DMSO relieves pain, reduces swelling and inflammation and has a variety of other applications. Read about facts, benefits, uses, handling, applying, directions, side effects and safety.
Please read this entire section before beginning to use it. Read the side effects and cautions at the end.
What is DMSO used for?
The most frequent use is for pain relief in muscles and joints. Other possible applications include amyloidosis, arthritis, back pain and disc problems, burns, bursitis, cancer pain, cardiovascular diseases, cerebral edema, cuts, herpes, interstitial cystitis, joint pain, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, including nighttime muscle cramps, muscle pain, osteomyelitis, respiratory disorders, scleroderma, trauma injuries, urinary tract disorders, and more. Specific treatments for selected applications are given below.
Note that, unlike prolotherapy, DMSO, also known as dimethyl sulfoxide, is not usually a cure but rather is used for symptomatic relief.
The professional researcher/reporter who writes this site has no medical training. Use DMSO only under the supervision of a doctor who is skilled in its application, and only use pharmaceutical grade, not industrial grade. Everyone is different, and what might be good for some people might be bad for you. Tell your doctor your medical history and medications. The information, suggestions and instructions below are from the sources listed at the end of the page.
I have used it successfully for pain relief on my elbow, knees and for the tendonitis in my right foot. And one night, when I woke up with pinging pain in my lower abdomen, I prayed for healing, and then it occurred to me that if the pain was due to inflammation that DMSO might work (thank you God, for that revelation). I applied it and the pain lessened and lessened and I was finally gone in 15 minutes and I went back to sleep. Note that I had already had this pain, which happens only occasionally, checked out by my doctor and determined that nothing was wrong.
How fast does it work?
DMSO gives relief for both acute and chronic pain, and that relief may last for six hours or more. A little bit goes a long way, and, unlike other remedies, the body does not develop a tolerance for it, requiring increasing amounts. If anything, it is just the reverse; less and less is needed.
An example of acute pain would be pain from a sports injury. Chronic pain is pain from an ongoing condition, such as arthritis. DMSO can relieve acute pain in five minutes to half an hour. For chronic pain, it can take weeks, even months, although my chronic foot pain went away in just a few days.
I used it once a day for the chronic tendonitis in my elbow, and it took about two to three months for all of the pain to go away. The good news is, that when I got lazy and stopped using it, the pain didn’t come back for many months. Remember that it doesn’t work for every kind of pain, although I have had 100 percent success with it, so far.
DMSO is a better anti-inflammatory than aspirin and is safer than steroids. It is usually used topically, but it can also be given intravenously, by trained, enlightened physicians, for certain conditions.
In addition, you get the good effects without the bad effects of narcotics (like morphine), which include loss of sensation, drowsiness, nausea and other nasty side effects.
One of the reasons that it's not more widely used today is that the medical profession disdains panaceas, and although it doesn’t cure everything, it has a positive effect on so many conditions that it seems too good to be true. And, of course, there is the major drawback that it is a natural substance and cannot be patented, thereby limiting profits. Finally, the mysterious resistance of the FDA, detailed below, nearly eliminated DMSO as a widely-known, mainstream remedy, despite the published evidence of its safety and effectiveness.
Discovered by a Russian researcher in 1866, DMSO didn't come into wider use until almost a century later, when horse trainers used it on injured animals and sports trainers followed suit with their athletes. In the 1950s, an M.D. at the University of Oregon, Stanley W. Jacobs, M.D., discovered that it had the ability to pass through the skin’s barriers to both water-based and oil-based substances and take itself (and other substances, if desired) through the skin into the bloodstream, without causing any damage to the skin. On April 3, 1965, in an editorial, the New York Times called it "the closest thing to a [health] wonder produced in the 1960s." In 1980, the TV show 60 Minutes did a story on DMSO, featuring startling, positive testimonials from users.
What is DMSO?
Dimethyl sulfoxide is a colorless liquid byproduct of the process to make wood into paper. It has industrial uses as a solvent.
Early human studies showed that dimethyl sulfoxide had an amazing ability to relieve a variety of kinds of pain and even quicken healing of muscle injuries and burns. In fact, there is no better substance available that you can just rub on your skin to relieve pain. One study at the Emory University School of medicine showed that it was equivalent to morphine for relieving pain in rats, and the relief lasted up to three times longer!
Over 100,000 articles have been written about the medical applications. In 1963, when the FDA approved human testing, all studies showed DMSO to be safe and non-toxic. One study revealed changes in the lens of the eye in specific lab animals; however, when a number of human studies were done around the world in the late sixties, no human eye damage was found.
