MSM – A Basic Essential Nutrient For Horses You Need To Know About
Updated: May 11
Since I manage arthritis in my performance horse Cole, I continually research natural joint solutions geared toward pain relief and inflammation reduction.
One very budget-friendly supplement I have come across is Methylsulfonylmethane, more commonly known as MSM. MSM is widely studied in humans and has many science-backed benefits. Though most of the studies are for people, the benefits relate equally to animals, including horses.
MSM, first identified around the time of World War II, is simply an easy-to-absorb bioavailable form of sulfur. Humans have long recognized sulfur for its healing qualities. Sulfur hot springs have been popular throughout history for their therapeutic healing effects. Despite the rotten egg smell, more than a few springs have claimed to be “Fountains of Youth.”
Before modern medicine, doctors often prescribed sulfur for soaking in a hot bath. Throughout history, the use of sulfur-rich plants such as garlic, cabbage, and onions, have also been popular as alternative medicines.
Though human history has long recognized the healing qualities of sulfur, modern science rediscovered and recognized its benefits in the late 1950s. Researchers then broke down DMSO, a sulfur compound, into its components and found its major byproduct, DMSO2 (or MSM), provided the same pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties without the unpleasant fishlike odor and taste.
One of the popular uses of MSM is to decrease joint and muscle pain. Studies in humans have shown that MSM significantly reduces inflammation in the body. It also inhibits the breakdown of cartilage.
The anti-inflammatory effects of MSM are well documented and thought to inhibit NF-kB, a protein involved in inflammatory responses in the body. (1)
Arthritis is a common inflammatory condition that causes pain and stiffness. A study in 49 people with knee osteoarthritis found that 3.4 grams of MSM per day for 12 weeks reduced pain and stiffness plus it improved physical function and quality of life. (2)
During strenuous exercise muscle damage occurs and oxidative stress increases. This causes athletes to experience pain and muscle soreness. MSM was evaluated in the first peer-reviewed study of 24 show jumpers during a 5-week competitive tour. The blood samples were analyzed for various measures of oxidation and cellular antioxidant enzymes, which control the production of free radicals in the body. The horses supplemented with MSM had levels of oxidative changes almost the same as pre-exercise levels. The results of this study suggest that MSM has a protective effect against oxidation in athletic horses. (3)
MSM is a popular supplement often added to joint supplements that include glucosamine and chondroitin. However, it can also work as a stand-alone supplement to manage pain and inflammation in joints at a fraction of the price. For instance, Vita Flex MSM Ultra Pure contains 10,000 mg of MSM per 10.1-gram scoop. A 1 lb. bucket for horses contains a 44-day supply and can be found on Amazon for as low as $9.99 or on SmartPak for $11.95.