DMSO As A Solvent
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, California
To exist, life must have a space in which to exist. Water is that space. All
life, at least on this planet, is water based. The atoms and molecules which
conduct the life process react with each other in water as the solvent. It
is hard to imagine life without water. However, life might be possible in
the presence of another solvent with qualities equal or superior to water.
It may be that water is the solvent used by life on earth simply because it
is here in much greater quantities than any other solvent.
A "solvent" is a carrier solution meaning that it has the capacity to
accommodate other atoms and molecules in such a way that they are in
"solution." What it means to be in solution is that the atoms and molecules
are separated from each other by the solvent. When atoms and molecules are
thus separated, they are said to be "carried" by the solvent, or "in
For example, water is an excellent solvent for salt. If you put a teaspoon
of table salt in a glass of water and stir, soon you are unable to see the
salt. It has gone into solution, i.e., the atoms of sodium and chloride are
separated from each other and held apart by dihydrous oxygen (water).
Industrial chemists are always interested in finding new and more effective
solvents. The perfect solvent, in an industrial sense, is that solvent which
has the ability to put almost anything into solution in high concentration,
is cheap, safe and smells good. Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), except for the
smell good apart, is just such a solvent.
Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) was first synthesized in 1866 by the Russian
scientist Alexander Saytzeff. Dr. Saytzeff reported his findings in a German
chemistry journal in 1867. From there DMSO languished unnoticed in obscurity
for 81 years! After World War II, chemists began to take note of the
remarkable versatility of DMSO. They noticed it could dissolve almost
anything and carry it in solution.
In the 1960s, medical research with DMSO showed it could not only dissolve
substances, but it could also penetrate human skin and carry the dissolved
substances along with it! This is remarkable, because human skin is
impenetrable to most substances.
It was also shown to relieve pain and swelling, relax muscles, relieve
arthritis, improve blood supply and slow the growth of bacteria. It relieves
the pain of sprains and even of broken bones. It enhances the effectiveness
of other pharmacological agents. If you apply DMSO to a bruise, the bruise
dissolves and disappears in a matter of minutes! If you apply it to the jaw
after wisdom tooth removal, all pain and swelling is prevented! The pain of
acute gout can be handled with the application of 5 cc of seventy percent
DMSO in water four times each day. Application to a fever blister results in
rapid resolution of this problem. DMSO also relieves the pain of minor burns
and if applied soon after the burn happens, will decrease the tissue damage
suffered. DMSO speeds all healing, approximately doubling or tripling all
All applications should be done with a cotton swab allowing sufficient time
after the solution is painted on to allow for absorption through the skin
before covering with clothes. Remember, DMSO is a powerful solvent, and it
will take the dye right out of your clothes and deposit it in your skin
where you will have to wait for it to grow out.
The skin of the face, neck and intertriginous zones (where skin rubs against
skin) are highly sensitive to DMSO and should be exposed only to dilute
solutions of fifty percent (half and half with distilled water) or less. Any
skin irritation associated with the application of DMSO can be treated
topically with aloe vera gel.
In the states in which it is legal to do so, doctors experienced with DMSO
treat the symptoms of cancer, atherosclerosis, Parkinson's disease, multiple
sclerosis and arthritis with an intravenous push of up to 20 cc of a 25%
solution of DMSO. An alternative method is to put 50-100 cc in 500 cc of
saline or five percent dextrose, and drip it in over a two- to three-hour
period with or without EDTA. Only doctors who are trained and experienced in
this form of therapy should administer it.
DMSO, although it is not approved by the FDA for anything except an obscure
bladder condition (interstitial cystitis), is widely used in sports
medicine. Professional sports in particular are obligated to use DMSO to get
their athletes recovered from injury and back on the playing field. Each
team knows the competition will use it, and this would mean a tremendous
advantage for the other team, if it were to be ignored. Combine that with
the fact that DMSO is as safe as it is effective (unlike large-dose steroid
injections, which were once commonly used in professional sports) and its
use becomes mandatory in professional sports medicine.
When you consider the fact that DMSO is not a new and patentable drug, is
cheap, safe and effective, and knowing what you should know about the
medical establishment in the U.S., you could predict with your eyes closed
that there is a propaganda campaign against DMSO. The FDA has done nothing
except drag its feet in DMSO research since October 25, 1963 when the first
research application to study DMSO was filed with that agency.
Despite the rejection of DMSO by the American medical establishment, this
simple solvent is far from finished. Legally, it can only be sold as a
solvent, but sufferers of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are using
it with regularity, usually having heard of it from a friend and fellow
arthritis sufferer. Only medical grade — never industrial grade — should be
used on the human body due to the acetone and acid contaminants present in
the industrial grade product. Grocery stores which specialize in organically
grown foods and health food stores are the most likely places to find
medical grade DMSO. A bottle will cost you only a few dollars and will save
hundreds, even thousands of dollars in doctor and pharmacy bills. No wonder
the medical establishment is lined up against it!
The only medical grade DMSO is available from Terra Pharmaceuticals, in
Buena Park, California. It is distributed through Research Industries, of
Salt Lake City, Utah. Once obtained from Terra Pharmaceuticals distributors
slap on their own brand name. Rimso and Domoso are a couple of the brand
names. Because of FDA regulations, even the medical grade DMSO container
must bear the words "Not For Medical Use." Veterinarians have no such
restrictions. The government will allow a five million dollar race horse to
be bathed in DMSO but tries to restrict your personal use!
