What is DMSO and what is it used for?

What is DMSO?

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is a chemical that is available as a prescription drug and dietary supplement. It is a highly polar solvent for many organic and inorganic substances, interacts with molecules, such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, water, and ethanol, and serves as a vehicle for medications to pass through the skin. It can be taken orally, applied to the skin, or injected into the veins.

For what do you use it

As reported by Natural Medicines, on its site on Dietary Supplements and Complementary and Alternative Therapies, the following uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They have often not been fully tested in humans and their safety and efficacy have not always been proven. As some of these conditions are potentially serious, consulting a healthcare professional is advised.

DMSO is a product approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of a bladder condition called interstitial cystitis. Washing your hands with DMSO seems to improve the symptoms associated with this condition.


The consumption of DMSO could cause certain interactions with the following types of medications, so it is advisable not to combine them:

  • Carboplatin (Paraplatin)
  • Cisplatin (Platinol-AQ)
  • Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
  • Drugs that are given by injection (Injectable Drugs).
  • Medications that are applied to the skin, eyes and ears (Topical drugs).
  • Medications that are taken by mouth (Oral Drugs).

Currently, no interaction with food is known.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research, according to Natural Medicines:

Application on the skin:

A cream containing 50% DMSO was applied up to 5 times a day for 2 to 12 months to treat chronic pain caused by a condition called complex regional pain syndrome.

To prevent skin and tissue damage caused by intravenous fluid leakage in chemotherapeutic treatments, a bandage containing 77-90% DMSO solution was used, applied every 3 to 8 hours for 2 weeks.

Between 50 and 40% idoxuridine in DMSO was applied within 48 hours of the appearance of a rash caused by shingles (herpes zoster), and every 4 hours for the next few days until the skin began to heal.

Inside the bladder

DMSO is an FDA approved product for the treatment of interstitial cystitis. Healthcare providers drip a DMSO solution into the bladder through a tube called a catheter. Once the catheter is removed, the patient is asked to hold the solution for a moment before urinating. This procedure also applies to inflammatory bladder disease.

Concern about its use

DMSO is considered safe as long as it is used as a prescription drug. It is important not to use DMSO products that are not prescribed by a healthcare professional, as there is a concern that some of these are “industrial grade” and are therefore not accepted for human use.

In that case, they are not considered safe, because they may contain impurities that can have a harmful effect on health. To make matters worse, DMSO easily penetrates through the skin so these impurities are quickly absorbed by the body.

Some side effects of ingesting DMSO include skin reactions, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, breathing, vision, and blood problems, garlic-like taste, breath, and body odor, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.

There is not enough reliable information on whether it is safe to take DMSO during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so caution or avoid its use is advised. This warning also extends to people with diabetes, as it could alter the way insulin works, with blood disorders, as it could cause the breakdown of red blood cells, or with liver and kidney problems.