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 Design MSM
With a respectable dose of 1000 mg of MSM per capsule and a pretty clean supplement design, Nature’s Design 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.
MSM benefits and side effects
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.
Given how many people experience arthritis-related joint pain, there’s quite a bit of scientific research on exactly this question.
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.
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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Author: John Davis