Magnesium: The Forgotten Healer

Based on information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), magnesium is practically a wonder drug. Yet few people know about it, and few doctors recommend it. It helps maintain muscles and nerves, regulates blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and prevents heart attacks.


I first learned about magnesium (chemical symbol Mg) when my legs started becoming stiff and jumpy. It was a multiple sclerosis symptom, but what to do about it? The prescribed medicines stopped the spasms, but had the side effect of completely knocking me out. My muscles wouldn’t function at all.

Then someone at a support group suggested I take magnesium. In two days, the spasms and jumpy legs stopped. I’ve taken it ever since. I didn’t realize it had all these other benefits until a comment from Patricia on this blog entry alerted me.

Patricia told us about a book called The Magnesium Miracle by Dr. Carolyn Dean, an MD and naturopath. According to Dr. Dean, nearly 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium, and it is often the primary factor in heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and most muscular problems.

The NIH says, “Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body… [It] is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.” And according to our own Amy Campbell, “Results from three very large studies indicate that people who consume a diet rich in magnesium have a lower risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.”

People with diabetes are more likely than those without to be low in magnesium. According to an article on, “Elevated blood glucose levels increase the loss of magnesium in the urine, which in turn lowers blood levels of magnesium.” So getting enough magnesium is especially important in diabetes.

In spite of these benefits, medical authorities rarely recommend magnesium. That’s why I call it the forgotten mineral. For instance, people on diuretics (“water pills”) are usually given potassium supplements to replace the potassium lost through urination. But magnesium is lost the same way and rarely supplemented.

According to the piece on, “Healthy adults who eat a varied diet do not generally need to take a magnesium supplement.”

Dr. Dean strongly disagrees. She says that the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 350 to 400 milligrams per day, but for best health, we may need roughly double this amount. She says the Standard American Diet (SAD) provides very little magnesium. Soils depleted by factory farming may grow foods low in magnesium. Refined grains and processed foods have usually been stripped of most of their magnesium.

Dean isn’t the only one recommending this mineral. Drs. Andrea Rosanoff, PhD, and Mildred Seelig, MD, authors of The Magnesium Factor, state, “Mg has effects that parallel those of statins.”

In the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, they wrote, “Both statins and normal Mg levels prevent clotting, reduce inflammation and prevent [arterial] plaques. But statins raise liver enzymes, can cause [muscle damage] and have many other side effects, while Mg supplements tend to protect [muscles] and have temporary diarrhea or mild GI distress as the only side effect.”

The doctors point to studies showing that nations with low-magnesium/high-calcium diets — the US, Finland, and the Netherlands, in particular — have a lethal heart disease rate much higher than in nations with high-magnesium/low-calcium diets, such as Japan. Yet our medical system encourages statins and ignores magnesium.

How to Get Magnesium
One of the best sources of magnesium is seaweed, but there are many other sources as well. According to NIH, green vegetables such as spinach are great sources, because chlorophyll (which gives the vegetables their color) contains magnesium. Beans, peas, nuts — especially almonds and cashews — and seeds are also good. Whole grains, like brown rice, corn, and whole-grain or sprouted wheat bread are good. Wheat bran in any form is high in magnesium. So are avocado, cabbage, cucumber, and many other foods, according to the Web site Whole Food Catalog. This wonderful site can be searched by food or by nutrient and includes tons of foods I’ve never even heard of.

As for the seaweed, some people replace table salt with powdered kelp, which they say tastes better than salt and is loaded with magnesium and iodine.

Most Americans should at least consider magnesium supplements, which come in many available and cheap forms. Dr. Dean says that magnesium oxide is not a good choice, because it is poorly absorbed. She recommends magnesium citrate and magnesium taurate. She also applies magnesium oil on her skin after a shower.

According to Dr. Dean, the first side effect of overdoing the magnesium would be loose stools. In fact, magnesium is used as a laxative, so if you have constipation, that could be a sign of low magnesium levels and another reason to eat more greens and nuts and consider taking supplements. Magnesium could improve your blood sugar levels, protect your heart, strengthen your bones and muscles, and literally save your life.

Want to learn more about diabetes and magnesium? Read “Magnesium: Give This Mineral Some Respect,” by certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Amy Campbell.

