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MSM – designed by nature, providing relief from pain!

Any idea of what the link is between the distinctive seaside smell that one gets when you first arrive at the beach, the smell of boiling cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower, or even still the whiff of egg mayo sarmies when you first open your lunch box? The answer is sulphur, the third most abundant element contributing to your total body weight!

Sulphur is an essential component of our connective tissue. This is the group of substances that essentially holds our entire body together and includes not only tendons, ligaments, bone, cartilage and skin, but also the extensive network found in between all our cells known as the extracellular matrix. Imagine the extracellular matrix as the scaffolding on which all our cells are built and formed, providing structural support for every tissue and organ in your body. Considering we have around 30 trillion cells, that a lot of scaffolding! I’m sure we’ve all smelt the horrible smell of burnt hair, it’s the burnt sulphur that stinks so! It’s also interesting to note that naturally occurring hot springs often with a high sulphur content have been used for centuries to sooth rheumatism and help heal wounds. In fact, wounded soldiers during the trojan wars and even Louis XVI’s tired and wounded soldiers were sent to sulphur springs to recover.

Here on Earth there is an abundance of sulphur, one of the key elements essential for all life. Nature has a way of providing sulphur for all living organisms on our planet known as the Sulphur Cycle. It gradually releases sulphur from soil into the oceans which is consumed by billions of microscopic algae and plankton, they then release an organic sulphur gas called dimethyl sulphide (DMS). Yes, you guessed it, this gas gives the ocean that unique smell. Once high up in the atmosphere DMS gas, with the help of sunlight, ozone and nitrate, is converted into MSM (methyl sulphonyl methane), which returns to earth each time it rains and is absorbed by plants. Eventually when plants die off, the MSM is returned to the soil, and so begins the sulphur cycle again.

MSM – a naturally occurring organo-sulphur

Both MSM and its relative DMSO, have been extensively researched and used since the 1970’s, specifically for the treatment and management of painful and inflammatory conditions. Interestingly, DMSO was discovered by chance, of all places, in the pulp and paper industry! Workers handling bark and wood found that when they went home on long leave their aches, pains and arthritis got worse, and interesting when back at work they disappeared, a very unusual phenomenon indeed. Clearly something they were being exposed to at work was helping them with pain. With time this led pioneering researchers Robert Herschler and Dr Stanley Jacob to begin experimenting with DMSO and subsequently with MSM, the odourless and more patient friendly version thereof! Dr Stanley Jacob of the Oregon Health Sciences University subsequently went on to successfully treat thousands of patients suffering from chronic pain with MSM.

What do we know about the health benefits of MSM?

Research confirms that MSM is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies. We can absorb small amounts from foods like fruits, vegetables, grains and milk, and if our gut is healthy and we have all the correct bacteria in place (the ecosystem known as the microbiome), friendly bacteria can even make some for us. Our bodies use MSM to maintain and repair connective tissue, and probably explains why those taking MSM report better quality hair and nails! Science has also confirmed that in larger quantities, MSM act as a potent natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant supporting the findings of Dr Stanley Jacob who helped so many patients with chronic pain using MSM.

Who will benefit from MSM supplementation?

Arthritis and pain

Research confirms that at doses of 3-6 grams daily, MSM significantly improves pain, stiffness and swelling in those with arthritis. In addition, it increases the mobility and function of joints in those with arthritis. MSM also has a joint protective action, with research confirming a protective effect on cartilage and an overall protective effect on joints through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.

Exercise recovery

Taking MSM preventatively at a dose of 3 grams daily has also been shown in clinical trials to reduce muscle soreness, joint pain and improve recovery after exercise. MSM seems to do this by dampening the inflammatory response and reducing muscle damage through its antioxidant action.

Manufacture of MSM supplements today

Since MSM is only found in small amounts in the bark of trees and other plant matter, it’s just not commercially viable to extract enough from this source. Pharmaceutical grade MSM is therefore produced from its cousin DMSO, yielding MSM and good old fashion water as a by-product. To produce high quality, pure MSM, scientists at Bergstrom Nutrition® have developed a unique multiple staged distillation process, distilled 4 times to be exact! The result is an MSM which is 99.9% pure, known as OptiMSM®, which is world renowned and recognised as the purest form of MSM available. It’s also interesting to note that most of the good quality clinical trials on MSM utilised OptiMSM® as their source. There are of course easier and more convenient ways of producing MSM known as ‘commodity’ MSM. This is produced without distillation but rather using a process called crystallisation which unfortunately yields a less pure product.


Unlike many anti-inflammatories, one of the wonderful features of MSM is its impressive safety profile, even long term use at very high doses. MSM has been shown to be safe and without any major side effects and is considered safe to use in pregnancy and has no known negative interactions with other medicines. OptiMSM® is the only MSM which carries the FDA safety rating known as GRAS, and importantly for athletes, OptiMSM® does not contain any banned substances and carries the Informed Choice endorsement, meaning every batch has been tested for banned substances by a world-class sports anti-doping laboratory.


THRESHHold® RealMSM, got its name for two reasons, firstly the word ‘threshold’ refers to finding the correct level of supplement to take to achieve best results, depending on the level of pain and inflammation, and secondly ‘real’ refers to the fact that THRESHHold contains OptiMSM®, the best quality MSM available.

THRESHHold® RealMSM is used as an anti-inflammatory and assists in the temporary relief of pain, swelling, redness, inflammation, and difficult mobility of joints in patients with arthritis in which it improves range of motion and physical function. In athletes, it is used to support recovery from exercise and reduces post exercise muscle soreness and joint pain.

Each tablet contains 1000mg of OptiMSM®

Adults and children over 12:

For joint support and relief of symptoms associated with pain, inflammation and arthritis:

3 - 6 Tablets per day.

General maintenance and/or support:

2 Tablets per day.

To promote exercise recovery and prevent post exercise soreness:

3 Tablets per day.

Children 6 - 12:

For arthritis, inflammatory conditions and exercise associated pain:

1 Tablet daily.

For use in children under the age of 6 consult a doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare provider

Further reading and references

  1. Bergstrom Nutrition. 2019. Published Studies on the E¬fficacy of MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) MSM. https://optimsm.com/wp-content/uploads/Efficacy-Comprehensive-2019_FINAL.pdf
  2. Butawan, M., R. Benjamin, and R. Bloomer, Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients, 2017. 9(3): p. 290. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5372953/
  3. Jacob, S., R. Lawrence, and M. Zucker, The Miracle of MSM - The Natural Solution for Pain. 1999, New York: Berkley. 250. https://shop.livingnaturally.co.za/all-2/brands/threshhold/the-miracle-of-msm-book.html
  4. OptiMSM®. https://optimsm.com/science/

For a CPD Accredited Course on MSM visit: https://sanpcme.co.za/cmes/sanp-cme-20210401/