DMSO is short for Dimethyl sulfoxide, which is a chemical compound that has the formula (CH3)2SO. The most interesting property of DMSO is the fact that not only can it easily penetrate the skin, but when it does penetrate the skin, it causes a taste in the mouth that is similar to that of garlic or an oyster. When used as a medicine, other potential side effects of DMSO include skin irritation (specifically at the site where the DMSO was applied to the skin), an upset stomach, headaches, increased light sensitivity and visual disturbances.
Although there are a variety of uses for DMSO, the uses that the average person is most interested in are those related to medicine. While DMSO was originally synthesized back in 1866, it wasn’t until 1963 when it started to be used for medicinal purposes. The most common use of DMSO is as a topical analgesic. This means that it can be used in the roles of an anti-inflammatory medicine or as an antioxidant. Additionally, DMSO has been approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of interstitial cystitis.
In addition to its medicinal uses in humans, DMSO is also used in the treatment of horses. Specifically, it is used as a liniment (which is a medicated topical preparation for application to the skin) for horses.
DMSO has not been without its share of controversies. In addition to a report in 1965 that DMSO was the cause of death for a woman undergoing treatment for a sprained wrist, there have also been claims that the FDA has been slow in approving it for uses in treatments other than that of interstitial cystitis.