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MSM (aka Methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring compound found in nature (e.g., fresh fruits and vegetables, and raw fish, meat, and milk). However‚ MSM is a volatile substance that is easily lost when foods are processed/pasteurized, stored, and cooked. As a result, there are some scientists and doctors who believe that our diets supply our bodies with only a marginal amount of MSM on a daily basis. In addition, MSM levels are also thought to decline as we age. Some practitioners even suggest that when the concentration of MSM falls below “minimum levels,” physical and psychological stress can be triggered and result in a reduction (or loss) of normal organ function.
I first encountered this acronym on YouTube and then later on various hair boards. I was intrigued by the numerous claims that it helped to grow hair healthy and long SUPER FAST. Then, I came across several medical articles that touted a litany of other benefits.
- To prevent hair loss, poor circulation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
- To treat chronic pain, joint inflammation, PMS, obesity, parasitic infections, and various medical disorders and diseases.
- To promote mood elevation and boost the immune system.
- To minimize scar tissue, stretch marks, and wrinkles.
- To relieve allergies and control snoring.
- To accelerate healing of wounds.
Because MSM maintains healthy connective tissue, it is said to help keep skin‚ hair, and nails healthy by donating sulfur for the production of keratin‚ a fibrous protein. It can be taken orally in pill or tablet form, or applied topically (by creating a lotion or cream with MSM powder). So, after doing some research, I decided to take the plunge. It seemed like the perfect addition to my current vitamin and supplement regimen. I purchased 1500 mg of pure crystalline MSM by Doctor’s Best. I figured I would give the supplement 3-4 months to work its magic.
I tried to find a recommended dosage but failed. I found some hair enthusiasts online taking anything from 500 mg daily to 10,000+ mg daily. Most seemed to hover somewhere in the middle. So, I decided to take three 1500 mg pills each day (one before each meal).
Month one began without a hitch … until I started to experience daily headaches. Month two I started to have problems sleeping. Month 3, I had full-blown insomnia. Unfortunately, it took me a while to realize that the MSM I was taking was causing all of these symptoms. I remember calling my mom and telling her about my inability to fall and stay asleep. She asked me if I had changed my normal routine in any way. Like an idiot, I said, “No!” It wasn’t until I got off the phone with her that I realized everything in my routine was just as it had always been except for the addition of MSM to my vitamins and supplements.
I did some additional research and found that some MSM users who experienced side effects had greater success eliminating the evening pill and dividing the same dosage between the breakfast and lunch allotment. So, I switched to taking two 1500 mg pills before breakfast and one 1500 mg pill before lunch (with no pill before dinner). I continued to have insomnia … Then, I thought that maybe 4500 mg of MSM a day was just too much for me, so I reduced my intake to 3,000 mg a day (one pill before breakfast and one pill before lunch) … When my symptoms persisted, I opted to only take one 1500 mg MSM pill a day. Still no luck!
Needless to say, after countless severe headaches and the agony of averaging only 4 hours of sleep a night for 3 months, I stopped taking MSM all-together. Why did it take me so long to give it up? I guess, I really was hoping all the increased hair growth claims were true. Sigh.
The problem is that there isn’t much published scientific research to support the use of MSM or to even provide a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). But, even if the claims of MSM‘s effectiveness need more proof, you might be tempted to take the supplement anyway. You know, just in case it might work for you.
Side Effects & Warnings
MSM MAY BE SAFE for most people when taken orally or topically. However, some studies suggest that consumption should be limited to a maximum of 12 weeks. There is also not enough information available concerning the safety of MSM and its use in nose drops, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding. Possible side effects include:
- Itching (or worsening of allergy symptoms)
Also, keep in mind that the quality of MSM can differ dramatically from brand to brand. Depending on the manufacturer, some inferior MSM supplements can contain trace amounts of heavy metals (i.e., lead) or other contaminants (i.e., pesticides).
Even more importantly, there haven’t been any peer-reviewed studies conclusively linking MSM supplements to increased hair growth. The rationale is that (1) MSM regenerates and maintains healthy cells. (2) Hair, skin, and nails are made of cells. (3) So, MSM grows and maintains healthy hair, skin, and nails. While it is true that keratin (the main component of hair) does, indeed, have sulfur in it, most medical doctors who oppose the addition of MSM as a supplement believe that an ordinary diet is likely more than enough to provide all the sulfur our bodies need for hair growth.
Obviously, there’s a huge demand in the hair industry for a hair loss remedy (especially an over-the-counter remedy). Most people without hair (or who have experienced hair loss) want to grow their hair, and most people with hair want to grow more of it. In fact, according to The Washington Post, more than 3.5 billion dollars a year is spent on the treatment of hair loss. Although the American Hair Loss Association (AHLA) readily acknowledges the emotional distress attached to hair loss, they warn that 99 percent of hair loss treatments, including MSM, DO NOT work.
Waste Not, Want Not
So, what to do with all my leftover MSM? I made a MSM cream for my mom who has arthritis in all her joints. She experiences pretty severe pain on a daily basis. However, after about 4-6 weeks of using the cream, she noticed a significant reduction in her pain level. In addition, I used some of the MSM cream on a scar every day for a few weeks, and it healed the area so well that I can hardly tell where the scar is anymore.
I think MSM works well topically for skin repair and for the relief of chronic pain. Not so much internally (or for hair growth).
The bottom line? If you want to add it to your arsenal of vitamins and supplements, you probably can. Just be sure to consult with your doctor, check the ingredients on the label, and buy from a reputable company. While there is no scientific proof that MSM consumption is harmful, there is also no scientific proof that it specifically helps with hair growth. So, chances are, if you’re taking MSM and “see lots of hair growth,” you’re likely experiencing a placebo effect. Without more research, there’s just no way to know for sure.