- What other names is Magnesium known by?
- What is Magnesium?
- How does Magnesium work?
- Are there safety concerns?
- Are there any interactions with medications?
- Dosing considerations for Magnesium.
An easy way to remember foods that are good magnesium sources is to think fiber. Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium. Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes, whole grains, vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, and green leafy vegetables), seeds, and nuts (especially almonds). Other sources include dairy products, meats, chocolate, and coffee. Water with a high mineral content, or "hard" water, is also a source of magnesium.
People take magnesium by mouth to prevent magnesium deficiency. It is also used as a laxative for constipation and for preparation of the bowel for surgical or diagnostic procedures. It is also used as an antacid for acid indigestion.
Some people use magnesium for diseases of the heart and blood vessels including chest pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, high levels of "bad" cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low levels of "good" cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, heart valve disease (mitral valve prolapse), metabolic syndrome, clogged arteries (coronary artery disease), stroke, and heart attack.
Magnesium is also used for treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, cystic fibrosis, alcoholism, mania, recovery after surgery, leg cramps at night and during pregnancy, diabetes, kidney stones, migraine headaches, a long-term pain condition called complex regional pain syndrome, weak bones (osteoporosis), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), altitude sickness, urinary incontinence, a condition that causes burning pain and redness called erythromelalgia, a disorder that causes a strong urge to move ones legs (restless legs syndrome; RLS), asthma, hayfever, multiple sclerosis, and for preventing hearing loss and cancer.
Athletes sometimes use magnesium to increase energy and endurance.
Some people apply magnesium on their skin to treat infected skin ulcers, boils, and carbuncles; and to speed up wound healing. Magnesium is also used as a cold compress in the treatment of a severe skin infection caused by strep bacteria (erysipelas) and as a hot compress for deep-seated skin infections.
Magnesium is injected into the body for nutritional purposes and to treat magnesium deficiency that occurs in people with pancreas infections, magnesium absorption disorders, and cirrhosis. It is also injected to treat high blood pressure during pregnancy and other pregnancy complications.
Magnesium is also used as an injection to control seizures, to treat irregular heartbeat, to control irregular heartbeat after a heart attack, and for cardiac arrest. Magnesium is also injected into the body to treat asthma and other lung disease complications, for migraines and cluster headaches, jellyfish stings, poisonings, pain, swelling in the brain, chemotherapy side effects, head trauma and bleeding, sickle cell disease, to prevent cerebral palsy, and for tetanus.
- Constipation. Taking magnesium by mouth is helpful as a laxative for constipation and to prepare the bowel for medical procedures.
- Indigestion. Taking magnesium by mouth as an antacid reduces symptoms of heartburn. Various magnesium compounds can be used, but magnesium hydroxide seems to work the fastest.
- Magnesium deficiency. Taking magnesium is helpful for treating and preventing magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency usually occurs when people have liver disorders, heart failure, vomiting or diarrhea, kidney dysfunction, and other conditions.
- High blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia). Administering magnesium intravenously (by IV) or as a shot is considered the treatment of choice for reducing high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) and for treating eclampsia, which includes the development of seizures. Research suggests that administering magnesium reduces the risk of seizures.
Likely Effective for...
- Irregular heartbeat (torsades de pointes). Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) is helpful for treating a certain type of irregular heartbeat called torsades de pointes.
Possibly Effective for...
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias). Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) or by mouth seems to be helpful for treating a certain type of irregular heartbeat called arrhythmias.
- Asthma. Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to help treat sudden asthma attacks. However, it might be more beneficial in children than in adults. Taking magnesium using an inhaler might improve breathing in people with asthma, especially when used with the drug salbutamol. But conflicting results exist. Taking magnesium by mouth does not seem to improve attacks in people with long-term asthma.
- Pain caused by nerve damage associated with cancer. Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to relieve pain caused by nerve damage due to cancer for several hours.
- Cerebral palsy. The best evidence to date suggests that giving magnesium to pregnant women before very preterm births can reduce the risk of cerebral palsy in the infant.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Administering magnesium as a shot seems to improve symptoms of fatigue. However, there is some controversy about its benefits.
- A lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Administering magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to help sudden COPD symptoms. Also, taking magnesium using an inhaler, along with the drug salbutamol, seems to reduce sudden COPD symptoms better than salbutamol alone.
- Cluster headache. Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to relieve cluster headaches.
- Colon and rectal cancer. Research shows that eating more foods with magnesium in them is linked to a reduced risk of colon and rectal cancer. But other research suggests that magnesium might reduce colon cancer risk, but not rectal cancer risk.
- Chest pain (angina) due to clogged arteries. Taking magnesium by mouth seems to reduce chest pain attacks and blood clots in people with coronary artery disease.
