DMSO was first discovered and synthesised by Russian scientist Alexander Zaytsev in 1866 and is an industrial by-product of natural wood processing. The substance is colorless and oily to the touch. He and his colleagues became curious about this new substance and realised they just found an excellent solvent. He wrote an article in 1867 for a German publication which remained the only one for the next 80 years.
In 1962, the American surgeon Stanley Jacob took an interest in DMSO as he was looking for a preservative for kidneys to be transplanted. He asked Dr. Robert Henschler, who headed the research department at a paper mill if he could get DMSO. Dr. Jacob started experimenting and accidentally spilled some on his skin. He noticed right away a strange taste is his mouth similar to oysters and no serious consequences. Then Dr. Jacob and Dr. Herschler researched the effects of DMSO on plants, animals and later on individual cases on humans. They discovered it could penetrate the skin and other membranes in a very short time without damaging them while carrying other compounds into a biological system. Moreover, their early studies showed that DMSO relieved pain, reduced swelling, inhibited bacteria and had muscle-relaxing and diuretic effects. It also smoothed scar tissue and the effects of other substances mixed with DMSO increased.
Dr. Jacob published the first report on DMSO in 1964 as a therapeutic agent. Consequently, numerous people in the medical field such as veterinarians, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and dentists were using DMSO for various reasons. Despite the positive findings on health, they were insufficient as it was not clear as to how DMSO affect the body and its side effects.
In 1965, the FDA instructed all clinical trials to be discontinued as toxicological studies showed side effects including loss of focus. A year later, the strict ban was relaxed and research resumed for conditions such as rheumatic arthritis, sprain or tendinitis. All products containing DMSO as a medicinal product were rejected by the FDA, even if research had been approved and the results were positive. DMSO remained banned as medicine until 1983. However, DMSO is a solvent and could be purchased from hardware stores and it mainly spread through word of mouth and is used by a wide array of people under their own discretion.
DMSO has been examined for the treatment of numerous conditions and ailments, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved its use only for the symptomatic relief of patients with interstitial cystitis.
What is DMSO?
Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) belongs to the group of sulfoxides and is an organic, bipolar solvent with an oily feel that is odourless and colorless. It’s chemical formula is (CH3)2SO. This colorless liquid is an important polar solvent that dissolves both polar and nonpolar compounds and is mixable in a wide range of organic solvents as well as water. DMSO has the unusual property that many individuals perceive a garlic-like taste in the mouth after contact with the skin.
The solvent is preferred in the industrial and technical branch used because it is a bipolar solvent, water-soluble and also has fat-soluble properties. This includes as a stripper or as a general solvent. Because of its ability to dissolve many kinds of compounds, DMSO also plays a role in sample management and high-throughput screening operations in drug design.
In medicine, DMSO is predominantly used as a topical analgesic, a vehicle for topical application of pharmaceuticals, as an anti-inflammatory, and an antioxidant. Because DMSO increases the rate of absorption of some compounds through biological tissues, including skin, it is used in some transdermal drug delivery systems. It is frequently compounded with antifungal medications, enabling them to penetrate not just skin but also toenails and fingernails.
The most commonly reported side effects include headaches and burning/itching on contact with the skin. Handle with care as DMSO can cause contaminants, toxins, and medicines to be absorbed through the skin, which may cause unexpected effects.