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
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  • Deb

    Magnesium has helped me greatly with fibromyalgia pain. I take a supplement 3 times a day and get lots of green vegetables, legumes, and other good sources. The only downside to magnesium, especially if you take a lot of supplements, is diarrhea. (After all, milk of magnesia is a remedy for constipation.) So it’s a good idea to start slow and see how you do. With all it does in the body, it’s really a wonder supplementas long as you don’t overdo.

  • calgarydiabetic

    This is one element I have been worried about but blood test showed normal levels.

  • Bill

    The only Mg to take is chelated Mg for best absorbtion.

  • Regina

    Virtually all tablet medications contain magnesium stearate as a filler ingredient. Does this type of magnesium help in the same way that magnesium citrate or magnesium taurate do?

  • Pat Weiser

    I have been taking magnesium for fibromyalgia and leg cramps for years without any appreciable improvement. What dose is recommended?

    Glad I stopped taking statins, just a couple of weeks in, my leg muscles became so weak I could barely walk.

  • Lynne Nelson

    I had terrible back pain, especially at night and could not even turn over while lying down without excruciating pain. I read a book about magnesium and back pain and began taking 400 mg. per day, in divided doses and within weeks my back pain stopped. It has been a year since the night back pain ended and I still supplement with 400 mg. of magnesium.

    • Tami Perri

      What kind of magnesium
      was it

  • joan

    Thank you; great advice! I take magnesium but may be not enough; will check into this issue.

  • Deb

    I take magnesium maleate for my fibromyalgia. There have been studies showing this formulation has the best effect for fibromyalgia. The one I use has 425 mg magnesium and 2.5 g malic acid in 3 caplets. It makes a tremendous difference for me. Sometimes I have a spell of leg cramps when it’s cold, and I add 250 mg magnesium oxide until things warm up. (I also eat 1 teaspoon of prepared mustard with turmeric at bedtime to prevent leg cramps. It really works unless it gets really cold out.)

  • Carol

    I was taking magnesium injections biweekly to help with severe leg cramps from fibromyalgia. Even taking this much my blood test always registered low norm. Suddenly last July I could no longer get the drug from the pharmacy. They said the manufacturer stopped making it. I do not absorb supplements well so I am very frustrated. Why do the Doctors ignore this important drug and why on earth would the drug company stop manufacturing such an important injectable.

  • Mariel Tyler

    i drink diet tonic water for leg cramps. It contains quinine and works for me. But I’m going to try the magnesium also.

  • Wendy Cooper

    Greetings All ~

    I discovered Magnesium Malate and enjoy chewing it up each evening and feel my aches and jumpy legs relax. I chase it with coconut water. The green coconut produces water that calms diarrhea.

    The product I use is canned coconut water from green coconut and they include some of the jelly like fiber. Since I have Crohn’s with daily diarrhea, this has been helpful to keep me in control.

    Good Luck, Ya’ll

  • LInda Green

    When I feel my legs starting to cramp, or the first signs of Restless Leg syndrome begin, I take 2,000 mg of Magnesium Gluconate. I order it from I have never had a problem with diarrhea. I obsorb Magnesium Gluconate much better then the Oxide. The reason you blood test is showing normal is because the deficiency is in your cells and not your blood. You have to rely on your symptms, and not that blood test.

  • David Schulze

    Be careful how and when you take that magnesium supplement. Many magnesiumm compounds make the upper intestinal tract more alkaline, and that’s where the absorbtion of Vitamin D takes place. The altered alkalinity interferes with the absorbtion of the Vitamin D, making the supplement almost worthless. Google “Vitamin D and Magnesium” to check this out. WebMD and can help here. A suggestion would be to take the Mg at night, and the Vit. D in the morning.

  • BaliRob

    Some four months ago fellow members of Diabetics UK suggested that I consider taking Magnesium for the ‘world’s worst leg cramps’ which would cause both legs from the hips down to go into spasm for at least two hours; the resulting pain causing me to go
    fall unconscious and collapse causing severe facial injuries. This, being at night and living alone, made me so terrified of a repeat occurrence that I went to my doctor who prescribed Quinine Sulphate on a continuous basis. I took QS for over eight years it was wonderful with not a hint of cramp all that time then only to find that it had damaged my kidneys.

    I came off QS and re-experienced stronger and stronger leg cramps until I had a near repeat of the first major attack 8 years ago.

    It must be 4 months now that I have taken Magnesium Malate x 1.250mg x 1 am and x 1 before bed and, although I have had suspicious pre-cramp feelings, none have resulted in full painful cramps. I realise as I write this that I have had one or two weeks now without concern.

