A few months ago I was interviewed for an article where they asked me whether I thought that a deer repellant which was taken up into a tree would be a good idea. I said sure, great idea.  It would last a long time — something that most repellants currently don’t.  Well, I just saw the article and I must say that I’m not so sure that it’s a great idea any more.

It seems that the repellant that they’re talking about is basically a combination of hot peppers and DMSO.  The hot peppers have been around for a long time.  The DMSO not so long — just a few decades really (though there is very small quantity of naturally occurring DMSO in fruits) but DMSO has some properties that concern me.  When I was younger I was a competitive runner and I recall certain other runners using DMSO as a treatment for aches and pains.  I also remember a run-down house along one of my regular runs selling the stuff via a cardboard sign on the porch.  Looked kinda shady.  I haven’t seen much DMSO around recently, maybe because it isn’t legal everywhere — at least as far as I can tell.

DMSO is a solvent which crosses membranes, such as skin, very easily.  Apparently, if you use it anywhere on your body, it will make your breath garlicy.  In terms of toxicity — it isn’t considered very toxic. However, it has the ability to dissolve things, such as poisons (the insecticide imidacloprid for example), and anything which it dissolves can then cross the skin barrier very rapidly right along with the DMSO.

So to me this is a little worrying.  I don’t have much experience with DMSO, and I don’t have a problem with professional pesticide applicators who have the proper equipment applying DMSO, but I can’t help but wonder whether this stuff might be just a little too tempermental for the average homeowner to use.  Apparently the EPA has it now.  Here’s hoping that they’ll make the right decision, whatever that is.

7 thoughts on “DMSO”

  1. Sounds a little scary… I’ve used DMSO, but only in the lab with lots of gloves on. Like you say, it isn’t the DMSO itself that worries me, it is all the stuff that it bring with it through the skin.

  2. I used a product of the same name back up until 2005. The difference? It was manufactured in Canada. It worked great! The landscape companies I worked for did a lot of landscape jobs where there was ‘wildlife interface’ i.e. I bid it into the cost of the job, and it really saved many plants.
    Anyways, fast forward to last year when I moved to another job in another state I tried ordering it in only to find out the label had been bought by someone in the midwest who was getting it tested & EPA approved. Well, they are now aggressively booking for spring orders. I’d be very interested if the “old” formulation is similar to the new – doesn’t sound like it w/ the DMSO.(Sometimes workers would get it on thier fingers and accidentally touched thier mouth – it really tasted gross)Maybe the DMSO it was in there all along…Anyways, i had no complaints w/ the ‘old” formulation, lasted a whole season if applied correctly and really helped the plants get a good start, and saved the owner in costly plant replacements. A couple of weeks before planting was scheduled, we would insert the systemic tablets while the plants were in our nursery. Right after planting we would still apply a foliar spray to be double sure the plants were covered. I really believe that the most important thing with planting in any wildlife interface is applying some kind of repellent from the get-go and keeping up with it consistently for at least 3 months. It tends to train the critters to avoid that particular landscape…doesn’t matter if native or non-native plants are planted, when the critters sense new food is on their menu they will investigate and chow down!

  3. Rather than fear mongering, perhaps you should educate yourself and your readers by openly discussing this with the manufacturer and inventor. By the way, I am the inventor of the technology.

  4. I would definitely not use it in the garden if I also used bug or weed killer. It can’t pass anything through the skin that doesn’t “fit” but bug and weed killers are designed to penetrate and are quite toxic. The only known problem reported regarding DMSO was in conjunction with pesticide skin contact.

    That said, it IS a solvent so it will break things down and COULD break something down to the point elements of it could penetrate the skin but I’ve seen no such reports and, even if it did something like that, DMSO opens all the doors and such things would simply be pushed along and flushed out – as was the pesticide the guy got in his system along with the DMSO. But don’t get me wrong, he was sick as a dog before it got flushed out so just don’t do THAT.

    And DMSO isn’t unnatural. It exists in rainwater, though not in the amounts that people are using it today. However, the amounts in rainwater can be enough to trigger a “high” in someone who used drugs when they were younger, as the body stores toxins it can’t handle in real time and DMSO opens the doors and lets them out, releasing them back into the system. And that includes caffeine so, if you’re a coffee drinker, you might have some problems – the jitters or sleeplessness – until the caffeine is all flushed out of your system.

  5. It’s amazing to me with pubmed and Google scholar that the average American needs a bureaucratic organization to rule their life to see if they can handle a product. Dmso is continually used on the farm and in veterinary science. You can research the congressional testimony on how it was ridiculous to keep it from being prescribed and subsequently oked for the bladder. Bad press in the 60s and fear promoted by ignorance is what is going on with Dmso. I do not feel the average gardener is too stupid to handle with care….. Its glorified tree sap for goodness sakes!

    1. One thing the article doesn’t address is the application of anything for pesticidal purposes that is not registered as a pesticide. DMSO is not. We don’t ever recommend the use of any pesticide that is not (1) registered as such and (2) registered for use by home gardeners. Those who hold pesticide applicator licenses know this.

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