Authors: Ronald M.
Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D.Assistant Clinical ProfessorU.C.L.A.
School of Medicine Los Angele.
CRITERIA FOR SELECTION
Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane (M.S.M.) is an organic sulfur
compound which is a metabolite of dimethyl-sulfoxide (D.M.S.O.).
It is a white, odorless, slightly bitter tasting,
crystalline substance, which contains 34 percent elemental
sulfur. It is easily soluble in water. Its chemical formula
is (CH3)2SO2. It has been suggested by Lovelock and his
associate's (1) that M.S.M. and its related compounds
D.M.S.O. and D.M.S. (dimethyl sulfide) provide 85 percent of
the sulfur found in all living organisms.
The cycle of these naturally occurring sulfur compounds
begins in the ocean where microscopic plankton release
sulfur compounds called dimethyl sulfonium salts. These
salts are transformed in the ocean into the very volatile
compound D.M.S. which escapes from the water as a gas which
rises into the upper atmosphere. Exposed to ozone and high
energy ultraviolet light the D.M.S. is converted to D.M.S.O.
and M.S.M. Both the D.M.S.O. and M.S.M. are very soluble in
water and they return to the surface of the earth in
rainwater. Plants then take up the two compounds into their
root systems concentrating them up to one hundred fold.
M.S.M. (sulfur) is incorporated into the plant structure.
Through the process of plant metabolism the M.S.M., along
with the other sulfur compounds it has spawned, are
ultimately mineralized and transported back to the ocean and
the sulfur cycle begins again.
M.S.M. is found naturally in the human body. It occurs in
the blood and in other organs and has been detected in
normal human urine (2). The level of M.S.M. in the
circulatory system of an adult human male is about 0.2 parts
per million (3). Normal human adults excrete from four to
eleven milligrams M.S.M. per day in their urine. Experiments
using radiolabled sulfur (S35) in M.S.M. have shown that
after ingestion the sulfur in M.S.M. helps form the
essential amino acids methionine and cysteine (4).
M.S.M. is rated as one of the least toxic substances in
biology, similar in toxicity to water (5). The lethal dose
(LD50) of M.S.M. for mice is over 20 grams per kilogram of
body weight. Hundreds of patients have been treated at the
Oregon Health Sciences University (6) with oral M.S.M. at
levels above two grams daily for many years without serious
Since sulfur is found to be needed for the formation of
connective tissue, M.S.M. has been studied for its use in
treating arthritis of various types (7). Sulfur
concentration in arthritic cartilage has been shown to be
about one-third the level compared to normal cartilage (8).
In addition, the amino acid cystine has been noted to be
diminished in arthritic patients.
Personal communication with Stanley Jacob, M.D., Gerlinger
Professor, Department of Surgery, Oregon Health Sciences
University, Portland, Oregon, substantiated his personal
experiences using M.S.M. in the treatment of patients with
degenerative (osteoarthritis) arthritis.
M.S.M. was provided in a crystalline form (LIGINSULMSM™)
which we encapsulated in a clear gelatin capsule providing
750 mgms of LIGINSULMSM™) per capsule. The placebo
substance, which was also placed in clear gelatin capsules,
consisted of sugar (sucrose) to which a small amount of
quinine sulfate was added to create a slightly bitter taste.
This was done in case the capsule was opened and tasted,
since M.S.M. also has a slightly bitter taste.
A total of sixteen patients were studied over a period of
four months. Initially twelve patients were admitted to the
study and subsequently (two months later) an additional four
patients were added to the study group. The initial twelve
patients were divided as follows. Eight were given the M.S.M.,
while four received the placebo. Later, the additional four
patients were divided into two on M.S.M. and two on placebo.
Totally, therefore, we had ten patients on M.S.M. and six
patients on placebo.
Patients ranged from age 55 to age 78. All patients had
x-ray evidence of degenerative joint disease (degenerative
arthritis). All patients had pain in the involved area
ranging from four weeks to six months. Most of the patients
had tried non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin
type compounds. None had taken steroids either orally or by
injection. All non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or
other anti-arthritic medications or alternative health
remedies were stopped a least three days prior to their
entering the study.
Patients were randomly chosen by lot and assigned to either
the active (M.S.M.) group or the placebo group. The treating
physician did not have knowledge as to which patient
received which agent until after the completion of the
study. Records were kept by an independent evaluator until
the study was terminated. Both the patients and the
physicians were blinded.
Of the eight patients on Liginsul M.S.M., two had
osteoarthritis in their hands, three had lumbar degenerative
joint disease, two had degenerative arthritis in their
knees, and one had arthritis in the shoulder. Of the six
patients who received the placebo, two had degenerative
arthritis in the knees, two had lumbar degenerative joint
disease, one had degenerative arthritis in the hip, and one
had osteoarthritis in the neck.
Patients were instructed to take two capsules on an empty
stomach in the A.M. after arising and one capsule before
lunch. This constituted a 2250 milligram dose of Liginsul
M.S.M. daily and zero dose of M.S.M. on the placebo.
Each patient was administered a visual analog scale (V.A.S.)
which consisted of a 10-cm line anchored at one end by a
label of "no pain" and at the other end a label of "pain as
bad as could possibly be." The scoring is accomplished by
having the patient mark the line indicating pain intensity,
and the line is then measured to the mark on a 1-100 scale
The V.A.S. was completed by each patient at the four week
and at the six week visit. Records were measured by an
At the four week visit, the patients on the Liginsul M.S.M.
showed a 60 percent improvement on average, while at the six
week V.A.S. evaluation the patients showed and 82 percent
improvement in pain on average.
Those on the placebo showed an improvement of 20 percent on
average at four weeks and an 18 percent improvement on
average at six weeks.
This preliminary simple study was performed to initially
evaluate 16 patients suffering from degenerative arthritis
as to the effect of using Liginsul M.S.M. to control their
pain. Eight patients, randomly chosen, were treated with
2250 mgms of M.S.M. per day. Six patients received placebo
capsules. Results indicate a better than 80 percent control
of pain within six weeks of beginning the study, while only
two patients showed a minimal improvement (less than 20
percent) on the placebo. Although this was only a simple
preliminary study, it appears that a more intensive
investigation of M.S.M. is warranted. A larger group of
arthritic patients an additional measurement evaluation
(such as range of motion, etc.) should be utilized in such a
future study. Liginsul M.S.M. may offer a significant new
nutritional substance for the control of arthritic pain as a
safe, non-toxic method.
J.E. et al. Nature, Vol. 237, p452, 1972
2.Williams, K.I.H. et al. Arch Biochem Biophys, Vol. 113,
3.Jacob, S.W. and Herschler, R., Ann NY Acad Sci, Vol. 411,
4.Richmond, V.L., J Nutrition, Vol. 116 NO. 6, June, 1986
5.Deichman, W.B. & Gerarde, H.W. "Toxicology of Drugs &
Chemicals, 4th Edition, Arcadia Press, 1969
6.Jacob, S.W., Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland,
Oregon, Personal communication
7.Jacob, S.W., Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland,
Oregon, personal communication
8.Rizzo, R. et al. Jour Exp Zool, 1995 September,