Methyl Group, Methylation, Methyl Trapping: What Are They?


There is a lot of confusion around ‘methyl group’, ‘methyl donor’, ‘methylation’.

I’ve created a quick cheat sheet here for you.


Methyl group:

  • Carbon + 3 hydrogens (CH3)

Methyl donor:

  • a substance that is capable of donating a methyl group to another compound. Simply because something has a ‘methyl group’ does not mean it can donate it.


  • The act of giving a methyl group to another compound altering its chemical structure thereby changing it to something else. This is a carefully orchestrated transfer from one compound to another which requires an enzymatic process.

Methylation examples:

  • Uracil + CH3 = Thymine
  • Histamine + CH3 = N-methylhistamine
  • Homocysteine + CH3 = Methionine
  • Norepinephrine + CH3 = Epinephrine
  • Serotonin + Vitamin B5 + CH3 = Melatonin
  • Guanidoacetate + CH3 = Creatine

Methyl donors:

  • Methionine
  • Choline
  • TMG (Betaine or Trimethylglycine)
  • DMG (Dimethylglycine)
  • Sarcosine (Methylglycine – a weak donor)
  • SAMe
  • MTHF
  • Methylcobalamin
  • DMSO
  • MSM

Not Methyl donors:

  • Caffeine
  • CoQ10 (any type)
  • Serine
  • Glycine (but can support methylation indirectly by increasing creatine synthesis)
  • Melatonin
  • Folinic acid
  • DIM (diindolemethane)
  • I3C (indole-3-carbinol)

Methyl conserving:

  • Creatine
  • Phosphatidylcholine
  • Carnitine
  • Melatonin

Methyl burning:

  • Niacin
  • Estrogen
  • Stress
  • Arsenic
  • Histamine
  • Lysine

Methyl blocking:

  • Homocysteine
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Mercury
  • Copper
  • Cadmium
  • Aluminum
  • Lead
  • Acetylaldehyde (from yeast and alcohol)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (a free radical / oxidative stress)
  • Nitric oxide (product of NOS enzyme)
  • TNF alpha (inflammation)
  • IL-6 (inflammation)
  • LPS (bacterial infections)

Methyl Trapping:

  • When methylfolate and methylcobalamin cannot join forces and meet together.
  • This is typically caused by ‘methyl blocking’ or a deficiency of one or the other (methylfolate or methylcobalamin)
  • This can falsely elevate serum folate and/or serum cobalamin

Methyl Conserving means these compounds require a lot of methylation in order to be made. By taking them directly, your methylation does not have to work hard to make them.

Over 80% of your SAMe, which is your body’s primary methyl donor, is used to make creatine and phosphatidylcholine. By taking creatine and phosphatidylcholine, your SAMe does not get used up to make them.

Creatine, phosphatidylcholine and carnitine support your methylation without having to take methyl donors!

Methyl burning is the flip side. Niacin and lysine are two compounds which use up your methylation in order to process them.

Lysine and niacin are very much needed by our body to function. It is important to know that if we take many grams of niacin or lysine, we may be reducing our methylation capacity.

Stress is a major methyl burner. A great way to support your methylation is to reduce stress.

How can you reduce stress in your life?

Methyl blocking means these things slow or reduce your body’s ability to methylate.

In order to methylate, one needs to identify methyl blockers and remove them bit by bit. As these methyl blockers are removed, methylation may proceed as it needs to.

Comment Below

Are you wondering if ‘X’ or ‘Y’ is a methyl donor?

Other related questions?

Comment below and I’ll review it and then add it to the appropriate list.

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  • Kathryn says:

    wow, love this. I’ve been having a difficult time with histamine lately. I have been getting a lot of niacin flushing lately. I am wondering if Ive got too much methyl burning happening! Thank you for the clear and concise explanation!

  • Paula Tanksley says:


    I have been told that turmeric or curcumin is a methyl donor. Have you found that to be the case? Are some preparations more loaded with methyl than others, i.e. Meriva or Turiva?

    Thank you!

  • Valerie says:

    Thank you so very much, Dr. Lynch, for this clear presentation. The whole methylation thing has been a source of confusion to me for decades. When I read your article, I finally understood why SAMe, melatonin, citicholine nearly sedate me! I also learned from this article how important niacin is for me. I first read this article about 3 years ago. I implimented changes in my nutriceitical regimen based on the information provided here and BAM! What a substantial improvement in my well being. Thank you soooo much!

  • Nikki says:

    Twice in the past year I’ve taken methionine. One in a vitamin mix and one in a liver support. Both times I had a crazy mental breakdown. I have A1298C MTHFR. Within a day or two of stopping supplements I fully recovered. I’m certain it was the methyl donor. Can you explain what happens when someone with this mutation gets a methyl donor? I don’t understand why this happened or how. Not looking for medical advice, just the scientific process going on. Thank you.

    • Benjamin Lynch says:

      Hi Nikki –

      It’s very complicated. And everyone responds to methyl donors differently. It’s hard to say. You may have turned on or off certain enzymes that triggered this event. Which ones is hard to say. The body uses methyl donors as it wants. We cannot specifically target them. This is why it’s very important to not just take methyl donors without first cleaning your genes. Reading ‘Dirty Genes’ is an important first step 🙂

  • Rachel Colorado says:

    How can i learn the conditions for methyl trapping , where the B12 in blood goes high? I can’t do the chemistry, but I’ve struggled to understand this far. I think this might happen to me somewhat. How do we fix it?

