What is DMSO Cream?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is a colorless and odorless liquid whose original use was as an industrial solvent. DMSO is a byproduct that is created when trees are turned into paper. It can also be mixed into a cream, lotion, or ointment for some medical purposes. The chemical is often applied topically in a solution of 70-percent DMSO to 30-percent water.

The most distinctive property of DMSO is being able to quickly penetrate the skin. It can be used as a vehicle for delivering drugs such as penicillin and medical morphine through the skin. This may be a viable alternative to intravenous (IV) drug delivery.

DMSO products are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating interstitial cystitis only. Interstitial cystitis is a type of painful bladder infection. Treating this condition with the chemical requires a doctor to administer DMSO through a catheter into the bladder. The chemical is typically left in the bladder for 15 minutes, after which the patient urinates to flush it out. This procedure may result in some bladder discomfort.

There are other possible medical uses for DMSO cream; as of 2009, however, they have not been approved by the FDA. DMSO products can be topically applied to arthritic joints for the relief of pain and inflammation. They may also be used as a pain reliever for treating sprains, burns, and other minor injuries. DMSO cream may be helpful for accelerating the healing process, as well.


DMSO cream may result in skin irritation, burning or itching in the area where it is applied. Other possible side effects may include an upset stomach, a headache, and sensitivity to light. The primary side effect is a strong garlic taste in the mouth, and the patient’s skin may smell like garlic, as well. This occurs even when it is applied topically. As a result, this unavoidable side effect precludes this chemical from being tested in double-blind studies.

In a double-blind experiment, patients are given either the real drug or a placebo, and neither the patient nor the doctor knows who received which. With DMSO cream, a test subject would know if they were given a placebo or the chemical. This garlic flavor is the reason why the FDA has only approved DMSO for limited medical use.

Before using DMSO, a patient typically should discuss possible complications with his doctor. This chemical may heighten the effects of some medications such as blood-thinners, sedatives, and heart medications. This chemical may carry other drugs or contaminants through the skin and into the bloodstream. In addition, pregnant or breastfeeding women usually should avoid using DMSO cream.


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Post 4

I have used DMSO liquid and cream off and on in the past and had no apparent health problems. The garlic odor on the skin and on my breath was bothersome so I no longer use it.

I found out about DMSO from reading anecdotal accounts of pro and amateur athletes using it to be able to return to play sooner due to DMSO reducing pain and purportedly aiding in physical therapy and healing. The big question to have answered is whether the drug companies are using their influence to stifle the FDA's approving the use of DMSO for external use for arthritis and other aches and pains, etc., or if the FDA continues to have a valid concern about safety after all these years.

DMSO is generic and drug companies can't make a fortune off it as they would if it were available only by prescription. Same for the miracle drug, aspirin.

Post 3

I think that DMSO cream is dangerous. I used it for interstitial cystitis and it raised my liver enzymes.

Post 2

@ysmina-- I think that DMSO pain cream can be a good treatment option, but there are some things that you have to pay attention to when you're using DMSO.

Like the article said, this is a solvent that allows the skin to absorb medication. On its own, it won't do much and is usually mixed with a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin or ibuprofen.

But the danger in using DMSO is that if the skin and the tools used to apply the cream are not sterilized, you will be introducing bacteria and other things into your body.

Since there aren't many conclusive studies done on this drug, it's also a bad idea to use it

long-term. Most people who have used DMSO cream have only used it a few times when they had severe inflammation and pain and weren't getting results with other treatments. No one knows what kind of negative effects it may have in the long-term.

Plus, it's not easy to bear the garlic taste and smell.

Post 1

Has anyone here used DMSO cream for injury pain or arthritis pain?

A friend of mine said that she's using DMSO gel cream for arthritis pain and I'm considering using it for a foot injury. But is it safe? How long can it be used for?

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