Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) Safe Supplement or Danger to Your Health?

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Is DMSO safe for humans. History, uses and controversy surrounding DMSO

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is a solvent derived from wood pulp. DMSO is used for industrial, medical, veterinary and sports applications. The ability of DMSO to penetrate the skin enables it to carry intrinsic therapeutic properties along with other medications and components into the body with simple topical application. Although DMSO can be purchased from over-the-counter sources, it is only approved by the FDA for specific use in the treatment of a specific medical condition of the bladder. Before using DMSO, be sure to have a thorough consultation and evaluation with your health care provider or sports medicine professional.

Anti-inflammatory Analgesic

DMSO has been used for injuries in horses and dogs as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain reliever. When applied topically to an injured area, it provides quick relief and supports healing. Additional pain relieving medications can be mixed with DMSO for added benefit.

Athletes have begun using DMSO to treat injuries and sore muscles. Fast healing and pain management are important in maintaining the rigorous requirements of professional and amateur athletes. But, since there are no definitive standards for dosage or purity, the use of DMSO can be dangerous. Many athletes have acquired industrial or veterinary grade DMSO that are not appropriate for use in humans. 


Free radicals are atoms that are formed when the body is under stress either from illness, environmental stress or exercise. They attack and damage tissue and muscle making recovery long and difficult. DMSO is an antioxidant used to stop free radical damage by interacting with the free radical atoms neutralizing the damaging effect. Other antioxidants are vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene as well as the trace metal, selenium.

Steroid Use

Weightlifters are using DMSO to carry steroids into their system rather than use injections. In this case it is rubbed directly on the muscle that is the focus of the workout, allowing bodybuilders to push the muscle for additional sets. The anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect of the DMSO also contributes to the ability to train more rigorously. Proper and safe training techniques are often ignored when DMSO and steroids are used. Steroids have been known to cause heart attacks, liver disease, cancer, suicide, extreme aggression and death. 

Warnings and Controversy

DMSO carries compounds through the skin allowing medications and other compounds to be delivered topically. DMSO does not differentiate between good substance and bad substances, therefore, if you have impurities or toxic substances on your skin or mixed with DMSO it will be carried through your skin and into your tissues.

FDA has not approved DMSO except for a narrow medical use for a particular bladder condition. Therefore there is no recommended dosage or route that can be definitively established.

Purity of product may be a problem especially if you are acquiring the product from unknown labs or sources. Industrial grade DMSO may contain impurities or toxins.

The American arthritis foundation does not recognize DMSO as an anti-inflammatory, and furthermore, reduction of pain does not necessarily mean reduction of inflammation and may prevent individuals from seeking proper care and medication for a disease that has serious implications if left untreated or under treated.

The American Cancer Society does not recommend the use of DMSO for the treatment of cancer.  

Care and caution should be the attitude of every person considering using DMSO. Do additional research and consult a health care provider or sports medicine professional.

Additional Reading:

National Council Against Health Fraud: DMSO; William T. Jarvis, Ph.D. (1997)


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