Home Page

MSM Supplement Information Centre

Glucosamine Information

Magnesium Oxide Information

Products & Prices

What Our Customers Say

At your service

Contact Page

Privacy Policy

Terms and Conditions


Site Map

DMSO / MSM - Pine Tree Source v Fossil Fuel Source - The great debate !

1). Definition of Fossil Fuel Source
2). Definition of Pine Tree Source
3). Understanding the basics of processing
4). Understanding the basics of source
5). Pine Tree Source MSM
6). Methyl Groups
7). Where do the the Methyl Groups come from?
8). Where does the DMSO come from for the manufacture of pine tree source MSM?
9). Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)
10). How is MSM made in nature
11). What’s the difference between DMSO from Pine tree source and DMSO from Fossil fuel source?
(Note: Fossil Fuel source DMSO is also referred to as petrochemical or synthetic source)
12). How do we know if the MSM is derived from Pine Tree Source or Fossil Fuel Source?
13). What about lab testing?
14). Carbon Dating
15). So what’s all the fuss about the source of MSM?
16). Messages from Water
17). DVD - "What the Bleep do we know"

18). References


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)

Back to top

2). Pine Tree Source / Plant 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)

Plant sources include corn

See also (5) below.

Back to top

3). Understanding the basics of processing:

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.

Back to top

4). Understanding the basics of source

Let's explore this for a full understanding and address any misconceptions.

We'll start with the example of Canadian Clover honey. I’m 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, it’s 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)).

Back to top

5). Pine Tree Source Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

Again, similarly, I’m also sure that the vast majority of people are well aware that MSM is not, nor cannot be extracted directly from a pine tree or vegetable source! Suggestions to the contrary (often seen on web sites and quoted in the press) reveal a fundamental ignorance of the very basics of source.

Back to top

6). Methyl Groups

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.

Back to top

7). Where do the Methyl Groups come from?

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.

Back to top

8). Where does the DMSO come from for the manufacture of pine tree source MSM?

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).

Back to top

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)

Back to top

10). How is MSM made in nature

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:

2 H2O + 2 NADP+ + 2 ADP + 2 Pi + light ---> 2 NADPH + 2 H+ + 2 ATP + O2 [ref 41]
Most notably, plants use the chemical energy to fix carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and other organic compounds through light-independent reactions. The overall equation for carbon fixation (sometimes referred to as carbon reduction) in green plants is:

3 CO2 + 9 ATP + 6 NADPH + 6 H+ ---> C3H6O3-phosphate + 9 ADP + 8 Pi + 6 NADP+ + 3 H2O [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.

Back to top

The question then arises:

11). What’s 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)

Surely DMSO's chemical composition (CH3)2SO is exactly the same for both sources!

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).

Back to top

12). So, how do we know if the MSM is derived from Pine Tree Source (Ref 2) or, Fossil Fuel Source (Ref 1) Sometimes referred to as Petrochemical Source (Ref 1a) ?

Sadly, there is no definitive answer (See below)

Back to top

13). What about lab testing?

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.

Back to top

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).

Back to top

15). So what’s all the fuss about the source of MSM?

Although we currently have no scientific means of measuring the difference, it doesn’t mean that we still feel there is a difference. For example, there is no apparent difference with water (Ref 32), surely if it’s pure then it’s all simply H2O (Ref 33) - Continued below:

Back to top

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 haven’t seen Emoto’s 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.

More water crystal images on this link

Back to top

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 it’s potential practical applications that some major corporations world wide are making it compulsory viewing for all it’s senior management! At the street level, the film has prompted thousands of discussion groups around the world. If you haven’t seen it then may I suggest you get a copy, you won’t 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

This article / web page is Copyright

Journalists / Editors: Please contact Mike Pritchard-Jones for permission to use this article in full or in part. You may find him most obliging if you seek permission first.

New Horizons
Pure Nutritional Supplements

"Feel The Difference"

The UK's No.1
Supplier of pure nutritional MSM

Tel: 01404 892 947

If calling from outside the UK
Please dial the country code

+44 1404 892 947

New Horizons
Unit 16
Flightway Business Park
Dunkeswell, Honiton
EX14 4RD

United Kingdom (UK)

Site Map

How to take MSM for Maximum Health Benefits

MSM Cream / Lotion - Free Recipe
How to make easily and cheaply

MSM Frequently Asked Question Page

MSM Books

18. References:

1. Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9364747
1a. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrochemical
2. Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9060072/pine
3. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Processing
4. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source
5. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee
6. Wikipedia: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9055160/nectar
7. Wikipedia: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9024456/clover
8. (Lansing State Journal, July 30, 1997): http://www.pa.msu.edu/sciencet/ask_st/073097.html
9. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methyl_group
10. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lignin
11. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmso
12. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper
13. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_liquor
14. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_liquor
15. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytoplankton
16. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatile_organic_compounds
17. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen
18. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra_violet
19. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyl_sulfone
20. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_Chromatography

21. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melting_Point
22. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Fischer_titration
23. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_metals
24. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbiological
25. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerobic_bacteria
26. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coliform_bacteria
27. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeast
28. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molds
29. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacterial
30. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moisture
31. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14
32. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water
33. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H20
34. You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWmWWqm1hFs
35. https://www.hado.net/dremoto/interview.php
36. https://www.hado.net/watercrystals/index.php
37. Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw/002-6295604-1585664?url=search-alias=aps&field-keywords=Messages+from+Water&x=18&y=22
38. Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Messages-Water-Masaru-Emoto/dp/0743289803/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206112421&sr=8-1
39. Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Water-Masaru-Emoto/dp/074328982X/ref=pd_bbs_9?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206112421&sr=8-9
40. http://www.whatthebleep.com/
41. Raven, Peter H.; Ray F. Evert, Susan E. Eichhorn (2005). Biology of Plants, 7th Edition. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company Publishers, 124-127. ISBN 0-7167-1007-2.
42. MSM - The Natural Solution for Pain - Page 26 - Jacob, Lawrence & Zukker - ) Dec 1999 - ISBN: 0-425-17265-1

Back to top