Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO)
Dimethyl sulfoxide or DMSO is a very hygroscopic, sulfur-containing organic compound. It is a colorless liquid with a faint scent of sulfur and mixes readily with a wide range of water-insoluble and water-soluble substances, including water itself. DMSO is rapidly absorbed into the body if ingested or even if touched by the hands, very quickly producing a garlic-like taste. It occurs naturally in small amounts in vegetables, grains, fruits and animal products.
DMSO is formed as a byproduct of wood pulp processing and is used as an industrial solvent. DMSO is also known as sulfinylbismethane and methyl sulfoxide. The inclusion of DMSO, which is not a nutritional supplement in this PDR, is for historical and informational purposes, and because one of its metabolites, methylsulfonylmethane or MSM, is marketed as a nutritional supplement. The claims for MSM are related to claims made for DMSO.
Dimethyl Sulfoxide is used as an effective extraction solvent and solvent improver for the separation of aromatic compounds (benzene, toluene and xylenes) from aliphatic hydrocarbons, and for fractionation of unsaturated components (olefins and alkynes) from saturated feedstock. It is used as a thermally stable medium for carrying out chemical reactions to make pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals (especially pyrethroid insecticides) paint and coating materials and biocides. Its pharmaceutical grade can be used as a as a local analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent.
Dimethyl sulfoxide is metabolized by oxidation to dimethyl sulfone or by the reduction to dimethyl sulfide. Dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone are excreted in the urine and feces. Dimethyl sulfide is eliminated through the breath and skin and is responsible for the characteristic odor exuded from patients. The drug can persist in serum for more than 2 weeks after a single intravesical instillation. No residual accumulation of dimethyl sulfoxide has occurred in patients who have received treatment for protracted periods of time. Following topical application dimethyl sulfoxide is absorbed and generally distributed in the tissues and body fluids. DMSO has demonstrated antioxidant activity in certain biological settings. For example, the cardiovascular protective effect of DMSO in copper-deficient rats is thought to occur by an antioxidant mechanism. It is also thought that DMSO's possible anti-inflammatory activity is due to antioxidant action. The membrane-penetrating ability of DMSO may enhance diffusion of other substances through the skin. For this reason, mixtures of idoxuridine and DMSO have been used for topical treatment of herpes zoster in the United Kingdom.
DMSO has several interesting properties that may make it useful. For instance, it has the ability to penetrate tissues including intact skin, and carry along with it a variety of chemicals. It has a local analgesic affect, and inhibits certain compounds in the body called prostaglandins, thereby reducing inflammation in tissues. At the present time, the US FDA has approved only a version that is instilled into the bladder for a condition called interstitial cystitis. Current research with DMSO is targeted at head injury, spinal cord trauma, amyloidosis and scleroderma.