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DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide)


Also listed as: Dimethyl sulfoxide
Related terms

Related Terms
  • C2H6OS, dimethyl sulphoxide, dimethylis sulfoxidum, methyl sulfoxide methyl sulphoxide, NSC-763, SQ-9453, Rimso-50®, sulphinybismethane.

  • Dimethyl sulfoxide (C2H6OS), or DMSO, is a sulfur-containing organic compound. DMSO occurs naturally in vegetables, fruits, grains, and animal products. DMSO is formed as a by-product of paper manufacturing and is used as an industrial solvent.
  • DMSO is available for both non-medicinal and medicinal uses. The major use of DMSO is to relieve symptoms of interstitial cystitis (chronic bladder infection). Also, research suggests the potential benefit of DMSO for complex regional pain syndrome.
  • Strong evidence for other uses is lacking. DMSO should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional, due to the potential toxic and adverse effects associated with it.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *

DMSO is U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for interstitial cystitis when administered into the bladder by a qualified healthcare professional. DMSO may work when other treatments have failed. Additional research is needed on this topic.


DMSO may change the course of amyloidosis if treatment is started early. However, scientific support is lacking for this claim and additional research is needed on this topic.


Therapy with sound waves is used to break down kidney or gallbladder stones so that they can be passed in the urine. DMSO given with a pain reliever may help reduce the pain of this procedure. Also, the diuretic, anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, and antioxidant effects of DMSO may be beneficial for stone removal. However, more research is needed in this area.


DMSO given through the vein with sodium bicarbonate improved cancer pain that lacked a response to other treatments in people with end-stage cancer. In limited research, DMSO was given in combination with laser therapy and other chemicals for skin cancer, so the effects of DMSO were unclear. Further research is needed in this area.


Currently, sufficient scientific evidence is lacking for or against the use of DMSO for diabetic ulcers. Additional research is needed on this topic.


In human research, DMSO improved healing and decreased the reappearance of duodenal ulcers, especially when used with acid-blocking drugs (such as cimetidine). Further research is needed to draw conclusions.


DMSO applied to the skin may prevent skin damage after anti-cancer drug extravasation. It can be applied alone or with steroids. Further research is needed to confirm these results.


In human research, DMSO had mixed results for improving osteoarthritis. Further research is needed.


Limited research had shown that DMSO may aid with rheumatoid arthritis when applied to the skin. Additional research is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn.


Limited research has shown that topical DMSO lacks an effect on scleroderma, a disease causing hard skin build-up. Additional research is necessary before conclusions can be drawn.


DMSO is used as the carrier for idoxuridine. Research suggests that idoxuridine in DMSO when applied to the skin is effective in the treating shingles. DMSO was also used as the inactive treatment in human research. The effects of DMSO alone are not clear and may be lacking. Further research is needed.


Based on early research, DMSO does not help to prevent skin ulcers (such as bed sores) when applied on the skin. More research is needed.


Limited research suggests that DMSO improves the lack of blood flow (ischemia) to surgically attached skin flaps. More research is needed to confirm these results.


In human research, DMSO had a positive effect for acute tendonopathies. Additional research is needed on this topic.


DMSO has conflicting evidence for treating high pressure in the skull. Additional research is needed on this topic. Until more data is available, neurosurgeons are advised against using DMSO for treating high pressure inside the skull.

* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Allergies, Alzheimer's disease, antibiotic, antioxidant, antiplatelet, bladder disorders, burns, closed head trauma, colitis (inflamed colon), fibromyalgia (pain disorder), gallstones, heart disease, high cholesterol, high or low blood pressure, infection, inflammation, lupus, male contraception, memory, muscle pain, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), poisoning (rubigine), schizophrenia, spinal cord injury, tuberculosis.


Adults (18 years and older)

