What’s The Best Magnesium Supplement?

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Anxiety, Depression, Mood, Brain Health, Cramps, Endometriosis, Herbs & Supplements, Sleep Leave a Comment

Do you find it hard to drift off to sleep, frequently grapple with PMS symptoms, or regularly face headaches and constipation? These concerns could all be signaling that your magnesium levels are lower than ideal.

Magnesium is a vital mineral that plays a crucial role in numerous bodily functions, from regulating blood sugar levels and blood pressure to supporting muscle and nerve function. By incorporating the recommended dosages of magnesium supplements into your daily routine, you can support various aspects of your health, including relaxation, energy production, and restorative sleep.

However, with a plethora of magnesium supplements flooding the market, it can be challenging to decipher which one is truly the best mag supplement for you.

In this article, we'll delve into the world of magnesium dietary supplements, exploring the different forms available and uncovering the top contenders for the title of the best magnesium supplement. You'll learn about available type of magnesium supplements, such as magnesium:

  • Glycinate
  • Oxide
  • Citrate
  • Malate
  • Sulfite
  • And others

Why Do We Need Magnesium?

Magnesium, an electrolyte that we must obtain on a regular basis for optimal health, is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the human body. It's stored primarily within the bones but also found in the muscles, soft tissues, and red blood cells.

Magnesium supports energy production, bone health, a steady heartbeat, and hundreds of metabolic processes. It's required for DNA and RNA synthesis, reproduction, protein synthesis, insulin metabolism, blood pressure regulation, and proper muscle contraction.

Because of this, dietary magnesium is an important part of heart disease prevention, reducing the risk of chronic diseases, and maintaining hormone health.

Since our bodies cannot produce magnesium on their own, obtaining an adequate amount through diet and/or supplements is essential.

You can find magnesium in a variety of foods, including leafy greens, bananas, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dairy products. However, according to estimates, around 50% of people in the United States and Europe may have inadequate magnesium intake from their diet alone. One reason this is thought to be true: modern farming practices have depleted our soil of nutrients, and many of our foods don't have as much magnesium in them as they did decades ago.

As a nutrition scientist and board certified naturopathic endocrinologist, I will always advocate for leveraging nutrition as the best way to get your nutrients. But when it comes to magnesium, this is one mineral where supplementation may be necessary, even with the best nutrition practices.

Symptoms of Low Magnesium

Low magnesium levels can lead to a range of symptoms affecting different systems in the body. For example, some common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Muscle cramps and spasms (many people report leg cramps)
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Mood changes, such as anxiety, irritability, depression, or mood swings.
  • Insomnia or poor sleep
  • Headaches and migraines

Brain-Boosting Benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium may keep your brain young, healthy, and protect it from the effect of aging. In recent years, research has emerged that sheds light on the benefits of adequate magnesium intake for stress support, brain health, and mood stabilization, including fighting depression and managing PMS symptoms.

Studies suggest that consuming 500 to 550 milligrams of dietary magnesium per day, which is more than the typical recommended amount, can have neuroprotective effects and may lead to improvements in cognitive function and overall brain health.

In fact, these benefits of bigger, younger brains were most pronounced in women. So, if you were blessed with ovaries then you want to be eating a diet rich in magnesium and considering the best supplement for magnesium for your needs.

This makes sense, considering that magnesium plays a role in neurotransmitter function and mood regulation. For example, deficiency is associated with symptoms like restlessness, poor sleep, and worsened anxiety, while obtaining higher amounts can support memory, improved sleep quality, and healthier energy levels.

This discovery underscores the importance of prioritizing magnesium supplementation to support not only your physical health but also your mental well-being and hormonal health.

Forms of Magnesium Supplements: Types and Benefits

Various forms of magnesium supplements are available, each with its own unique characteristics and benefits. Certain types are best suited for specific health goals and needs, such as magnesium glycinate for dealing with stress or citrate for preventing constipation.

There are 9 common forms of magnesium supps that include:

  1. Magnesium glycinate
  2. Magnesium citrate
  3. Magnesium malate
  4. Magnesium oxide
  5. Magnesium chloride 
  6. Magnesium sulfate
  7. Magnesium L-threonate
  8. Magnesium taurate
  9. Magnesium orotate

Below you fill find the recommended dosages and key benefits these common types of magnesium supplements offer:

1. Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is considered one of the best forms of magnesium in terms of absorption and gentle effects, especially when it comes to promoting relaxation and restful sleep.

While it has a high bioavailability (it's easy for the body to use), it's also less likely than other forms to cause gastrointestinal discomfort, making it an ideal choice for those with sensitive stomachs.

Moreover, magnesium glycinate has been linked to improved sleep quality, making it particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with insomnia or sleep disturbances. Because of its stress-fighting and sleep-supporting effects, it can be used to help support memory and may reduce PMS symptoms when used in conjunction with vitamin B6.

Because of the effect magnesium can have on prostaglandins and muscle cramps, many women report reduced menstrual cramps when supplementing with magnesium glycinate.

It's for these reasons that many experts consider magnesium glycinate one of the best supplements for magnesium in women.