  • Steven Dens says:

    Is pangamic acid a methyl donor? I’ve read in several places that it is the same as DMG, but it’s actually a different molecule, although DMG is part of its molecular structure.

  • Karin Christ says:

    Is DMAE a methyl donor?

  • Kelsey says:

    HI! I watched a video on Candida from a few years back. Dr. Lynch mentioned EBV and methylation. Had some visuals in a packet, not yet published. Do you’ll have any pdfs or material with printable visuals on some of these processes. I feel like I’m still learning the basics and visuals are very helpful

  • Jillian says:

    Is Betaine HCl a methyl donor?

  • Riboflavin & riboflavin 5 phosphate r different. Is R5P a methyl donor. Im deficient & comt+/+ w VDR +/- so i need to know. Im already covered in chronic hives. I asked 2 days ago & waited for an answer but now my question is gone from the page & i still dont know. Thank u

  • Pat says:

    Is Calcium d-glucarate a methyl donor? It has CH3 in its formula. I’m just hoping the answer is still somehow no.

    Thank you VERY much in advance!

    • Benjamin Lynch says:

      Pat –

      Having a methyl group in the formula doesn’t mean it’s a methyl donor. Many compounds have CH3 which aren’t methyl donors. 😉

  • Dimple says:

    Would you consider Riboflavin as methyl donor?

  • OGBrian says:

    This would be more useful if any of it was referenced. I’ve learned not to take claims as gospel, if there aren’t citations, because often there are inaccuracies.

  • Jessica says:

    Hi – is Inositol a methyl donor? I’ve read that it is but i’m not actually sure if it is… thank you!

  • Betty says:

    Is Diindolylmethane a methyl donor

    • Joy-Dr. Ben Lynch Team Member says:

      Great question! No, DIM nor indole 3 carbinol are methyl donors because there is no methyl group. You will see a -CH3 group coming off or even just a – on the molecular structure if it contains a methyl group. Neither DIM nor dietary indoles contain methyl groups.

  • Teri Thompson says:

    So what do I need to be taking if I have mthfr? I’m not good with all that scientific stuff..can u just tell me?

    • Joy-Dr. Ben Lynch Team Member says:

      We cannot tell you what to take or what to do for a genetic variation for a multitude of reasons, the biggest being that MTHFR gene variations are not indicative of needing a supplement, or a protocol. MTHFR gene variations are very complex, and over 50% of the population has them. You need to read Dr. Lynch’s book Dirty Genes to determine how he best teaches you to go about this. You can buy it at Please know that we are not authorized to answer your personal medical questions because we are not your treating healthcare professional. Remember that health is holistic. This means that in order to determine the root cause of your issues, you need to look at multiple avenues of health including lab markers, genetics, current conditions/symptoms, lifestyle, diet, and environmental toxins. To do this, your qualified healthcare professional will need to review your full medical history, order lab testing, and determine a protocol tailored for you. Though Dr. Lynch is a naturopathic doctor (ND), he is not your treating physician, and will not have all the information he needs to give you accurate advice – sometimes, a single issue will have underlying causes that can easily be overlooked via a simple, virtual comment or question. It is the responsibility of your qualified healthcare professional to answer your questions and assign a protocol for you. We understand that not all health professionals are trained in this area of biochemistry and nutrition, and it can be frustrating if you feel they don’t answer your questions or help you solve your problems. Because of this we now offer a Physicians Directory where you can find a health professional that is familiar with StrateGene®, nutrigenomics and some of Dr. Lynch’s work. Remember from Dr. Lynch’s book Dirty Genes, health is a four letter word: work. Part of this ‘work’ is finding a health professional that you feel is listening to you and helps you in the ways that you need. We are here to guide you by providing you resources in hopes that you will take the information and put in the work that optimizes your life.

  • EB says:

    Is it possible to take certain nutrients to support methylation in general without knowing if you’re under or over methylating?
    I don’t have access to any labs right at this moment and every one of my siblings has methylation issues and I have all the symptoms myself. Any advice on what I could do in this situation?

    • Joy-Dr. Ben Lynch Team Member says:

      Please know that we are not authorized to answer your personal medical questions because we are not your treating healthcare professional. Please see your qualified healthcare professional to get answers to questions regarding your personal health concerns.
      Note that if you and your health professional are seeing methylation issues, then your health professional should be treating you based on their lab work and your symptoms both. There is not a way to see if someone is “overmethylating” or “undermethylating” in lab work accurately, and these terms are not reflective of what is actually going on. Consuming methylated nutrients or non-methylated nutrients is dependent upon how you react to methylated nutrients: if you are sensitive to methylated nutrients, then you may be better suited with nonmethylated ones, such as folinic acid and hydroxo B12. No matter what, you will still be supporting your methylation cycle by consuming a non-methylated verison, as it will convert to a methylated form in the body. Many individuals can actually work there way up, slowly, to a methylated nutrient under the supervision of their doctor. I hope this helps!

  • Orley says:

    A very complex subject explained clearly and concisely. Thank you 🙏🏻

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