“You can’t out supplement a poor diet,” health experts are fond of saying.
In our family, everyone takes magnesium, sometimes multiple varieties, and I know a lot of others in the KS community would say the same. In fact, when I shared on Facebook that a friend saw improvement with her tween’s sleep in a blind test of Magnesium Lotion Shop‘s topical product, the post went NUTS!
Either people are super into magnesium or need a lot of help with sleep (or both).
Magnesium isn’t only a sleep aid though —
What is Magnesium Good For?
Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in 300 different processes in the body. It helps with mood regulation, sleep, drainage pathways, metabolism, bone density, headaches, and more.
It is thought that most Americans don’t get enough magnesium through diet.1 Heightened stress further depletes the body of magnesium as well.
Today we’ll talk about eight different types of magnesium. You may have heard a product or nutritionist declare one type to be the BEST form of magnesium. Really, the best form for you to supplement depends on what symptoms of magnesium deficiency you’re experiencing.
Read through each of these eight types to see where your symptoms line up so you can figure out what the best form of magnesium is for you.
1. Magnesium Chloride
What it Does:
Magnesium chloride is water-soluble so it’s a highly absorbable form of magnesium. It’s used to improve metabolism and kidney function by aiding drainage pathways. Researchers have also found it can help heart health in those who had a heart attack.2
How to Get it:
Naturally found in seawater, magnesium chloride is a water-soluble supplement. You may have seen it packaged as thick white flakes, but it’s also available for internal use in capsule or powder form.
The flakes can be made into lotions and sprays and applied to the skin, or you can soak in a warm bath with some added magnesium chloride flakes. Magnesium chloride salts are more potent than Epsom salts, but also more expensive. This is my favorite brand of magnesium chloride sprays or salts (use KS10 for 10% off!).
For another way to apply topically without the hassle of an entire bath, try the lotion from Magnesium Lotion Shop (no itch!), calming balm from Raise Them Well (or a roll-on there too), or Earthley’s Good Night Lotion. You can even make your own magnesium lotion with only a few ingredients.
Rubbing lotion on a child’s legs can be a very calming routine, bonding between parent and child, and all the benefits of touch and massage. It’s really a win-win!
2. Magnesium Sulfate
What it Does:
Otherwise known as Epsom salts, magnesium sulfate soothes sore, achy muscles, and helps the body’s drainage pathways.
Other researchers have found magnesium sulfate supports heart health. In this study, magnesium sulfate helped prevent irregular heartbeats in patients who had previous heart surgery.3
How to Get it:
This magnesium is more commonly known as Epsom salts and comes in a crystallized powder. You can add some Epsom salts to your bath water or a foot bath and soak up some magnesium through your skin. It can be mixed in water and taken as a laxative in small amounts, but it’s easy to overdo it.
If you want to take Epsom salts internally, make sure the one you buy is labeled as a supplement and doesn’t have additional ingredients. Fair warning: magnesium sulfate tastes absolutely horrible!
3. Magnesium Citrate
What it Does:
Magnesium citrate is a popular and effective laxative. It’s also commonly recommended for restless leg syndrome, especially during pregnancy.
However, some experts warn that long term use can mess with our body’s iron and copper levels, leading to health disorders. It’s probably best to reserve this supplement for short term use as needed to relieve occasional constipation.
How to Get it:
It’s important to note where magnesium citrate comes from. It’s a combination of magnesium and citric acid. While citric acid is found naturally in some fruits, like lemons, citric acid in food and supplements comes from another source.
This additive is now cultured with aspergillus mold in small factories in Mexico and Africa. People with mold sensitivities and previous toxic mold exposure can have problems taking citric acid because it’s made with toxic mold.4
Magnesium citrate is available in capsules, tablets, soft gels, and flavored drink powder. If you want super clean ingredients, heavy metal tested, produced via natural fermentation with NO synthetics, try this powder from Perfect Supplements, (or capsules) which is very affordable compared to other brands (KS10 for 10% off), and if your kids don’t like powders mixed into water, try these chewables from Raise Them Well.
4. Magnesium Oxide
What it Does:
Magnesium oxide is a cheaper, poorly absorbed form of magnesium found in many multivitamins. It’s used as a general magnesium supplement for headaches and muscle aches, but it may not work as well as other forms.
Studies with magnesium oxide show mixed results. A 2006 study found it improved bone mineral density in young girls.5
However, a 2017 study found it didn’t work any better than a placebo for nighttime leg cramps. The study authors also noted magnesium oxide is more likely to cause diarrhea because it is so poorly absorbed and requires a larger dose.6
On the other hand, if your child is having constipation trouble, this form of magnesium is far better than Miralax, which is why it’s in the MD-formulated Mag Go by Raise Them Well (see the page for more research citations).
How to get it:
You can find magnesium oxide in most multivitamins. It’s also available in tablet and capsule form, as well as the powder above.
