Uses of this Supplement
Radiation Damage
Rheumatoid Arthritis
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Look Up > Supplements > Sulfur
Dietary Sources
Commercial Preparations
Therapeutic Uses
Dosage Ranges and Duration of Administration
Side Effects/Toxicology


The mineral sulfur has been used medicinally for more than 2,000 years. In The Odyssey, Homer describes burning sulfur to purify the air. This same practice was used during times of plague in Europe to disinfect contaminated areas. It is a constituent of the amino acids cystine, cysteine, and methionine, present in all cells of the body. It is considered nontoxic as any excess not used by the body is excreted in the urine and feces. Recognized as a "macromineral," it is found in significant amounts (>5 g) in the body. About 0.25% of our body weight is sulfur. It is most prevalent in the keratin of skin, hair, and nails. It also is found as a component of the anticoagulant heparin, and as chondroitin sulfate found in healthy bones and cartilage. Known as "nature's beauty mineral" it is fundamental for the synthesis of collagen, which keeps the skin elastic and young-looking. Today, it is primarily used as a treatment for skin ailments such as eczema and other itchy skin conditions. It also aids oxidation reactions and protects the body against toxins which are increasingly present in our environment.

Arthritis sufferers flock to therapeutic sulfur hot springs to benefit from their pain-reducing effect, whether it be solely through the sulfur content, or through some action of other minerals. A 1992 Russian study determined that sulfur baths significantly lowered the pain sensitivity of patients with rheumatic diseases. An early study determined that taking sulfur baths raises the body's blood level of sulfur, in effect acting as a supplement, while other research indicates that sulfur is a desensitizing agent for the pain and discomfort experienced by cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. Recent research suggests the reported beneficial effects of garlic (such as lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar) are at least partly due to the sulfur it contains.

Dietary Sources

Because sulfur is a constituent of the amino acids cystine, cysteine, and methionine, it is found in protein-rich foods such as meat, organ meats, poultry, fish, eggs, cooked dried beans and peas, and milk and milk products. Other good sources include garlic, onions, brussels sprouts, asparagus, kale, and wheat germ.


Sulfur in its elemental form is a mineral found in rock beside hot springs and volcanic craters. It is found sparsely in elemental form, but is widely seen combined with other metals. The sulfur used in homeopathic treatment is a yellow-green powder extracted from the mineral. The characteristic "rotten egg" smell is caused from sulfur dioxide gas.

Commercial Preparations

Supplementation with sulfur is usually not necessary because most people get the required amount from dietary protein, but certain commercial preparations are available. To ease skin rashes, ointments, creams, lotions, and dusting powders containing sulfur as the active ingredient are available. Organic sulfur in the form of MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is available as a dietary supplement in tablets and capsules.

Therapeutic Uses
  • Used to ease the red, itchy rash of eczema, candidiasis, dry scalp, diaper rash, hemorrhoids, and similar conditions
  • Aids in digestive disorders, especially regurgitation of food, indigestion made worse by milk, and chronic diarrhea and vomiting in the morning
  • To help gynecological complaints such as PMS and menopausal symptoms
  • To ease the symptoms of rheumatism, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Can help acne; used as a topical antiseptic similar to benzoyl peroxide, but not as potent or irritating to the skin
  • May aid mental stress such as depression, irritability, forgetfulness, disturbed sleep
  • Good for eye health
  • Can help treat offensive body odors
  • Reported to reduce reaction to radiation therapy used in cancer treatment

Dosage Ranges and Duration of Administration

There is no specific RDA established for sulfur. It is thought that approximately 850 mg/day is needed, considering the daily turnover of sulfur in the body.

For arthritis patients, 500 to 1,000 mg/day is the pharmacologic dosage range.

Side Effects/Toxicology

No toxicity symptoms have been reported for elemental sulfur specifically since all excesses are excreted. However, some people are highly allergic to relatives of sulfur such as sulfites and sulfa drugs. Sulfites, sulfur-containing food preservatives, can trigger asthma and other allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. The major side effect of sulfa drugs is hypoglycemia, although other reactions include skin rashes, headache, fever, fatigue, and gastric distress. Sulfur-sensitive patients should avoid these drugs.

  • Regarding sulfa drugs: Do not use during long-term corticosteroid use or pregnancy.
  • Persons who are allergic to various sulfur containing compounds such as sulfites, sulfates, and sulfa drugs should probably avoid sulfur supplements as a precaution.
  • Use sulfa drugs with caution in those who are elderly, alcoholic, or have impaired kidney or liver function.


No clinically significant interactions between sulfur and conventional medications are known to have been reported in the literature to date.


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Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications

This publication contains information relating to general principles of medical care that should not in any event be construed as specific instructions for individual patients. The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. The reader is advised to check product information (including package inserts) for changes and new information regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.