effects and health conditions. How MSM is used on a daily basis will also impact its level of safety.
Some studies say that it is safe to take less than 5 grams per day, while others suggest a daily limit of about 6 grams per day. In studies that analyzed MSM usage over a period of 12 weeks, there were some unfavorable side effects that occurred in participants. Although the side effects were relatively mild, they can worsen over time.
Does MSM affect blood pressure? There is little evidence that MSM has an effect on blood pressure. However, some people believe there is potential for effect due to the anti-inflammatory effect of MSM. With reduced inflammation, there will be less of a strain on the heart, which could ultimately lead to a reduction in blood pressure. More studies need to be conducted to determine if MSM can be used to lower blood pressure.
Can MSM increase glutathione levels in the body? Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant produced by your liver. One mice study showed that MSM helps to significantly reduce inflammation while increasing glutathione levels in the body (11).
Can MSM help you lose weight? MSM may cause weight loss because it has a positive effect on insulin. When insulin levels are positively impacted, metabolic function improves, resulting in increased levels of energy and potential for some weight loss. However, you should not expect significant weight loss results from MSM since there is no science to support these claims.
Why do people generally start taking MSM supplements? MSM is one of the most popular and well-researched joint supplements, and many people take this supplement to fight pain and inflammation as a result of arthritis and other joint conditions or injuries. Taken alone or in combination with other joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, MSM been shown to protect and heal your joints.
Does MSM detoxify the body? Yes, MSM can help detox the body because of its high level of antioxidants, which help fight against free radicals and cellular damage.
Does MSM kill bacteria? MSM may have antimicrobial characteristics, which can help kill certain bacteria.
MSM is also considered to be a source of sulfur. In the past, sulfur has been recognized for its ability to reduce bacteria and prevent infection when used topically. Though there aren’t any studies analyzing the specific antibacterial qualities of MSM, there is still good potential.
Is MSM good for arthritis? MSM is directly associated with an increase and repair of collagen, making it an excellent supplement for conditions like arthritis. MSM is also recognized for its ability to relieve muscle and joint pain that’s typical of conditions like osteoarthritis.
What does MSM do for your eyes? When MSM is used in eye drops, it allows for greater nutrient passage into the eyes, which will boost eye health and also treat some major eye conditions. There’s also some evidence that MSM can be used to treat cataracts and remove floaters from your field of vision.
Does MSM help with wound healing? MSM proves effective for wound healing, which shows that the product is able to heal the body when it’s in a state of disrepair. This can directly correlate to repairing the body’s cells when they become damaged as a result of your diet, environment, and genetics.
Is MSM anti-aging? MSM is often recognized for its ability to improve collagen repair and production, providing users with a more youthful appearance. In particular, MSM can help to reduce wrinkles in the skin, improve the general texture of the skin, and even boost skin firmness.
Is MSM legal? MSM is legal in the United States. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a meal supplement or replacement as of 2008. There has been some legal confusion in the past because MSM is often used in the production of illegal narcotics. Specifically, MSM is commonly used as a cutting agent for crystal meth.
Who should not take MSM? MSM is generally safe for most groups of people; however, it’s effects have not been studied among special populations such as pregnant women and children. These groups of people should avoid MSM until science says otherwise.
There are also no studies that have determined whether MSM will interact with different types of medication. As such, if you are taking medication, you should be very cautious and hyper-aware of any possible side effects. As always, if you are part of a special population or have preexisting health conditions, you should consult your doctor before adding MSM into your daily routine.
Where can you buy MSM? MSM is usually sold in capsules or powder form and is most commonly found in health and wellness stores and from online retailers. Though most often sold in its pure form, you can sometimes find them in certain joint support formulas.
Can MSM improve your immune system? MSM can help bolster your immune system by increasing glutathione levels and decreasing overall systemic inflammation. MSM may also help reduce oxidative stress, which is well known to handicap the immune system in times of stress.
How does MSM improve skin health? MSM can improve skin health by strengthening keratin, the main protein, and the structural component of hair and skin. MSM can also help reduce overall systemic inflamation; whcih can help reduce wrinkles and premature aging.
What is the highest studied dose of MSM that’s still considered safe? According to various studies, 4.8g of MSM per day seems to be well tolerated (12).
It should be noted that some people have reported side effects at far lower doses.
A growing body of scientific literature indicates that MSM is a supplement with strong anti-inflammatory properties that can be used to treat arthritis-related joint pain, protect your body from exercise-related muscle damage, and may even be able to treat seasonal allergies.
While some of these properties require further research, there does appear to be a connection among MSM, systemic inflammation, and immune system activity.
Most research has focused on MSM at doses ranging from 2600 to 6000 mg per day, sometimes taken in two separate doses. MSM appears to be quite well-tolerated, with no major side effects reported in the biggest clinical studies on MSM.
Taking an MSM supplement could prove to be a valuable addition to your supplementation routine if you are looking to treat joint pain, and may even be useful for sports-related muscle damage and seasonal allergies.
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