MSM - DMSO - Where does the DMSO come from, does it really matter ?
MSM / DMSO
DMSO / MSM - Pine Tree Source v Fossil Fuel Source - The great debate !
1). Definition of Fossil Fuel Source
Definitions:1). Fossil Fuel Source:
Fossil fuels include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. They all contain carbon and were formed as a result of geologic processes acting on the remains of (mostly) plants and animals that lived and died hundreds of millions of years ago. (Ref 1)
Fossil Fuel Source - also know as Petrochemical Source :
Petrochemicals are chemical products made from raw materials of petroleum or other hydrocarbon origin. Although some of the chemical compounds that originate from petroleum may also be derived from other sources such as coal or natural gas, petroleum is a major source of many. (Ref 1a)
2). Pine Tree Source
Any of about 90 species of ornamental and timber evergreen conifers of the genus Pinus (family Pinaceae), distributed throughout the world but native primarily to northern temperate regions. (Ref 2)
See also (5) below.
It is commonly understood that processing (Ref 3) is essential in the manufacture and isolation of many nutrients (Ref 4), vitamins, minerals, trace elements and "natural" products. MSM is no exception in this respect.
Let's explore this for a full understanding and address any misconceptions.
We'll start with the example of Canadian Clover honey. Im sure the vast majority of people are well aware, the honey is not, nor cannot be extracted from a Clover leaf or Clover Petals.
In the case of Clover honey, the Honey Bees (Ref 5) collect Nectar (Ref 6) from Clover (Ref 7) and take it back to the hive where it is processed and becomes honey. The source material is Nectar from Clover, the end product is honey. In Canada, for example, its commonly called Pure / Natural Canadian Clover Honey. Made from Clover leaves or flowers? Of course not, Clover is simply the source of the Nectar, however, it is referred to, and widely accepted as, Pure Canadian Cover Honey. (See also - How do Bees make Honey (Ref 8)).
5). Pine Tree Source Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
Again, similarly, Im also sure that the vast majority of people are well aware that MSM is not, nor cannot be extracted directly from a pine tree! Suggestions to the contrary (often seen on web sites and quoted in the press) reveal a fundamental ignorance of the very basics of source.
In the case of MSM, the source material, rather than being Nectar as in the honey example above, are the Methyl groups (Ref 9) (One of the commonest structural units of organic compounds, consisting of three hydrogen atoms bonded to a carbon atom, which is linked to the remainder of the molecule. The methyl radical (CH3), the methyl cation (CH+3), and the methyl anion (CH-3)34 are transient intermediates in many chemical reactions.
a). In the case of Pine Tree Source MSM:
The Methyl Groups are found within the Lignin (Ref 10) structures of pine trees. Organic Lignin is the second most prevalent organic substance on earth, organic cellulose being the most prevalent. Organic Lignins are described as "The cement like bonds which hold organic cellulose together" constituting from a quarter to a third of the dry mass of wood. Needless to say, Lignin is vital in the structure of all living plant material. It is also the substance which contains the methyl groups (source material) we need for the production of "natural" source MSM as opposed to Fossil Fuel MSM.
b). In the case of Fossil Fuel Source MSM (often called petrochemical or synthetic MSM)
The Methyl Groups are derived from the Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) (Ref 11) by-product of petrochemical works. After oil and petrol have been refined there are a large number of by-products. DMSO in this case, is one of the by-products of the manufacture of Petrochemicals.
First we need to have a brief look at paper manufacture (Ref 12). Paper manufacturers use both mechanical and chemical methods to obtain the pulp fibres from trees needed to make paper. Mechanical pulping results in the vast majority of lignin going into the paper (This tends to make paper yellow with time) In contrast, chemical pulping breaks down the chemical structures of lignin and renders it soluble in the cooking liquor, so that it may be washed from the cellulose fibres. Because lignin holds the plant cells together, chemical pulping frees the fibres and makes pulp. The resulting by-product of paper manufacture is black liquor (Ref 13) which is an aqueous solution of lignin residues, hemicellulose and the inorganic chemicals used in the process. The black liquor is refined to obtain Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO).
9). Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) (CH3)2SO) (Ref 14)
MSM is produced by oxidising Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO). Just like bees in the honey example further above, we use a number of ingredients to facilitate this process, however, unlike honey, MSM produced by distillation is extremely pure.
The process we use to manufacture MSM reflects the way it is produced in the earth's upper atmosphere. The result is pure MSM identical to that produced by nature (See below)
The life cycle of DMSO and MSM (the closest relative of DMSO) begins in the oceans where the action of sun light on Phytoplankton (Ref 15) creates dimethylsulfonium salts which are trasformed into the gas Dimethylsulfide (DMS) (CH3)2S (Ref 42). In terms of numbers, the most important groups of Phytoplankton include the diatoms, cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates, although many other groups of algae are represented. One group, the coccolithophorids, is responsible (in part) for the release of significant amounts of Dimethylsulfide (DMS) into the atmosphere. (Ref 15)
Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is vloatile i.e. Volatile organic compounds (Ref 16) (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapour pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporise and enter the atmosphere. The DMS rises into the atmosphere where in the presence of Oxygen O2, (Ref 16), Ozone O3 (Ref 17), and high energy ultraviolet light (Ref 18), the DMS is transformed into Dimethyl Sulfoxide (CH3)2SO) (Ref 14) and Dimethyl Sulfone (MSM) (CH3)2SO2 (Ref 19).
These compounds fall to the earth in rain water and are concentrated by the roots of plants and trees upto 100 fold (Ref 42). Through photosynthesis, they become part of their living structure.
The energy for photosynthesis ultimately comes from absorbed photons and involves a reducing agent, which is water in the case of plants, releasing oxygen as a waste product. The light energy is converted to chemical energy (known as light-dependent reactions), in the form of ATP and NADPH, which are used for synthetic reactions in photoautotrophs. The overall equation for the light-dependent reactions under the conditions of non-cyclic electron flow in green plants is:
H2O + 2 NADP+ + 2 ADP + 2 Pi + light --->
2 NADPH + 2 H+ + 2 ATP + O2 [ref 41]
To be more specific, carbon fixation produces an intermediate product, which is then converted to the final carbohydrate products. The carbon skeletons produced by photosynthesis are then variously used to form other organic compounds, such as the building material cellulose, as precursors for lipid and amino acid biosynthesis, or as a fuel in cellular respiration.
The question then arises:
11). Whats the difference between DMSO from Pine tree source and DMSO from Fossil fuel source? (Ref 1) (Note: Fossil Fuel source DMSO is also referred to as petrochemical (Ref 1a) or synthetic source)
As long as they are both absolutely pure samples then it is generally understood that the chemical composition is the same for both however, even scientist are now questioning this - (See 14 & 15 below).
Sadly, there is no definitive answer (See below)
Although the following test are excellent for defining purity levels, they are not able to give any indication of source:
High Resolution Gas Chromatography (Ref 20) (HRGC):
A specific quantitative method that determines the volatile purity of MSM.
Melting Point (Ref 21) :
Reveals the non-volatile impurities not detected by HRGC. This is a very important test. Some manufacturers claim that their MSM is "99.9% pure", but they are only referring to volatile purity testing. That same MSM could contain 50% Epsom salts or some other non-volatile impurity for example and it would not affect the " 99.9%" volatile purity rating. Therefore, tests of non-volatile purity, such as melting point (Ref 21), are critical to confirm volatile purity results.
KFT: (Karl Fischer Titration Method) (Ref 22):
Pure MSM should be extremely dry, with a water content of less than 0.1%.
Heavy Metals (Ref 23) Testing:
Heavy metals (Ref 23): Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, Aluminium and Lead. Water is a key component of the MSM production process. Some MSM production facilities are located in areas (Far East) where local water supplies do not meet the recognised safe guidelines for organic and inorganic volatiles, heavy metals, and other contaminants, making heavy metal testing essential especially for MSM produced by the crystallisation method.