    I am a Type 2 Diabetic and did suffer very bad leg cramps before diagnosis. By the way, it is a good idea to place a small pot/jar of salt by the bed in case of cramp starting because a small amount on the tongue if taken immediately will arrest the pain and spasm within 20 minutes or so.

    Yes, Magnesium will loosen the bowels, but the upside is worth it. Also, Oralit taken at night will help to replace the salts, etc., lost through
    the stomach effect.

  • Dave

    Magnesium Threonate is some pretty potent stuff and the only form that crosses the blood-brain barrier (based off of research). Magnesium Chelate (magnesium and calcium) is also pretty potent but slightly different in-effect than magnesium threonate. I just started taking magnesium threonate and I wasn’t expecting anything, however it’s like my entire brain lit up and I got a little extra energy, drive, and focus. I may just be magnesium deficient, however I eat healthy. Maybe my brain is deficient in it… I don’t know.

    • Mangalore Cafe

      By Brain lit up when I had Nigari Tofu. All organic. I just opened the pack and the liquid was still in it. I did not strain or pat it dry I just put a piece in my mouth and I felt so good my brain lit up I just drank a little bit of the liquid. Nigari Is Mangesium chloride. I am thinking of taking it right now was just searching how to consume it. Got some MGCL to make tofu will end up taking it as a supplement cause I got High BP and I suspect high blood sugar

  • Renata

    I use a magnesium spray after a meal or shower and at night before bed. If you have anxiety or insomnia or sore knees or muscles a cup of organic chamomile tea and spray the magnesium on your wrists or armpits or knees or ankles and you will have a deep rejuvenating sleep and your anxiety will come down immediately… you will go from racing heart or a feeling of racing high blood pressure or adrenaline rush to calm and peaceful. Just a couple of sprays of magnesium and in minutes you will notice calm. It really helps to almost instantly relieve high blood pressure… within 30 minutes after magnesium you will have lowered blood pressure.

  • Jessica

    I recently started taking Liquid Magnesium Threonate. Is it safe to take with 25mg of spironlactone? Which I take for acne?

  • David Spero RN

    Hi Jessica,

    The one study I found said that spironolactone lowers magnesium levels, which is a bad thing. So taking some magnesium would be a good idea.

  • a brown

    Started using magnesium citrate by now 400 mg 2 days ago can walk without pain so my job becomes lot easier I have type 2 diabetes hopefully this will help

  • Betty

    Does magnesium stearate cross the BBB?

    • Elisabeth Urban

      Magnesium L threonate is the type of magnesium that is easily taken up by the brain.


    For the past 4 years l have been down with diabetes.l have visited the big hospitals without cure. A friend recommended Magnesium Malate from source Naturals which l started using about a week ago and it seems the signs would appreciable

  • ann andersson

    Hej..ngn som vet om det kan hjälpa för lindra Artros i fötter? Min son har väldig smärta kan inte gå för långt etc. är bara 37år..som mor vill jag försöka hitta allt som kanske kan hjälpa han vägrar ta Kortison!! Mvh ann

  • Originaldoubleh

    Why am I reading this article? After decades of trying to figure out why the more I exercised, the FATTER I got and why I would eventually have to stop exercising because my heart would start dancing in my chest (arrhythmia!), this article confirmed my suspicions. At first I never dreamed it was magnesium because for decades I took 500mg mag daily and EVERY other supplement in perfect balance. What I did not know that I was taking the WRONG kind of magnesium (i.e. oxide) leaving me grossly deficient after my twice a day five days a week bodybuilding routine. Finally after pitting edema set into my ankles, I took drastic action, redoubled my research and developed a sneaking suspicion that the root of my problem was magnesium deficiency. I switched to massive doses of Albion Magnesium (1000mg/day) PLUS 750mg Magnesium Oxide before bed. SUCCESS!!! AFTER DECADES of fruitless struggle! My cardio capacity has DOUBLED in ONE FREAKIN’ WEEK! I feel like He-Man again and I cannot wait to hit the gym and take back the progress magnesium stole from me! I HAVE THE POWER!!!!! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

  • michelle m

    Use a magnesium oil spray on the skin rather than magnesium supplments, or take a bath with magnesium salt. MAgnesium is absorbed easily through the skin and you don’t have to worry about diarrhea.

  • Kay

    46 F – terrible terrible TERRIBLE thigh pain (mostly right mid thigh) mostly at night. Like “gonna kill someone” pain. Forever!!!!!! Sorta think it started few years ago when I started taking TURBO KICK class … Not 100% sure.

