DMSO (a.k.a. dimethylsulfoxide)

Ron Kennedy, M.D.

First a Little Background
To exist, life must have a space in which to exist. Water is that space. All life, at least on this planet, is water based. The atoms and molecules which conduct the life process react with each other in water as the solvent. It is hard to imagine life without water. However, life might be possible in the presence of another solvent with qualities equal or superior to water. It may be that water is the solvent used by life on earth simply because it is here in much greater quantities than any other solvent.

A “solvent” is a carrier solution meaning that it has the capacity to accommodate other atoms and molecules in such a way that they are in “solution.” What it means to be in solution is that the atoms and molecules are separated from each other by the solvent. When atoms and molecules are thus separated, they are said to be “carried” by the solvent, or “in solution.”

For example, water is an excellent solvent for salt. If you put a teaspoon of table salt in a glass of water and stir, soon you are unable to see the salt. It has gone into solution, i.e., the atoms of sodium and chloride are separated from each other and held apart by dihydrous oxygen (water).

Industrial chemists are always interested in finding new and more effective solvents. The perfect solvent, in an industrial sense, is that solvent which has the ability to put almost anything into solution in high concentration, is cheap, safe and smells good. Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), except for the smell good apart, is just such a solvent.

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) was first synthesized in 1866 by the Russian scientist Alexander Saytzeff. Dr. Saytzeff reported his findings in a German chemistry journal in 1867. From there DMSO languished unnoticed in obscurity for 81 years! After World War II, chemists began to take note of the remarkable versatility of DMSO. They noticed it could dissolve almost anything and carry it in solution.

In the 1960s, medical research with DMSO showed it could not only dissolve substances, but it could also penetrate human skin and carry the dissolved substances along with it! This is remarkable, because human skin is impenetrable to most substances.

It was also shown to relieve pain and swelling, relax muscles, relieve arthritis, improve blood supply and slow the growth of bacteria. It relieves the pain of sprains and even of broken bones. It enhances the effectiveness of other pharmacological agents. If you apply DMSO to a bruise, the bruise dissolves and disappears in a matter of minutes! If you apply it to the jaw after wisdom tooth removal, all pain and swelling is prevented! The pain of acute gout can be handled with the application of 5 cc of seventy percent DMSO in water four times each day. Application to a fever blister results in rapid resolution of this problem. DMSO also relieves the pain of minor burns and if applied soon after the burn happens, will decrease the tissue damage suffered. DMSO speeds all healing, approximately doubling or tripling all healing responses.

All applications should be done with a cotton swab allowing sufficient time after the solution is painted on to allow for absorption through the skin before covering with clothes. Remember, DMSO is a powerful solvent, and it will take the dye right out of your clothes and deposit it in your skin where you will have to wait for it to grow out.

The skin of the face, neck and intertriginous zones (where skin rubs against skin) are highly sensitive to DMSO and should be exposed only to dilute solutions of fifty percent (half and half with distilled water) or less. Any skin irritation associated with the application of DMSO can be treated topically with aloe vera gel.

In the states in which it is legal to do so, doctors experienced with DMSO treat the symptoms of cancer, atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and arthritis with an intravenous push of up to 20 cc of a 25% solution of DMSO. An alternative method is to put 50-100 cc in 500 cc of saline or five percent dextrose, and drip it in over a two- to three-hour period with or without EDTA. Only doctors who are trained and experienced in this form of therapy should administer it.

DMSO, although it is not approved by the FDA for anything except an obscure bladder condition (interstitial cystitis), is widely used in sports medicine. Professional sports in particular are obligated to use DMSO to get their athletes recovered from injury and back on the playing field. Each team knows the competition will use it, and this would mean a tremendous advantage for the other team, if it were to be ignored. Combine that with the fact that DMSO is as safe as it is effective (unlike large-dose steroid injections, which were once commonly used in professional sports) and its use becomes mandatory in professional sports medicine.

When you consider the fact that DMSO is not a new and patentable drug, is cheap, safe and effective, and knowing what you should know about the medical establishment in the U.S., you could predict with your eyes closed that there is a propaganda campaign against DMSO. The FDA has done nothing except drag its feet in DMSO research since October 25, 1963 when the first research application to study DMSO was filed with that agency.

Despite the rejection of DMSO by the American medical establishment, this simple solvent is far from finished. Legally, it can only be sold as a solvent, but sufferers of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are using it with regularity, usually having heard of it from a friend and fellow arthritis sufferer. Only medical grade — never industrial grade — should be used on the human body due to the acetone and acid contaminants present in the industrial grade product. Grocery stores which specialize in organically grown foods and health food stores are the most likely places to find medical grade DMSO. A bottle will cost you only a few dollars and will save hundreds, even thousands of dollars in doctor and pharmacy bills. No wonder the medical establishment is lined up against it!