Microbiological (Ref 24) Testing:
For aerobic bacteria (Ref 25), total coliform bacteria (Ref 26), and yeast (Ref 27) and molds (Ref 28). Poor water quality can lead to coliform (Ref 26) and bacterial (Ref 29) contamination. Too much moisture (Ref 30) in the product can lead to yeast and mold contamination.
14). Carbon Dating (Ref 31)
Surely Carbon Dating would give a definitive answer!
Carbon dating (Ref 31) relies on a minimum of 5 to 10 carbons by comparing their ratio to carbon 12's and 13's. If a manufacturer uses DMSO from pine tree source and uses a basic crystallisation method, it would undoubtedly contain residues of the processing i.e. lignins and impurities which would enable carbon dating. MSM manufacturer Carolwood (Before they moved their plant to China) had their former Lignisul brand (Not Lignisul DC) carbon dated resulting in it being found to be "From recently living source material". It would be interesting to see what the result would be from their Lignisul DC manufactured from DMSO from fossil fuel source from China - though some suggest it is now manufactured in the USA.
In contrast, carbon dating is neither appropriate nor effective for MSM manufactured using the distillation process as all impurities and residues of lignins are removed by distillation. Consequently one has to rely on the trust, morals and integrity of the manufacturer to state the source of their DMSO.
Carbon Dating - What Do The Experts Think?
Robert Lee summed up the reasons behind the controversy over the Carbon dating method in his article "Radiocarbon, Ages in Error," published in the Anthropological Journal of Canada: "The troubles of the radiocarbon dating method are undeniably deep and serious. Despite 35 years of technical refinement and better understanding, the underlying assumptions have been strongly challenged, and warnings are out that radiocarbon may soon find itself in a crisis situation. Continuing use of the method depends on a 'fix-it-as-we-go' approach, allowing for contamination here, fractionation here, and calibration whenever possible. It should be no surprise, then, that fully half of the dates are rejected. The wonder is, surely, that the remaining half come to be accepted. No matter how 'useful' it is, though, the radiocarbon method is still not capable of yielding accurate and reliable results. There are gross discrepancies, the chronology is uneven and relative, and the accepted dates are actually selected dates" (Robert E. Lee, "Radiocarbon, Ages in Error," Anthropological Journal of Canada, Vol. 19, No.3, 1981, pp. 9, 29).
Although we currently have no scientific means of measuring the difference, it doesnt mean that we still feel there is a difference. For example, there is no apparent difference with water (Ref 32), surely if its pure then its all simply H2O (Ref 33) - Continued below:
16). Messages from Water (Ref 34) - Challenging Preconceived Scientific Assumptions
Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto (Ref 35), however, has made a remarkable discovery and revealed that contrary to common scientific opinion, water can be very different as seen with his breakthrough method of microscopic photography of frozen water crystals (Ref 36).
If you havent seen Emotos books Messages from Water(Ref 37), "The Hidden Messages in Water"(Ref 38) and "The Secret Life of Water"(Ref 39), then may I suggest you get copies. Beautifully illustrated they certainly call to question some of our preconceived scientific assumptions about the nature of elements and our influence on them, in a most stunning and compelling manner.
17). What the Bleep do we know
The question of our preconceived scientific notions and assumptions has also been brought under scrutiny in a most entertaining, thought provoking and greatly inspiring way in the DVD titled What the Bleep do we know (Ref 40) Leading thinkers and researchers in the quantum physics field introduce the exciting ramifications of the latest understanding of quantum physics and mechanics revealed in a delightfully easy to understand and most entertaining way, the film is so far reaching in its potential practical applications that some major corporations world wide are making it compulsory viewing for all its senior management! At the street level, the film has prompted thousands of discussion groups around the world. If you havent seen it then may I suggest you get a copy, you wont be disappointed!
I hope this is somewhat helpful in your understanding about the great controversy and debate regarding the source of DMSO and MSM - obviously the story will continue as manufacturers come and go, new processes and analytical methods are developed - We'll keep you posted !
My very best wishes for your health :)
Mike Pritchard-Jones © February 2008
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