  • To treat amyloidosis (protein build-up in organs), a dose of 7-15 grams of DMSO has been taken by mouth daily for 16 months and a 50-100% solution of DMSO has been applied twice weekly to the skin.
  • To treat duodenal ulcers (ulcer of upper intestine), 500 milligrams DMSO has been taken four times daily by mouth for one year.
  • To treat complex regional pain syndrome (chronic limb pain), a cream containing 50% DMSO has been applied to the skin 1-5 times daily for up to 12 months.
  • To treat extravasation (drug accidentally going outside of a vein), dressings with 77-99% DMSO solution have been applied to the skin every 3-8 hours to the affected skin for up to two weeks.
  • To treat interstitial cystitis (bladder inflammation), 50 milliliters of 50% DMSO has been injected directly into the bladder every 2-4 weeks for up to 10 weeks and sometimes longer. The solution should be retained in the bladder for 30 minutes before voiding.
  • To treat intracranial pressure (pressure inside the skull), a 10-28% DMSO solution in a dose ranging from 1-1.12 grams per kilogram has been injected into the vein or muscle.
  • To treat osteoarthritis, a dose, such as 40 drops, of 10-25%, 45.5%, 50%, or 90% DMSO was applied to the skin up to four times daily for up to one month.
  • To prevent pressure ulcers, a 5% DMSO cream was massaged into the tailbone, heels and ankles for 2-3 minutes every six hours for four weeks.
  • To treat rheumatoid arthritis, a 60-90% DMSO solution or gel has been applied to the affected area of skin 1-3 times daily for 1-3 weeks.
  • To treat surgical skin flap ischemia (lack of blood flow to skin), a 60% DMSO solution has been applied to skin flaps after surgery every four hours for four days.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for DMSO in children.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


  • Avoid in people with a known allergy or sensitivity to DMSO. Mild allergic reactions to DMSO have been reported.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • DMSO is considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for administration into the bladder if performed by a healthcare professional for interstitial cystitis (chronic bladder infection).
  • Use cautiously when DMSO is applied to the skin, as skin reactions are the most common side effect. Examples of side effects include reddening or darkening of the skin, hardening, rash, itching, burning, drying, scaling, blistering, inflammation, and wheals. The skin side effects usually disappear when DMSO use is stopped.
  • DMSO may alter blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that alter blood pressure
  • DMSO may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Drowsiness or sedation may occur with DMSO use. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Avoid in people with urinary tract cancers, liver and kidney dysfunction, and those taking drugs eliminated by the kidneys. Cases of increased urgency, difficult or painful urination, blood in the urine, and red urine discoloration have been reported.
  • Avoid stem cell transplants preserved in DMSO and its fumes, as temporary vision loss, headache, brain disease, stroke, heart attack, chest tightness, gastrointestinal reactions, abnormally slow and shallow breathing, fever, and chills have been reported.
  • Avoid in people with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to DMSO.
  • Avoid using DMSO with sulindac due to potential nerve damage.
  • Avoid DMSO injected into the blood or bladder, or when taken by mouth, unless under the guidance of a physician due to potential serious toxic and adverse effects.
  • Avoid topical use of the available industrial solvent DMSO, since it may contain impurities which may be absorbed into the body.
  • Avoid DMSO use in pregnancy and breast feeding.
  • DMSO may also cause abdominal cramps, agitation, altered heart beat, altered vision, anorexia, bad breath, body odor, constipation, destruction of red blood cells, diarrhea, dizziness, eosinophilia (increased white blood cells), fluid build-up in the lungs, flu-like symptoms, flushing, garlic taste, headache, memory loss, nausea, neurotoxicity, seizure, temporary loss of consciousness, trigemino-cardiac reflex (combinations of symptoms including slow heart rate, and low blood pressure), upset stomach, and vomiting.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of DMSO during pregnancy or lactation.


Interactions with Drugs

  • DMSO may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • DMSO may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
  • DMSO may alter blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that alter blood pressure.
  • DMSO may also interact with agents eliminated by the kidneys; agents for cancer; agents for the blood, heart, lungs, stomach or intestines; agents for the brain, eyes, nervous system, or skin; agents for ulcers; agents that alter immune function; agents that promote urination; agents that widen blood vessels; antihistamines; anti-inflammatory agents; arthritis agents; cholesterol lowering agents; cholinesterase inhibitors; muscle relaxants; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. sulindac); pain relievers.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • DMSO may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • DMSO may alter blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that alter blood pressure.
  • DMSO may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements.
  • DMSO may also interact with antihistamines; anti-inflammatory herbs or supplements; antioxidants; arthritis herbs and supplements; cholesterol lowering herbs or supplements; cholinergics; herbs and supplements that widen blood vessels; herbs or supplements eliminated by the kidneys; herbs or supplements for cancer; herbs or supplements for the blood, heart, lungs, stomach or intestines; herbs or supplements for the brain, eyes, nervous system or skin; herbs or supplements for ulcers; herbs or supplements that alter immune function; herbs or supplements that promote urination; methylsulfonylmethane (MSM); muscle relaxants; oxymatrine; pain relievers; vitamin A.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

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Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.