What is Sulfur?

Sulfur is a mineral that is naturally found on the earth’s crust particularly near volcanic craters and hot springs. Its smell is very distinct and it is caused by the sulfur dioxide gas escaping into the air and forms a rotten egg smell.

Sulfur (Sulphur) is one of the vital elements in the biosphere as it is plays a major role in the sulfur cycle. It is incorporated into proteins, lipoic acid, biotin, and other cellular molecules. It is also a major industrial chemical and dimethylsulfoxide, dye mordant yellow 3, and saccharin are some of the compounds known as commercial organosulfur.

Sulfer – Role in respiration

Sulfur-reducing prokaryotes use sulfate as an acceptor of electron during anaerobic respiration, reducing sulfate to sulfite. The sulfur-oxidizing prokaryotes use elemental sulfur, sulfide, or thiosulfate as sources of energy and electrons for growth.

Sulfur Sources in Food and Use in the Body

MSM is found naturally in some fruits and vegetables, horsetail, grains; and milk. It is vitally important in helping connective tissues to form such as ligaments, tendons, and cartilage; and is essential in joint health as well.

This mineral is available in two varieties when taken as a supplement, and these are methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). Both have been touted as treatment for pain. Approximately 15% of DMSO is being split up into MSM in the body.

MSM can also slow the nerve impulses that transmit pain signals thus, can help reduce pain.

DMSO on the other hand, is a chemical byproduct of papermaking and is also used in medicine and as an industrial solvent. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for intravesical use, wherein it is used in treating interstitial cystitis by being instilled in the bladder by a doctor. DMSO is taken by mouth when used as a pain treatment and is also used in some creams. However, unlike MSM, DMSO can be absorbed through the skin. The industrial-grade DMSO should not be used as a supplement due to the fact that it can contain several harmful impurities.

Sulfur Bath Treatment of Arthritis

Balneotherapy, mud baths that contain sulfur, can help treat arthritis and skin disorders. It is in fact, one of the oldest known forms of pain relief for those individuals who are suffering from arthritis. The term “balneo” primarily means soaking in mineral or thermal waters, as it comes from the Latin word for bath. Although some people claim that balneotherapy is useful for respiratory problems and allergies, there is no sufficient scientific evidence as yet for these claims.

Balneotherapy was suggested by well-designed studies particularly those that were conducted in Israel, to be helpful in treating several kinds of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), and psoriatic arthritis. Individuals who have taken sulfur baths as well as other spa therapies are said to have improved strength, had better walking ability, had less morning stiffness; and less swelling, inflammation, and pain in joints particularly in the back and neck.

MSM is a commonly used supplement for the treatment of arthritis pain; both RA and OA, however, there is no sufficient scientific evidence that it works. One study suggested that intake of 6,000 mg of MSM did improve function and pain without causing any side effects in patients with OA of the knee.

Dead Sea salts and mud packs dissolved in regular bath tub can also aid in improving arthritis symptoms, but is not as effectively as soaking in the Dead Sea itself.

Treatment of Skin Conditions

Products that contain sulfur are mostly used in treating skin conditions such as acne. Sulfur that is applied on skin such as sulfur baths, are said to treat eczema, psoriasis, warts, infected hair follicles or folliculitis, dandruff, and a long-lasting skin disorder that is characterized by patches of skin that are a different color from the usual skin tone, known as pityriasis versicolor.

A preliminary study showed that an intake of 2,600 mg of MSM per day for 30 days can help reduce symptoms of seasonal allergies such as allergic rhinitis or hay fever. However, more studies need to be conducted in order to see whether or not there is any real effect.

Topical DMSO was proposed to relieve pain and inflammation shingles or herpes zoster. Although some evidences suggest that it can possibly reduce the number of lesions and lower inflammation, more studies are still needed.

Harmful impacts

Numerous studies, but not all, suggest that sulfur gases in the environment and the rise in respiratory illnesses and allergy, including asthma, are respectively connected.


Swarthmore; UNCP; UMM; UMN; Caltech.