Many legislative battles have been fought to bypass the FDA and legalize DMSO. Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Rep. Wendell Wyatt, also of Oregon, both have introduced bills into the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, respectively, to legalize DMSO. Since these bills were introduced, the FDA has been under legislative investigation of its regulatory procedures. Some state legislatures have legalized the prescribing of DMSO, effectively bypassing the FDA. These states are Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

So, how does DMSO work? For one thing it neutralizes hydroxyl radicals. “So what?” you say? It turns out hydroxyl free radicals are the predominant cause of pain and inflammation in arthritis. Although DMSO is not known to cure cancer, it is true hydroxyl free radicals are present in cancer and in atherosclerosis. Hydroxyl radicals also are known to be produced in lipid peroxidation, which is thought to be the source of many degenerative diseases.

It also turns out DMSO is more “liquid” than water, and it can therefore penetrate to places in the body nothing else can reach so fast. DMSO substitutes for water and moves rapidly through cell membranes. It has been called “water’s alter ego.” This ability probably is what makes DMSO so unique as to be an entirely new therapeutic principle.

DMSO changes the water structure within the cell. Water exists in two basic structures, one more highly organized and one less organized. It may be that DMSO shifts the equilibrium between these two states of water toward the more organized form and thus speeds up the living processes of the cell, allowing healing to happen in a much accelerated fashion.

The problem with DMSO is that it is so versatile and is such good treatment for so many conditions, it has fallen into the snake oil trap. It is too good to be believed. In the Old West, peddlers of snake oil would come to town and lecture the local folks on snake oil. This stuff was said to be “good for what ails ya!” These con artists would sell a load of snake oil and then hit the road, never to be seen again. This didn’t prevent the next super-salesman from coming to town and repeating the process. Eventually, snake oil got a bad name and took along with it any therapy which has a wide range of uses. DMSO, like hydrogen peroxide and EDTA, is almost too good to believe.

To be fully accepted, a therapy must have the general support of doctors. We have given over to these people the responsibility to know the difference between legitimate medicine and quack medicine. What we fail to take into consideration is that doctors are business people and, as such — and correctly so — they are interested in the bottom line. Income minus expenses equals profits. Profits allow the business of medicine to go forward. If you go out of business, it doesn’t matter how pure your motives are, you cannot do good for many people.

DMSO, like hydrogen peroxide and EDTA, are not big money makers. So doctors, with some exceptions, do not spend much time learning about or recommending them. People who benefit from these therapies are those who take the time to educate themselves and who think for themselves. Thinking for oneself is not exactly the national pastime.

Besides the great relief provided for sufferers of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, burns, sprains, back and neck problems, there are more exotic uses for DMSO. Studies demonstrate that it protects against the tissue damage induced by radioactivity! It serves as an excellent antifreeze, preventing tissue damage ordinarily caused by freezing conditions. It controls the swelling of the brain and spinal cord following traumatic injury. If given intravenously within ninety minutes of a stroke, it prevents much of what would become permanent damage to the central nervous system. Applied topically, repeatedly, it will flatten a raised keloid scar. It also prevents the contracture of scar tissue following burns. It has an antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effect.

Some cancer researchers believe it has a useful place in the treatment of many cancers in that it potentiates other forms of therapy. It decreases the need for insulin in 25% of juvenile onset diabetics. Other uses of DMSO include: tic doloreaux, headache, various skin diseases including herpes, cataracts and glaucoma, retinal degeneration, scleroderma, shingles, bunions, calluses, fungus toenails and asthma. These comments only scratch the surface of the possible medical uses of DMSO.

Despite this, the FDA refuses to approve the use or prescription of DMSO for anything other than interstitial cystitis in all but eight of our fifty states! All of this in spite of the fact that DMSO is safer than aspirin. Many people have died from taking aspirin. Not one person has ever died from DMSO. This, folks, is not the age of medical enlightenment.

Despite the foot dragging of the FDA, a singular court ruling allows doctors to use and prescribe this marvelous drug. This court ruling states that if the FDA approves a drug as safe for any use whatsoever, it may be used at the physician’s discretion for whatever purpose it is deemed useful. Because the FDA approves DMSO for use in interstitial cystitis, the door is open for any physician of courage, in any state to use, prescribe and recommend DMSO.

The only drawback of which I can think to tell you regarding DMSO is its smell. It is best compared to the smell of fresh garlic. After it has reacted with the body, the odor appears in magnified form on the breath and through the skin. This lasts for three days from the last treatment with DMSO. This is not the stuff you will want to take just before going out on a hot date. This odor of DMSO probably is a blessing in disguise. It makes a person stop and think before using it and probably prevents indiscriminate use of this wonderful medical miracle substance.