5. Magnesium Glycinate
What it Does
This type of magnesium is great for nervous system health. Magnesium glycinate helps:
- relax the body
- reduce nerve pain
- improve stress
- relieve anxiety
- support gut health
- maintain healthy bone density
- decrease abnormal heart rhythms
- control blood sugar and may lower the risk of diabetes
- restore brain function after injury
- chronic pain7
- muscle flexibility
- relieve leg cramps (especially during pregnancy)
In a study published in Medical Hypotheses, participants took a supplement with both magnesium glycinate and taurinate and saw big results. Study participants saw a turnaround in their severe depression in less than a week.8
We also need magnesium for hormone function and estrogen elimination. This estrogen effect is why some have successfully used magnesium glycinate to manage PMS symptoms.9
RELATED: Stop PMS with dietary changes
How to Get it:
Magnesium glycinate is taken orally in tablets or capsules.
6. Magnesium Orotate
What it Does
A highly absorbable form of magnesium, this supplement has quite a few benefits. Magnesium orotate has been used for congestive heart failure and constipation. It can increase endurance and exercise tolerance, especially in people with heart issues.10
A 2017 study in Inflammopharmacology, found it improved depression and mitigated the harmful side effects of prescription depression meds when taken along with a probiotic.11
How to Get it:
Magnesium orotate is most commonly sold in capsules, and this one has equal parts orotate, malate, and taurinate (use KS10 for 10% off).
7. Magnesium L-threonate
What it Does:
This form of magnesium is well absorbed, may penetrate cell walls, and is thought to pass the blood-brain barrier to positively affect brain health. Its also used by those with heart problems, like palpitations, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure.12
People with brain tumors and brain damage can have motor deficits like weakness in the arms and legs, loss of muscle control, or paralysis. One study found magnesium L-threonate increased magnesium in the cerebrospinal fluid, resulting in less neuron damage and improved motor deficits.13
This magnesium is helpful for those with brain injury, neurological disorders, anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and I first heard this one highly recommended during the Superhuman Brain Masterclass.
How to Get it:
You can find magnesium L-threonate in capsules or drink powders.
8. Magnesium Malate
What it Does:
Malic acid helps our body create energy. When combined with magnesium it’s even more energizing. Even better, this type of magnesium has a very high absorption rate, much better than magnesium orotate or citrate.14
Magnesium malate can help with:
- fatigue and improve energy15
- muscle pain
How to Get it:
You can find magnesium malate in tablets, capsules, and powders. These chewable tablets are great for kids, and my boys love the taste and take them every night!
More Information About Magnesium Supplementation
In order to absorb magnesium, your body needs to have other vitamins and minerals on hand.17
These co-factors, as they’ve been dubbed, include:
- Vitamin K2
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin D
The adults in our family also take Vitamin K2, B6, D, and selenium daily. In fact, magnesium plus from Seeking Health also includes B6 already.
Which Type of Magnesium Absorbs the Best?
The absorption of magnesium from different kinds of magnesium supplements varies. Forms of magnesium that dissolve well in liquid are more completely absorbed in the gut than less soluble forms.18
Magnesium oxide is most likely to cause diarrhea because it is so poorly absorbed and requires a larger dose. On the other end, magnesium glycinate is the best-absorbed form and poses little risk. Magnesium chloride falls somewhere in between.19
One study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that very high doses of zinc from supplements (142 mg/day) can interfere with magnesium absorption and disrupt the magnesium balance in the body.20
How Much is Enough Magnesium?
The daily recommended amount for oral forms of magnesium is 350 mg daily for women and 420 mg daily for men. Our need for magnesium decreases after age 50 so the older population needs a smaller dose. It’s important to remember that these are the recommended amounts and most of us are deficient in magnesium.21
When we’re deficient we need to take more magnesium than usual to give our levels back up to normal. Overall it’s a very safe supplement and the worst wide side effects are diarrhea and nausea if someone takes too much.22
Summary: What’s the Best Form of Magnesium?
As I mentioned earlier it will depend on what you need it for.
If you’re looking to relieve constipation, then magnesium citrate, orotate, or malate would be your best bet.
For anxiety and stress relief, magnesium glycinate and l-threonate are the best forms.
My friend Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a pediatric psychologist, rotates up to 3 different kinds of magnesium every day and says it’s almost impossible to overdo it because we’re so deficient. You’ll hear more from her next week!
If you still aren’t sure where to start, using a magnesium lotion before bed is a simple, low-risk way to begin incorporating more magnesium in your life to see if it makes a difference.
