Why DMSO for Herpes is Hazardous and Controversial

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Herpes has no cure, only outbreak treatments like Valtrex. That explains why people in search of natural remedies and supplements are hungry for answers. One controversial alternative treatment — sometime even called a cure — is DMSO for herpes. What is DMSO all about, and are the claims real?

Always consult your doctor before embarking on any new treatment plan. Information on this website is not medical advice and is for informational purposes only.

What is DMSO?

DMSO stands for dimethyl sulfoxide. This organic compound occurs naturally in foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and animal products. However, it is synthesized as a by-product of wood pulp.

DMSO is a colorless liquid used as a solvent in the manufacturing industry, but it has medical applications as well. It began its pharmaceutical use in 1961. Today, DMSO is available as a prescription drug and as an over-the-counter dietary supplement.

As a drug, doctors administer DMSO in three ways: applied to skin topically, taken orally, or given intravenously.

Is DMSO Dangerous?

In the 1960s, researchers found that using DMSO on skin can lead to dermatitis.

And in 1980, workers around the substance in hospitals complained of headaches and nausea from the fumes.

Thanks to that, a safety group evaluated DMSO as a health hazard at the San Francisco General Hospital in 1980. Their report noted that DMSO caused reproductive harm and blood pressure effects in rodents. The paper also notes that it has the same effect on humans as solvent exposure. It also caused dermatitis. They recommended new standards to handle it safely in the hospital. The safety report is on this page hosted by the CDC.

A few decades ago, the FDA suspended clinical trials of DMSO. A woman in Ireland died from an allergic reaction to it and other drugs she was taking. Since then, the FDA has refused many clinical trials.

The FDA approves the use of DMSO in only two areas:

  1. for preserving organs for transplant, and
  2. for the treatment of cystitis, a bladder disease.

How Health Forums Promote DMSO

People typically find out about DMSO in alternative health forums online. To them it seems perfect, since DMSO is cheap and easy to buy for personal use.

Advocates say it works because it can quickly but deeply penetrate skin. However, crossing skin barriers so effectively means it also carries bacteria and other substances with it.

Advocates also claim it reduces free radical damage, increases white blood cells, and strengthens immunity, promoting wound healing and reducing inflammation.

Users believe DMSO can enter herpes virus cells and kill them from within. They cite DMSO’s oxygen and say no virus can live in an oxygenated environment. The oxygen supposedly prevents the virus from multiplying, so the outbreak heals quickly.

Researchers and doctors do recognize some therapeutic benefits of DMSO in limited situations.

The medical use of DMSO is controversial. It has hazards like the ones in the CDC paper above.

DMSO can also strengthen some medicines such as steroids or sedatives, leading to serious health issues.

How do They Use DMSO?

People who use DMSO for herpes test a pharmaceutical grade for allergic reactions. Then, they apply it to an outbreak for three days following the initial outbreak. Next, they do maintenance applications for three days every month for up to five months. However, we do not advise this. Talk to a physician before changing or starting any treatment plan.

Difficulties in DMSO Research

Unfortunately, researchers can’t test DMSO in double-blind studies. Its garlic smell makes it obvious which test subjects have the drug and which ones have a placebo. This makes it difficult to conduct clinical trials. Drug companies are concerned that the garlic smell will make the drug difficult to sell to doctors and the public.

Trials have not been done on DMSO for herpes.

What is DMSO2?

MSM is an oxidized version of DMSO that is gaining popularity. It’s out of the purview of this article, but you can read about it on Dr. Axe’s website here.

Herpes can only be treated with antivirals or lifestyle management. Natural herpes treatment is based on diet, lifestyle, and health changes. See our articles on diet to manage herpes outbreaks and natural remedies and supplements.

Speak to a doctor about clinically tested options and find out what’s right for you.