Sulfur: benefits, side effects, dosage and interactions


Sulfur is the eighth most common chemical in the human body and is necessary for the synthesis of some essential amino acids. Sulfur supplements (capsules, powders) are taken orally to increase levels of this element, which some believe may help protect against allergies, osteoarthritis , and muscle pain. Some people also use topical sulfur preparations to treat conditions ranging from dandruff to rosacea.

Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) are types of sulfur additives. Although these products are widely available, research on the health benefits of sulfur supplements is limited.

What is sulfur used for?

Sulfur plays an important role in the body and is necessary for the synthesis of several key proteins. For example, sulfur is necessary for the synthesis of the amino acids cysteine and methionine, which are part of glutathione , a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.

Although sulfur, which is consumed naturally through food, is important to the body, there is little evidence that sulfur supplementation is beneficial. So far, research has focused on several key areas of interest.

Due to the limited number of high-quality clinical trials, it is too early to recommend sulfur supplements, topically applied sulfur, or balneotherapy for any health problem.


Sulfur is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in over-the-counter dandruff treatments. Often combined with salicylic acid.

Although little research has been done since then, a small 1987 study of subjects with dandruff found that when subjects used a shampoo containing sulfur and salicylic acid, they reported less flaking and dandruff. More research is needed to ensure that this treatment is effective.


Sulfur supplements are often used to treat osteoarthritis. According to a 2008 study, MSM may provide some benefits to people with knee osteoarthritis , but the data was not conclusive enough to be definitive. The authors noted that data from several more rigorous studies have shown some positive, but not conclusive, evidence that MSM benefit people with osteoarthritis.

There is also some evidence that balneotherapy can benefit people with osteoarthritis. Balneotherapy is an alternative therapy that consists of treating health problems through baths, generally in hot springs and other natural waters rich in minerals. In many cases, the water used in balneotherapy contains sulfur.

In a 2007 review of seven trials on the use of balneotherapy to treat osteoarthritis, researchers found that the therapy resulted in a significant reduction in pain and quality of life compared to placebo .

However, a 2015 report from the same group looked at trials of balneotherapy for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and found that there was not enough evidence to say for sure that the treatment was effective .

The authors of each review cautioned that most of the studies reviewed were poorly designed and noted that more research is needed before balneotherapy for arthritis can be recommended.


A small study suggests that MSM supplements can help alleviate allergy symptoms .

Study patients took MSM supplements or a placebo every day for 30 days. Based on data from the participants who completed the study, the researchers found that those who took MSM supplements experienced significantly greater improvements in lower respiratory tract symptoms compared to those in the placebo group.


Topical application of sulfur can help treat rosacea , according to a 2004 study. According to the authors, sulfur-containing lotions and / or cleansers may help enhance the benefits of other topical and oral rosacea treatments.

Possible side effects.

Not enough is known about oral sulfur supplements to be sure they are safe. However, there are reports that MSM and DMSO can cause certain side effects, such as:

Sulfur is possibly safe when applied topically. In clinical trials lasting up to eight weeks, participants have safely used sulfur-containing products in concentrations of up to 10%.

It is important to note that self-medication with sulfur and avoiding or delaying standard treatment can have serious consequences. Talk to your doctor if you are considering using a sulfur supplement to treat any medical condition.

Dosage and preparation

There is no recommended daily value for sulfur. Most people consume enough sulfur in their diet to meet the body's needs. However, at least one study has shown that sulfur intake may be inadequate in people over 75 years of age .

There is no standard dosage for sulfur supplements. Not enough is known about oral supplementation to make such a recommendation, although different topical dosages have been used in studies.

For example, in studies looking at the effects of sulfur on dandruff, shampoos containing 2% sulfur and 2% salicylic acid were used twice a week for five weeks .

When the studies looked at treating scabies with sulfur, preparations containing between 2% and 20% sulfur were applied every night for three to six nights.

What to look for

Sulfur is available for purchase online and is sold in many health food stores and supplement stores. Sulfur supplements are often seen in capsule form or sold as bath crystals.

When looking for a sulfur supplement, you are likely to come across many MSM products. MSM is a naturally occurring organic compound that contains sulfur. It is also sometimes called dimethylsulfone, methylsulfone, sulfonylbismethane, or crystalline dimethylsulfoxide. MSM is also called "organic sulfur".

The word " organic " is used to describe it because it is a carbon-containing molecule, not because it meets USDA standards for using the term in relation to agriculture, food production and sale.

Please note that most supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When choosing a supplement, always check the product label to see if it contains other ingredients. Reports have been published of supplements containing ingredients that are not listed on the labels. In some cases, the product may also deliver doses that differ from the amount indicated on the label.

Although it is illegal to sell nutritional supplements as a treatment or treatment for a disease, or to reduce the symptoms of a disease, the FDA does not test products for their safety or effectiveness.

When choosing a supplement, try to find products that are certified by ConsumerLabs, USP, or NSF International. These organizations also do not guarantee that the product is safe or effective, but they do provide assurance that the product has been manufactured correctly, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.

Other questions

What foods contain sulfur?
Sulfur is naturally found in foods like dairy, eggs, beef, poultry, seafood, onions, garlic, turnips, cabbage, and broccoli.

What are the alternatives to sulfur to reduce joint pain?
Practicing yoga or tai chi and / or undergoing acupuncture can help control and relieve arthritis pain and improve vitality in some people.

Does sulfur smell bad?
No. Pure sulfur is odorless. People often assume that bad smell from rotten eggs is related to sulfur, but it is actually caused by hydrogen sulfide.

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