- Guerrera, M.P., Volpe, S.L. & Mao J.J. (2009, July 15). Therapeutic uses of magnesium. American Family Physician, 80(2), 157-62. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19621856
- Sheehan, J. (1989, April 18). Importance of magnesium chloride repletion after myocardial infarction. American Journal of Cardiology, 63(14), 35G-38G. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2650513
- Taksaudom, N., Cheewinmethasiri, J., Chittawatanarat, K., Nawarawong, W., Ko-iam, W. & Sudthiviseschai, P. (2016, July). Magnesium Sulfate Reduces Incidence of Atrial Fibrillation after Coronary Arterial Bypass Surgery: What Is the Proper Dose? A Randomized Trial. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 99(7), 794-801. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29901903
- Max, B., Salgado, J. M., Rodríguez, N., Cortés, S., Converti, A. & Domínguez, J. M. (2010). Biotechnological production of citric acid. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology: [publication of the Brazilian Society for Microbiology], 41(4), 862–875. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1590/S1517-83822010000400005
- Carpenter, T.O., DeLucia, M.C., Zhang, J.H, Bejnerowicz, G., Tartamella, L., Dziura, J. et al. (2006, December). A randomized controlled study of effects of dietary magnesium oxide supplementation on bone mineral content in healthy girls. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 91(12), 4866-72. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17018656
- Roguin Maor, N., Alperin, M., Shturman, E., Khairaldeen, H., Friedman, M., Karkabi, K., Milman, U. (2017, May 1). Effect of Magnesium Oxide Supplementation on Nocturnal Leg Cramps: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 177(5), 617-623. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28241153
- Lamontagne, C., Sewell, J.A., Vaillancourt, R. & Kuhzarani, C. (2012). Rapid Resolution of Chronic Back Pain with Magnesium Glycinate in a Pediatric Patient. Journal of Pain Relief, 1(1) Retrieved from https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/rapid-resolution-of-chronic-back-pain-with-magnesium-glycinate-in-a-pediatric-patient-2167-0846.1000101.pdf
- Eby, G.A., Eby, K.L., (2006). Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. Medical Hypotheses, 67(2), 362-70. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16542786
- Facchinetti, F., Borella, P., Sances, G., Fioroni, L., Nappi, R.E. & Genazzani, A.R. (1991, August). Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 78(2), 177-81. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2067759
- Stepura, O.B. & Martynow, A.I. (2009, May 1). Magnesium orotate in severe congestive heart failure (MACH). International Journal of Cardiology, 134(1), 145-7. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19367681
- Bambling, M., Edwards, S.C., Hall, S. & Vitetta, L. (2017, April). A combination of probiotics and magnesium orotate attenuate depression in a small SSRI resistant cohort: an intestinal anti-inflammatory response is suggested. Inflammopharmacology, 25(2), 271-274. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28155119
- Wang, J., Liu, Y., Zhou, L.J., Wu, Y., Li, F., Shen, K.F., et al. (2013, September-October). Magnesium L-threonate prevents and restores memory deficits associated with neuropathic pain by inhibition of TNF-α. Pain Physician, 16(5), E563-75. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24077207
- Shen, Y., Dai, L., Tian, H., Xu, R., Li, F., Li, Z., et al. (2019). Treatment Of Magnesium-L-Threonate Elevates The Magnesium Level In The Cerebrospinal Fluid And Attenuates Motor Deficits And Dopamine Neuron Loss In A Mouse Model Of Parkinson’s disease. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 15, 3143–3153. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S230688
- Uysal, N., Kizildag, S., Yuce, Z., Guvendi, G., Kandis, S., Koc, B., et al. (2019, January). Timeline (Bioavailability) of Magnesium Compounds in Hours: Which Magnesium Compound Works Best? Biological Trace Element Research, 187(1), 128-136. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29679349
- Alraek, T., Lee, M.S., Choi, T. et al. (2011) Complementary and alternative medicine for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: A systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11(87). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-11-87
- Arranz, L., Canela, M. & Rafecas, M. (2011, July 22) Dietary aspects in fibromyalgia patients: results of a survey on food awareness, allergies, and nutritional supplementation. Rheumatology International, 32, 2615–2621. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00296-011-2010-z
- Howland, G. (2019, May 24) Which is the Best Magnesium Supplement? Retrieved from https://www.mamanatural.com/best-magnesium-supplement/
- Ranade, V.V. & Somberg, J.C. (2001, September-October). Bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of magnesium after administration of magnesium salts to humans. American Journal of Therapeutics, 8(5), 345-57. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11550076
- Schuchardt, J.P. & Hahn, A. (2017). Intestinal Absorption and Factors Influencing Bioavailability of Magnesium- An Update. Current Nutrition & Food Science, 13(4), 260-78. Retrieved from http://www.eurekaselect.com/151969/article
- Spencer, H., Norris, C. & Williams, D. (1994, October). Inhibitory effects of zinc on magnesium balance and magnesium absorption in man. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 13(5), 479-84. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7836627
- de Baaij, J.H.F., Hoenderop, J.G.J., & Bindels, R.J.M. (2015, January). Magnesium in Man: Implications for Health and Disease. Psychological Reviews. Retrieved from https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00012.2014
- Institute of Medicine Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. (1997) Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK109816/#ch6.s73