- Cystic fibrosis. Research shows that taking magnesium by mouth daily for 8 weeks improves lung strength in children with cystic fibrosis.
- Diabetes. Eating a diet with more magnesium is linked with a reduced risk of developing diabetes in adults and overweight children. Research on the effects of magnesium for people with existing type 2 diabetes shows conflicting results. In people with type 1 diabetes, magnesium might slow the development of nerve problems caused by diabetes.
- Fibromyalgia. Taking magnesium with malic acid (Super Malic tablets) by mouth seems to reduce pain related to fibromyalgia. Taking magnesium citrate daily for 8 weeks seems to improve some symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- Hearing loss. Taking magnesium by mouth seems to prevent hearing loss in people exposed to loud noise. Also, taking magnesium seems to improve hearing loss in people with sudden hearing loss not related to loud noise. Injecting magnesium by IV might also help improve sudden hearing loss.
- High cholesterol. Taking magnesium chloride and magnesium oxide appears to slightly decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") and total cholesterol levels, and slightly increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.
- Metabolic syndrome (increased risk for diabetes and heart disease). People with low magnesium levels are 6-7 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than people with normal magnesium levels. Higher magnesium intake from diet and supplements is linked with a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome in healthy women and healthy young adults.
- Diseases of heart valves (mitral valve prolapse). Taking magnesium by mouth seems to reduce symptoms of mitral valve prolapse in people with low magnesium levels in their blood.
- Weak bones (osteoporosis). Taking magnesium by mouth seems to prevent bone loss in older women with osteoporosis. Also, taking estrogen along with magnesium plus calcium and a multivitamin supplement appears to increase bone strength in older women better than estrogen alone.
- Pain after a hysterectomy. Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to help reduce pain after a surgical procedure to remove the uterus called a hysterectomy. There is some evidence that a high magnesium dose of 3 grams followed by 500 mg per hour can reduce discomfort. However, lower doses do not seem to be effective and might actually increase pain.
- Pain after surgery. When administered with anesthesia or given to people after surgery, magnesium seems to increase the amount of time before pain develops and might decrease the need to use pain relievers after surgery.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Taking magnesium by mouth seems to relieve symptoms of PMS, including mood changes and bloating. Taking magnesium by mouth also seems to prevent premenstrual migraines.
- Chest pain due to blood vessel spasms (vasospastic angina). Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to prevent blood vessel spasms in people with chest pain caused by spasms in the artery that supplies blood to the heart.
Possibly Ineffective for...
- Heart attack. In general, giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) or taking magnesium by mouth does not seem to reduce the overall risk of death after a heart attack.
- Altitude sickness. Research suggests that taking magnesium citrate by mouth daily in three divided doses beginning 3 days before climbing a mountain and continuing until climbing down the mountain does not reduce the risk of sudden altitude sickness.
- Athletic performance. Some early research suggests that taking magnesium by mouth reduces the effects of sleep deprivation on athletic performance. Other research suggests that taking a magnesium supplement (Easymag, Sanofi-Aventis) by mouth daily for 12 weeks slightly improves walking speed in elderly women. Taking magnesium by mouth does not seem to increase energy or endurance during athletic activity.
- Chronic pain after an injury. Research suggests that using magnesium intravenously (by IV) for 4 hours each day for 5 days does not improve pain in people with chronic pain after an injury.
- Jellyfish stings. Research suggests that taking the medication fentanyl while receiving magnesium intravenously (by IV) does not reduce pain after a jellyfish sting more than fentanyl alone.
- Muscle cramps. Taking magnesium supplements does not seem to decrease the frequency or intensity of muscle cramps.
- Muscle strength. Some research suggests that applying a specific magnesium cream (MagPro) to muscles for one week does not improve muscle flexibility or endurance.
- Head trauma. Research suggests that magnesium does not improve the outcome or reduce the risk of death for people with a traumatic head injury.
- Sickle cell disease. Research shows that giving magnesium sulfate intravenously (by IV) every hour for 8 doses does not benefit children with sickle cell disease.
- Stillbirths. Taking magnesium supplements during pregnancy does not seem to decrease the risk of stillbirths.
- Tetanus. Taking magnesium does not seem to reduce the risk of death in people with tetanus compared to standard treatment. However, taking magnesium might reduce the amount of time spent in the hospital, although results are conflicting.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Alcoholism. Taking magnesium by mouth seems to improve sleep quality in people who are dependent on alcohol and going through withdrawal. However, injecting magnesium as a shot does not seem to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- Aluminum phosphide poisoning. Some research suggests that taking magnesium reduces the risk of death in people with aluminum phosphide poisoning. Other research suggests magnesium does not have this effect.