One particularly pleasant form of DMSO, which is in a lemon scented salve
base, comes from Dr. James Critchlow of Phyne Pharmaceuticals in Scottsdale,
Arizona. You can reach him by calling (800) 345-3391.
Many legislative battles have been fought to bypass the FDA and legalize
DMSO. Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Rep. Wendell Wyatt, also of Oregon,
both have introduced bills into the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of
Representatives, respectively, to legalize DMSO. Since these bills were
introduced, the FDA has been under legislative investigation of its
regulatory procedures. Some state legislatures have legalized the
prescribing of DMSO, effectively bypassing the FDA. These states are
Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
So, how does DMSO work? For one thing it neutralizes hydroxyl radicals. "So
what?" you say? It turns out hydroxyl free radicals are the predominant
cause of pain and inflammation in arthritis. Although DMSO is not known to
cure cancer, it is true hydroxyl free radicals are present in cancer and in
atherosclerosis. Hydroxyl radicals also are known to be produced in lipid
peroxidation, which is thought to be the source of many degenerative
It also turns out DMSO is more "liquid" than water, and it can therefore
penetrate to places in the body nothing else can reach so fast. DMSO
substitutes for water and moves rapidly through cell membranes. It has been
called "water's alter ego." This ability probably is what makes DMSO so
unique as to be an entirely new therapeutic principle.
DMSO changes the water structure within the cell. Water exists in two basic
structures, one more highly organized and one less organized. It may be that
DMSO shifts the equilibrium between these two states of water toward the
more organized form and thus speeds up the living processes of the cell,
allowing healing to happen in a much accelerated fashion.
The problem with DMSO is that it is so versatile and is such good treatment
for so many conditions, it has fallen into the snake oil trap. It is too
good to be believed. In the Old West, peddlers of snake oil would come to
town and lecture the local folks on snake oil. This stuff was said to be
"good for what ails ya!" These con artists would sell a load of snake oil
and then hit the road, never to be seen again. This didn't prevent the next
super-salesman from coming to town and repeating the process. Eventually,
snake oil got a bad name and took along with it any therapy which has a wide
range of uses. DMSO, like hydrogen peroxide and EDTA, is almost too good to
To be fully accepted, a therapy must have the general support of doctors. We
have given over to these people the responsibility to know the difference
between legitimate medicine and quack medicine. What we fail to take into
consideration is that doctors are business people and, as such — and
correctly so — they are interested in the bottom line. Income minus expenses
equals profits. Profits allow the business of medicine to go forward. If you
go out of business, it doesn't matter how pure your motives are, you cannot
do good for many people.
DMSO, like hydrogen peroxide and EDTA, are not big money makers. So doctors,
with some exceptions, do not spend much time learning about or recommending
them. People who benefit from these therapies are those who take the time to
educate themselves and who think for themselves. Thinking for oneself is not
exactly the national pastime.
Besides the great relief provided for sufferers of osteoarthritis,
rheumatoid arthritis, burns, sprains, back and neck problems, there are more
exotic uses for DMSO. Studies demonstrate that it protects against the
tissue damage induced by radioactivity! It serves as an excellent
antifreeze, preventing tissue damage ordinarily caused by freezing
conditions. It controls the swelling of the brain and spinal cord following
traumatic injury. If given intravenously within ninety minutes of a stroke,
it prevents much of what would become permanent damage to the central
nervous system. Applied topically, repeatedly, it will flatten a raised
keloid scar. It also prevents the contracture of scar tissue following
burns. It has an antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effect.
Some cancer researchers believe it has a useful place in the treatment of
many cancers in that it potentiates other forms of therapy. It decreases the
need for insulin in 25% of juvenile onset diabetics. Other uses of DMSO
include: tic doloreaux, headache, various skin diseases including herpes,
cataracts and glaucoma, retinal degeneration, scleroderma, shingles,
bunions, calluses, fungus toenails and asthma. These comments only scratch
the surface of the possible medical uses of DMSO.
Despite this, the FDA refuses to approve the use or prescription of DMSO for
anything other than interstitial cystitis in all but eight of our fifty
states! All of this in spite of the fact that DMSO is safer than aspirin.
Many people have died from taking aspirin. Not one person has ever died from
DMSO. This, folks, is not the age of medical enlightenment.
Despite the foot dragging of the FDA, a singular court ruling allows doctors
to use and prescribe this marvelous drug. This court ruling states that if
the FDA approves a drug as safe for any use whatsoever, it may be used at
the physician's discretion for whatever purpose it is deemed useful. Because
the FDA approves DMSO for use in interstitial cystitis, the door is open for
any physician of courage, in any state to use, prescribe and recommend DMSO.
The only drawback of which I can think to tell you regarding DMSO is its
smell. It is best compared to the smell of fresh garlic. After it has
reacted with the body, the odor appears in magnified form on the breath and
through the skin. This lasts for three days from the last treatment with
DMSO. This is not the stuff you will want to take just before going out on a
hot date. This odor of DMSO probably is a blessing in disguise. It makes a
person stop and think before using it and probably prevents indiscriminate
use of this wonderful medical miracle substance.
© 2002 The Doctors' Medical Library