When drug companies tried to patent dimethyl sulfoxide, beginning with studies to obtain official FDA approval, the FDA strongly resisted. Since the necessary studies to get FDA approval were (and are) very costly, and because of the FDA’s mysterious, unexplained hostility, the drug companies gave up. Only one FDA approved application exists: to treat a bladder condition called interstitial cystitis, for which no other effective treatment exists. Except for this one approved treatment, dimethyl sulfoxide does not have FDA approval for use in human medical conditions.
Where can I get it?
Dimethyl sulfoxide products are available by prescription for treatment of interstitial cystitis. Over the counter, however, it may only be sold/labeled as a solvent. Nevertheless, it is so widely used by those who know its wonderful pain relieving properties (including professional athletes) that you can find it in your health food store in a number of forms. There’s a liquid (in a bottle or in a roll-on), a DMSO gel, and a rose-scented cream. On each container you will find the required words, "Sold as a solvent only." (What one would use a rose-scented cream to dissolve, I have no idea.) You can also find it on the Internet.
According to my sources, listed below, the best concentrations are 70 to 90 percent pure dimethyl sulfoxide. Do not use concentrations higher than 90 percent, my sources say, as those higher concentrations may harm your skin, and they don’t work as well anyway.
Test for skin irritation
As always, check with your medical professional first! The following information is taken from the medical sources listed below: Dimethyl sulfoxide can irritate the skin, so before the first application, test a small amount on a small area on your arm. I have sensitive skin and the 90 percent solution burns a bit, but it’s no big deal. The burning goes away in a few minutes. Apply it to a small area on your arm to test your sensitivity. If you are super sensitive, then it may not be for you.
Clean your hands and the area to be treated
You should always clean the area to which you plan to apply it, just in case there is some harmful substance on your skin with a molecule small enough to go through with this solvent. Note that only those substances that could penetrate by themselves if left on the skin long enough can be transported through (more quickly) by dimethyl sulfoxide. Bacteria and viruses are too large and thus are not able to pass through, and bacteria cannot grow in dimethyl sulfoxide of 25 percent strength or more.
Most of the DMSO will penetrate within 15 minutes and the pores of the skin may be open for another half hour or so. Just to be safe, it is recommended that you avoid contact with all toxic substances for three hours after application.
There is no need to worry unduly about DMSO's ability to open the pores and penetrate the skin, according to my sources below. Other products on the market also go through the skin, such a patches for nicotine and seasickness medication, and creams/lotions that deliver such things as MSM or capsacin for arthritis through the skin. With any of these products, you should avoid exposure to toxic substances after you have applied the cream or just after you have removed the patch.
Wash your hands and under your nails thoroughly. Apply it directly to your skin with your hands. If you prefer not to use your hands, you can use a cotton ball or a paint brush. If you are using liquid dimethyl sulfoxide, allow it to dry for about 20 minutes. Then you can wipe off any excess. If you are using cream or gel, be sure it has soaked in and that your skin is dry before you put on your clothes. Remember, dimethyl sulfoxide can dissolve other substances. So far, the only fabric I’ve had a problem with is with acetate, which will quickly melt into a hard glob.
Dabbing the DMSO onto your skin may reduce irritation. However, rubbing it in may help it to work quicker and make the effects last longer. You might want to experiment with the amount you use to see how it affects your pain. By experimenting, you’ll find the minimum amount that eases the pain.
In applying the dimethyl sulfoxide, apply it to an area larger than where the pain is. If your knee is painful, it is recommended that you apply it to six inches above and below your knee, all around the circumference of your knee. If your hand hurts, apply it all the way to the middle of your forearm, and so on.
How often should I use it?
As always, check with your medical professional first! The following information is taken from the medical sources listed below: Frequency of use depends on whether your problem is acute (something that happens, gets fixed, and does not come back, like a sprained ankle) or whether it is chronic (ongoing, long-term pain, as with arthritis).
Acute conditions: For acute conditions, my sources recommend that you apply it every two hours for six to eight hours immediately after the injury occurs. Following that, for the next five days or more, apply DMSO every four to six hours. Most of the benefit will come in the first three weeks.
Chronic conditions: For chronic conditions, DMSO takes longer to take effect. Although you may notice some easing of pain right away, it may take six to eight weeks, or even six months to a year in some cases, for the maximum benefit to be achieved. It depends on the person and the condition. One application a day is recommended.
Take some time off regularly
Dimethyl sulfoxide exits the body in about 24 hours. Nevertheless, in both acute and chronic cases, it is recommended that you take some time off on a regular basis, say two days in a row each week. For example, just take Saturday and Sunday off every week. If you are using it daily, long term, take two to four weeks off, in a row, every six months. Or, you could do 30 days on and 30 days off.
Each person is different with regard to the amount of pain they experience in a given condition and how they respond to that pain. The length of time that application of DMSO is necessary to relieve pain will vary. In some cases, injection (by a doctor) of dimethyl sulfoxide is indicated, along with topical application.