- Anxiety. Early research suggests that taking magnesium, hawthorn, and California poppy (Sympathyl, not available in the U.S.) might help treat mild to moderate anxiety disorder.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD seem to have lower magnesium levels. Early research suggests that magnesium might help treat ADHD in children with low magnesium levels.
- Bipolar disorder. Early research suggests that taking a certain magnesium product (Magnesiocard) may have similar effects as lithium in some people with bipolar disorder.
- Heart disease. Research on the effects of magnesium intake in the diet on heart disease is inconsistent. Some research suggests that increasing magnesium intake in the diet is linked to a reduce risk of death related to heart disease. But not all research shows positive effects. Some research suggests that increasing magnesium intake in the diet does not affect heart disease risk. Other research suggests that there is no link between magnesium intake and heart disease.
- High blood pressure. Some research suggests that taking magnesium by mouth slightly reduces diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) in people with mild to moderate high blood pressure. Magnesium might not lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading).
- Brain damage in infants caused by lack of oxygen. Research suggests that administering magnesium intravenously (by IV) might improve outcomes in infants with brain damage caused by lack of oxygen in the short-term but not the long-term.
- Kidney stones. Taking magnesium by mouth might prevent the recurrence of kidney stones. But other medications such as chlorthalidone (Hygroton) may be more effective.
- Low back pain. Early research suggests that receiving magnesium intravenously (by IV) every 4 hours for 2 weeks while taking magnesium by mouth daily for 4 weeks reduces pain in people with chronic low back pain.
- Mania. Early research suggests that taking magnesium by mouth plus the drug verapamil reduces manic symptoms better than just verapamil alone. Other early research suggests that giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) reduces the dose of other drugs needed to manage severe manic symptoms.
- Migraine headaches. Taking high doses of magnesium by mouth seems to reduce how often migraines occur, as well as their severity. But other research suggests that magnesium does not have any effect on migraines. Limited research suggests that using magnesium intravenously (by IV) might reduce migraines. Other research suggests that using magnesium by IV does not provide any relief.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). Taking magnesium might reduce stiff or rigid muscles in people with MS.
- Nerve damage caused by the anticancer drug oxaliplatin. Research on the effects of magnesium on nerve damage caused by oxaliplatin is inconsistent. Some research shows that giving a calcium and magnesium infusion reduces nerve pain caused by this drug. But other research shows that it has no effect on preventing nerve damage or improving symptoms.
- Recovery after surgery. Some research suggests that taking a specific magnesium lozenge (Magnesium-Diasporal lozenge, Med Ilac, Istanbus, Turkey) by mouth 30 minutes before surgery reduces sore throat from the breathing tube.
- Pregnancy-related leg cramps. Research on the use of magnesium for treating leg cramps caused by pregnancy has been inconsistent. Some studies show that taking magnesium by mouth might reduce leg cramps during pregnancy. However, another study shows no benefit.
- Premature labor. Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) might prevent contractions when premature labor occurs. Some research suggests that magnesium is more effective at delaying labor by 48 hours compared to some conventional drugs. However, not all experts believe it is beneficial, and some research suggests it might cause more adverse effects.
- A disorder that causes a strong urge to move ones legs (restless legs syndrome; RLS). Taking magnesium by mouth might decrease the amount of movement and increase the amount of sleep in patients with restless legs syndrome. However, the role of magnesium, if any, in restless legs syndrome is uncertain. Some people with this condition have high levels of magnesium in their blood, while others have low magnesium levels.
- Stroke. There is inconsistent evidence about the effects of magnesium supplements or magnesium intake in the diet on stroke. Some evidence suggests that increasing magnesium intake in the diet might reduce the risk of stroke in men. But there is no proof that taking magnesium supplements will have the same effect. Some early research suggests that administering magnesium intravenously (by IV) might benefit people who have had a stroke. But other research suggests that it does not reduce the risk of death or disability in most people.
- Bleeding in the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage). There is mixed evidence about the effect of magnesium in managing bleeding in the brain. Some research suggests that giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) reduces the risk of death and vegetative state. However, other research does not support these findings.
- Sudden cardiac death. Some preliminary research suggests that higher levels of magnesium are linked with a lower chance of experiencing sudden cardiac death. However, it is not known if taking a magnesium supplement reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death. Giving magnesium intravenously does not seem to have a benefit.
- Poisoning from tricyclic antidepressant drugs. Early research shows that adding magnesium to an intravenous infusion does not help people with poisoning from tricyclic antidepressants.
- Lyme disease.
- Skin infections.
- Urinary incontinence.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
Next: How does Magnesium work?
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