Learn how to make an effective pain cream featuring MSM powder – a popular natural supplement containing sulfur.
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a dietary supplement powder that’s often taken internally as a natural remedy to provide significant improvement for joint pain, arthritis, inflammation, seasonal allergies, and healthier skin, hair, and nails.
It’s also used externally in pain creams for sore knees and joints, stiffness, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Additionally, this sulfur based compound is featured in topical skin care products for acne, wrinkles, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and other skin conditions, improving the overall texture and skin quality.
Today, we’re going to use it to make a thick but fast absorbing pain cream!
How much MSM powder can you add to lotions & creams?
Use around 5 to 15% MSM powder (sometimes called MSM crystals, or organic sulfur) in your skincare products. This means if the total weight of the ingredients in your lotion or cream recipe equals 100 grams, you could use 5 to 15 grams of MSM powder.
MSM powder is water soluble – so be sure to add it to the water portion of your recipe. (Or mix it with aloe, or another water based ingredient.)
Conversion Note: 5 grams of MSM powder = about 1 1/8 teaspoons
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) cream can be used on trouble spots, or rubbed all over for general aches, pains, and inflammation.
While organic sulfur is found in nature in vegetables, fruits, grains, and meat, the MSM supplement is a much more concentrated source that’s derived from dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). Since it’s absorbed through your skin, double check with your doctor or health care professional before using if you’re pregnant or nursing.
In this recipe, we’re making a thick cream – an emulsified body butter of sorts, but one that contains water, so that the MSM powder can be completely dissolved and activated.
However, once you add water to oils and butters, you create a cozy place for bacteria and mold to grow. To solve that, an organic approved preservative is used to keep the product natural and safe!
Related Article: 10 Natural Preservatives for Homemade Skin Care
To make this recipe, you’ll need:
- a digital kitchen scale that measures in grams
- a handheld mixer
- a half pint jar, or other heatproof container
- a wide mouth pint jar, or a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup
- saucepan that will hold both jars
For more information on making lotions and creams using herbs, flowers, essential oils, emulsifiers, and natural preservatives, check out my Handmade Lotions & Creams eBook Collection.
MSM Pain Cream Recipe
Yield: about 7 fluid ounces (fl oz) of pain cream
- 116 g (4.1 oz) distilled water
- 10 g (0.35 oz) MSM powder (I use the NOW brand, purchased from my local health store)
Oils & wax group:
- 40 g (1.41 oz) mango or shea butter
- 18 g (0.63 oz) carrier oil of your choice*
- 12 g (0.42 oz) emulsifying wax (I use vegetable e-wax from Mountain Rose Herbs)
Cool down group:
- 2 g (0.07 oz) Geogard ECT (an organic approved preservative), or preservative of your choice
- Essential oils: 50 drops juniper berry, 12 drops sweet orange** (this is a 1.5% dilution rate; double the amounts if not strong enough)
**For a variation, try replacing the sweet orange with lavender (helps you relax), or peppermint (invigorates & cools), or rosemary (adds extra pain relief) essential oil. Juniper berry essential oil is warming and helps with pain relief, but if you don’t have any available, try using cypress (one of our favorites for pain relief!), fir needle, or cedarwood in its place for similar effect.
The essential oil amount can be safely doubled and still remain in the safe range for a topical pain product. (Please see my Essential Oil Dilution Chart + Amounts to Use in Skin Care article for more information.)
Can I use beeswax instead of emulsifying wax?
No, beeswax doesn’t work the same way as a commercial emulsifier. If you don’t want to use regular emulsifying wax, you should be able to use an alternative Ecocert or organic-approved emulsifier such as Olivem 1000 or Ritamulse SCG, or find your favorite beeswax based cream and add MSM to the water portion.
Instructions to Make:
- Weigh out the water and MSM powder into a half pint jar. Stir until the powder is dissolved. This will be your water phase (water group).
- Place a canning lid or small saucer loosely on the jar of water and powder, then set aside until after you’ve prepared the oil group. (The lid is used to keep the water amount from evaporating into the air.)
- In a wide mouth pint jar, combine the mango butter, oil, and emulsifying wax. This is your oil phase (oil & wax group).
- Place both jars in a saucepan filled with several inches of water, forming a makeshift double boiler.
- Place the pan over a medium low burner and heat until the wax is completely melted. This usually takes around 20 minutes. If it’s melting too slow, turn the heat closer to medium. If you have a thermometer, the mixtures will be around 167°F (75°C).
- Remove the pan from the heat source and then remove the jars from the pan carefully. You may need to use a pot holder since the jars will be hot.
- If you used a wide mouth pint jar to melt the oils, butter, and wax together, place one beater in your hand mixer. If you used a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup, use two beaters.
- Pour the hot water and MSM mixture (the water group) into the jar/container of melted oil, butter, and wax.
- Mix by hand, using a fork for 2 to 3 minutes, wait a couple of minutes, then mix with a fork for another minute or two.
- After the jar or container has cooled for several minutes, you can speed up the mixing process by placing it into a bowl filled with cool water. Gradually add an ice cube or two at a time, to create an ice bath for the mixing container. (We do this gradually, so there’s not a sudden temperature change to the glass jar.)
- Switch to using your hand mixer, and beat the mixture on medium-high to high, until it’s light and fluffy, stopping a few times to scrape the sides of the jar/container, and to add the preservative and essential oils. (If you have a thermometer, check that the mixture is under 104 degrees F before adding these.)
- Spoon the finished body butter into containers. Once completely cool, cap with their lids and label. Shelf life is 3 to 6 months, if stored in a cool dry spot, out of direct heat and sunlight.
How to Add MSM to Your Favorite Lotion or Cream Recipe:
When adding MSM powder to an existing lotion or cream recipe, remove an equal amount of water from the recipe, to help maintain a proper ratio of preservative.
As an example: If you have a recipe that calls for 75 g water, 7 g emulsifier, 18 g oil, it could be converted to ——> 60 g water, 15 g MSM powder, 7 g emulsifier, 18 g oil.
(When changing an existing recipe, you’ll likely need to make a few test batches & tinker with oil/water/emulsifier ratios to get the MSM lotion or cream to turn out as thick/thin as you’d like.)
References & Further Reading
Ameye, Laurent G, et al. Osteoarthritis and nutrition. From nutraceuticals to functional foods: a systematic review of the scientific evidence. Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2006;8(4):R127. doi: 10.1186/ar2016.
Barrager, Eleanor, et al. A multicentered, open-label trial on the safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2002 Apr;8(2):167-73. doi: 10.1089/107555302317371451.
Kalman, Douglas S., et al. Influence of methylsulfonylmethane on markers of exercise recovery and performance in healthy men: a pilot study. Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012; 9: 46. Published online 2012 Sep 27. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-46
Lim, Eun Joung, et al. Methylsulfonylmethane Suppresses Breast Cancer Growth by Down-Regulating STAT3 and STAT5b Pathways. PLoS One. 2012; 7(4): e33361. Published online 2012 Apr 2. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033361