Uses For DMSO
Here are some of the uses for DMSO, according to the sources listed below:
Check with your doctor first!
Burns A 50 to 100 percent solution, applied as quickly as possible after the burn, can ease pain and diminish scarring.
Dimethyl sulfoxide relieves acute bursitis 80 to 90 percent of the time. Even in chronic bursitis with calcium deposits, dimethyl sulfoxide brings good results in weeks to months, and the calcium deposits eventually fade away. DMSO research: A study (John and Laudahn, 1967) involving 293 patients with acute bursitis showed complete relief in 136 patients, partial relief in 121, and 36 with no change. In the same study, of 782 patients with chronic bursitis, 345 enjoyed complete relief, 321 showed partial remission, and 116 saw no change in three months. The protocol was five milliliters of 90 percent solution to the affected and surrounding area two to four times daily.
People using DMSO even up to 24 hours after the frostbite showed total recovery.
A 70 percent solution of dimethyl sulfoxide can relieve pain and increase mobility. Apply for up to a month.
This disease, which affects mostly adult males, is caused by a nutritional and metabolic disorder. DMSO research: In a study (John and Laudahn, 1967) of 19 patients, 16 enjoyed total elimination of symptoms and three had partial remission. In another study (Blumenthal and Fuchs, 1967) of five patients, two had excellent results, two had good results and one saw no change. Dosage is usually 5 milliliters of 90 percent solution applied topically to the painful area and the surrounding area two to four times daily until relief of symptoms occurs.
Apply a 70 percent solution to the hemorrhoid for quick relief of pain and swelling.
Strains, sprains, bruising, bone fractures, whiplash, athletic injuries etc: DMSO produces really impressive results with these types of injuries with its anti-inflammatory capabilities and its ability to relieve pain and increase circulation. The sooner the treatment after the injury, the better the result. There is usually pain relief in 20 minutes or less, and pain and swelling often go away almost completely within a few hours of application. Topical application of a 90 percent solution two to four times daily is the usual protocol. "I’ve seen swollen ankles shrink in size in less than an hour," says Robert Jay Rowen, M.D., who practices in San Jose, California.
In the study that led to FDA approval, 64 percent of the men and 54 percent of the women obtained relief of symptoms.
Muscle spasms, including nighttime muscle cramps
Dimethyl sulfoxide helps remove toxins and waste material and improves circulation in the muscles to help relieve muscle spasms.
The pain of the this nerve inflammation is relieved from 50 to 95 percent of the time.
DMSO can relieve joint pain, increase range of motion and increase grip strength. Many studies have been conducted, both in the U.S. and in other countries, on the effects of dimethyl sulfoxide on arthritis. All found it to relieve pain and inflammation.
DMSO research: In the largest study, in Germany, over 1641 patients were given two to five milliliters of dimethyl sulfoxide topically two to four times daily for the first week, then twice daily for the remainder of two to six months, until remission of symptoms occurred. Eight hundred fifty one patients enjoyed full remission, 553 had partial relief, and 237 reported no benefit.
In another study (Steinberg 1967) with 152 patients, a 90 percent solution was applied topically four times a day to the joints and surrounding areas. Patients reported considerable pain relief just minutes after application, lasting four to six hours. Almost 85 percent reported significant results.
In a Russian test, scientists concluded that "the use of DMSO for inflammatory and degenerative joint disease is well founded. Treatment with DMSO in different combinations is tolerated well by patients and adverse side effects are seldom encountered." Dimethyl sulfoxide is most effective for those who have had arthritis for a short time.
Although it relieves pain in both acute and chronic arthritis, it works best in the acute forms. Dimethyl sulfoxide works here because it is an anti-inflammatory and because it reduces autoimmune antibodies that damage or destroy tissue. It also prevents free radicals from destroying lubricating fluid in the joints.
DMSO works best of all in osteoarthritis. Patients of all ages get good results, no matter how long or how severe the condition. Larger joints--hip, knee, shoulder--may require longer treatment. Dimethyl sulfoxide injections (rather than application to the skin) may be indicated in really severe conditions.
Peyronies disease and DMSO
Topical application to the penis removes pain about 50 percent of the time.
Phantom limb pain
Relieves some of the pain and superficial clotting when applied to the skin.
About 75 percent of those treated may get relief from associated pain.
Up to 90 percent of those affected find relief from rectal itching and pain from the application of 70 percent dimethyl sulfoxide to the anal area.
DMSO produces best results with early treatment in rheumatoid arthritis. It is not a cure for RA, but it gives relief in the majority of cases. In severe cases, a series of intravenous infusions of dimethyl sulfoxide may be given. Check with your doctor. Studies in Germany and Japan showed significant results in over half of patients--from complete remission of symptoms to less joint pain, better grip strength and better range of motion--using topical applications of 90 percent solution for six months in the German study and four weeks in the Japanese study. Sometimes it works for RA, sometimes it doesn’t, but considering the disabling effects of that disease, it may be worth a try.