    Started taking vitamins -cause I’m old. Started calcium. Friend said make sure it has magnesium. Well I love the calcium I take .. It doesn’t have mag. So I bought a mag supplement as well.

    CHANGED MY LIFE!!!!!!! Swear. The pain is 98% gone. I still have thigh issues … My right leg can’t perform (stretch) thr same as my left. One day ill get an X-ray.

    Till then, I’m good and will not stop taking magnesium.

    Hope it helps someone else.

    • Shaun Chevalier

      Make sure Mg is equal or higher than Calcium. If you still have problems, you should stop taking calcium for a while so your Mg can readjust. Calcium should never be higher than magnesium. Equal to or a little lower. New information has come out that it was a mistake to make calcium the higher ratio. Esp. when it’s not the only important mineral for bones. Like Wellerval said. Magnesium. Vitamin D. And Vitamin K as well. But perhaps stop the calcium intake for a while and just rely on foods while you take the magnesium. See how that feels for a little while. Then reintroduce the calcium making sure Mg is equal/higher.

  • mommalicious

    i was tired all of the time, tingling in my hands at night and leg
    cramps that woke me up from my sleep. i thought that i was dehydrated because i had been working on a renovation during the summer time and sweating like never before. at first i started drinking gatorade. this sort of helped, but the body and leg cramps still continued. it wasnt until i started researching mag deficiency online and i learned about magnesium oil and magnesium water that i started to make a change in my body. i bought mag oil from VHS Botanicals because you can spray it on and you can put it in your water or juice (bitter taste but worth every bit). i started spraying it on after my shower, i rubbed it on my knees when they hurt, i slept with it next to my bed in case of the night cramps. i kid you NOT…no cramps, back pain gone, new energy and my tingling is a memory. i am so grateful because i truly believe that God put everything we need here on earth. i sing the praises of magnesium oil all day. i have given some to my uncle who is alot older. every day i see him he tells me how his stiffness and back pain are gone. God is GOOD!!!

  • sambuca

    I had leg cramps at night and suffer from heart fribbilation ,started with 250 mg of magnesium daily . What a difference now I have no cramps and my fribbilation is quiet

  • Rob

    How much is Too much magnesium?
    I eat nuts, avocado daily
    Will adding a magnesium supplement help my blood sugar level?

  • Carlton Bennett

    I started a mag supplement yesterday and this morning my pain/stiffness was reduced from a 6/7 to a 2/3. I did notice that my blood sugar readings were a little higher. Is this something that needs time to adjust too?

  • Maria Teresa Radman

    I am 52 years old and Type 2 Diabetic. Have had constipation for a few weeks and suspecting low magnesium. Any advice on what type of magnesium to take and how much?

    • Hi Maria Theresa, I hope some readers answer this question. There are some suggestions already posted in the comments. I don’t know what’s best and naturopaths seem to agree that different types work best for different people.

    • Debra Kuzma

      Use Magnesium Oil. It absorbs thru your skin, so you can’t overdose. And Inositol, is supposed to be used for diabetic neuropathy–not spelled right, but you know what I mean.

  • Cheryl Hooper

    I’m a type 2 diabetic. Recently my weight and my blood sugar levels have gone down so my doctor started weaning me off of Glipizide. What I noticed is that my sugar levels started getting even lower every time I reduced the amount of the Glipizide rather than creeping up or maintaining. I’m exercising slightly more, but last night I ate cookies before bed fully expecting my sugar to be higher this morning. Nope, lower than ever! I finally think I figured it out: For the past week I started a Mag Ox supplement, 400mg a night to help me sleep that my Endocrinologist recommended. I only focused on how much better I was sleeping until this morning’s meter reading made me think the mag ox is helping with more than one issue! I was curious about the effects of Magnesium on diabeties which brought me to this forum. I’m so excited and I think this is a miracle drug for sure!

    • Qiana Drew

      Seriously! I started to Drink a Magnesium powdered (I put in hot water) right before bed and I’ve never awakened with such excellent fasting blood sugar. It is for sure the MAG that is doing the trick. I’ve had morning highs of 250 mostly for years(Pretty much everyday its between 130-280) Horrible “I know”). Now I’m taking this for week and its like a miracle worker..i can’t believe it!

  • Sheila Van Houten

    Thank you! This is soooo important!