Sciatic nerve pain
Two studies, one at the Cleveland Clinic and one in Russia, found that DMSO brings the best results of any kind of therapy for this condition. More than 50 percent of those treated showed major improvement.
Apply to the burned area.
The pain of tennis elbow, golf elbow, tendonitis of the foot/ankle are eased when dimethyl sulfoxide is applied regularly. Sometimes it takes several months. A study (Steinberg, 1967) of 50 patients showed significant results in 94 percent of patients. A 90 percent solution was applied to the area every four hours at the beginning, then decreased for the remainder of the treatment period. Patients usually found relief within ten to fifteen minutes following the treatment.
Those treated with a 70 to 90 percent solution applied to the skin experienced prompt relief from pain, cramping and swelling.
DMSO Side Effects
You might think that there would be dangers of DMSO, but it is remarkably safe. Dimethyl sulfoxide does have two potential side effects:
1. Your breath and body may smell--some say like garlic; some say like clams; I say like creamed corn. This can be a significant annoyance. It goes away, of course, when you stop using it.
2. You may have an allergic reaction at the point where you apply it. If you have an allergic reaction, such as swelling, redness or inflammation, see your doctor right away. This is extremely rare, with about the same occurrence as reactions to other common substances, like aspirin, for example.
Dimethyl sulfoxide has been widely used for over 30 years, and a number of human studies have been done. At the time of the writing of this report, there are no studies indicating that it is toxic during short-term use with the recommended amounts.
After two human studies done on human volunteers in prison, Dr. Richard Brobyn stated: "A very extensive study of DMSO was conducted at three to 30 times the usual treatment dosage in humans for three months. DMSO appears to be a very safe drug for human administration, and, in particular, the lens changes that occur in certain mammalian species do not occur in man under this very high, prolonged treatment regimen. I am very glad to be able to present these data at this time, so that we can permanently dispel the myth that DMSO is in any way a toxic or dangerous drug."
SEE YOUR DOCTOR! The following information is taken from the medical sources listed below: If you have a condition for which you are considering DMSO, see your doctor first. If you have that much pain, your doctor should take a look at it, and even if you don't have pain, you should check with your doctor first. Plus, dimethyl sulfoxide may affect how your body uses other drugs you are taking, so be sure to let your doctor know what medications you are on.
Don’t use it if you are pregnant.
If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, or are breast feeding, don’t use it. Although the research is scanty, there may be a risk to the fetus or infant. If you’re on birth control pills and not trying to get pregnant, this caution does not apply. But, if studies show that small amounts of caffeine or alcohol may cause birth defects, even low-risk dimethyl sulfoxide may also have an effect. Why take a chance?
Interactions with other drugs
DMSO may increase the effects of drinking alcohol and may increase the effects of other drugs, including those that make you less than normally alert. Check with your doctor and be careful driving or doing other things that require full alertness.
1. While it can help a wound heal faster and decrease scar formation, it should not be used on wounds that are infected.
2. Don’t use it for poison ivy or poison oak or for insect bites, since it may spread the substance that is causing your discomfort.
3. Don’t store it in proximity with toxic substances. Stay away from toxic substances during and after application of DMSO (for 3 hours afterward, to be absolutely safe). And if you accidentally spill a toxic substance on yourself after using DMSO, don’t panic; just wash it off right away with soap and water.
4. Take a good multivitamin/mineral supplement to neutralize the free radicals released by DMSO in the healing process. It should contain vitamins A, C, E, B1, B6, zinc and selenium.
Always notify your physician immediately should you have any symptoms of allergic reaction. These would include shortness of breath or trouble breathing, swelling of the face, itching, rash or hives.
"Pain Free Forever," The Revolution in Pain Relief Doctors Don't Tell You About," a report about DMSO by Dr. David Williams.
DMSO: Nature’s Healer, by Dr. Morton Walker. You can find this very informative 260-page book on dimethyl sulfoxide facts and uses at amazon.com.
The Hushed Up Truth About DMSO, a special supplement to Nutrition & Healing newsletter, by Jonathan Wright, M.D.
You can also find information on the Internet. Type your condition and DMSO into your favorite search engine.
The content of Alternative Medicine Digest is presented for general informational purposes only, and you should review it with your doctor before taking any action with regard to your health care. The information on alternative medicine at this site is not presented as advice or recommendation, nor is it intended to treat or cure any disease or disorder, nor to substitute for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by your M.D. or other medical professional. See our Medical Disclaimer.###Go From The DMSO Page To The Site Map.Copyright 2008 Joanna Fuchs DMSO