Magnesium bis-glycinate is the primary ingredient in my Magnesium Plus supplement, which is designed to give you all the benefits of easily absorbed magnesium without the risk of diarrhea or a digestive upset.

Recommended dosage: Optimal dosage typically falls between 200-400 mg per day for adult women, with higher doses recommended for those experiencing sleep issues.

2. Magnesium Citrate

Known for its ability to promote bowel regularity, magnesium citrate is often used as a gentle laxative to help relieve constipation.

It works by pulling water into the bowels and is absorbed relatively well by the body, although taking too much can cause diarrhea. It's one of the best forms for those looking to support digestive health, especially if they tend to have trouble “staying regular.”

If you struggle with chronic constipation and find the only way to go is to use this—it's time to meet with your medical provider. While it can provide constipation relief, this magnesium supp shouldn't be the only thing between you and a bowel movement.

Recommended dosage: Between 100-300 mg per day for adult women. If diarrhea occurs, reduce your intake to a lower dose.

3. Magnesium Malate

Combining magnesium with malic acid, magnesium malate is prized for its potential to enhance energy production and alleviate symptoms of fatigue.

This form of magnesium is usually well-absorbed and may be especially beneficial for those seeking to boost their energy levels and combat feelings of lethargy. For instance, it's sometimes recommended for people with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.

We include magnesium malate in our Prenatal Plus to help with the fatigue that can come with being pregnant.

Recommended dosage: Dosage ranges from 300-600 mg per day for adult women, with the higher end of the spectrum often preferred for individuals seeking to enhance energy levels.

4. Magnesium Oxide

This form of magnesium has a high magnesium content, but it's not as well absorbed as other forms. It's commonly used to help manage heartburn or acid reflux or as a laxative, but it can cause gastrointestinal side effects like diarrhea.

Many magnesium supplements include magnesium oxide in them as a necessary buffer, which doesn't hinder absorption. However, if the supplement only contains magnesium oxide, then you are getting a less bioavailable form.

Recommended dosage: Typically 200-400 mg per day.

5. Magnesium Chloride

Studies suggest magnesium chloride can be absorbed through the skin, though in far lesser amounts than magnesium that is ingested, and is often used in topical magnesium oil or lotion for transdermal absorption. 

All of the studies we have showing positive benefits from magnesium come from either magnesium consumed in the diet or through oral supplementation. There is not substantial evidence to support that topical magnesium has any benefit beyond muscle relaxation.

If you think about it, your skin's job is to act as a barrier and keep things from getting in. Your gut, on the other hand, is designed to allow magnesium and other nutrients to pass through.

Although we lack evidence for systemic benefit, I still recommend Epsom salt baths (see magnesium sulfate) or topical magnesium cream to patients who are experiencing muscle aches and pains, including period cramps. For brain, mood, sleep, cardiovascular, and all the other benefits—oral is best.

Recommended dosage: the recommended dosage is 200-400 mg per day.

6. Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt)

Epsom salt is commonly used in baths to promote relaxation and relieve sore muscles. While it can be absorbed through the skin, it's not recommended for oral supplementation due to its laxative effect. In fact, it's one of the most potent laxatives and, therefore, usually used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Recommended use: In a salt bath, mix hot water with about one or two cups (or handfuls) of Epsom salt.

7. Magnesium L-Threonate

This form of magnesium has been specifically studied for its potential cognitive benefits, as it may penetrate the blood-brain barrier more effectively. It has the potential to help improve memory and reduce age-related memory loss.

It is the most expensive form of magnesium, but in aging populations, magnesium L-threonate has been shown to improve memory and cognition. It is important to note that the same improvements aren't necessarily seen in younger populations, but that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't have benefits in this population.

Recommended dosage: Typically 1,000-2,000 mg per day.

8. Magnesium Taurate

Magnesium taurate is a combination of magnesium and the amino acid taurine that is absorbed easily by the body. It's often used to support cardiovascular health and may have calming effects.

Recommended dosage: Typically 125-500 mg per day.

9. Magnesium Orotate

Magnesium orotate is a combination of magnesium and orotic acid, which is believed to enhance magnesium absorption. It's often used to support heart health and athletic performance, although it's not a very commonly used form compared to others.

Recommended dosage: Typically 200-400 mg per day.

How Much Magnesium Do You Need?

Overall, the recommended daily allowance for adults for magnesium is about 300 to 400 milligrams per day, which can be obtained through a combination of foods and supplements. While less than 400 mg/day of supplementation is usually recommended, in some cases, higher amounts may have benefits, such as for cognitive health. In addition, as new research evolves, we may find that intakes closer to 500 mg a day may prove beneficial for longevity and sustained brain health.

More specifically, the right amount for you depends on your age, gender, and general health. Here are more detailed guidelines about how much magnesium women should aim for each day:

AgeWomen (mg/day)Men (mg/day)
0-6 months30 (adequate intake)30 (adequate intake)
7-12 months75 (adequate intake)75 (adequate intake)
1-3 years8080
31 and up320420

It's important to note that individual needs for magnesium supplementation may vary based on factors such as age, sex, health status, and dietary intake. It's always best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate type and dosage of magnesium supplement for your specific needs.

How to Choose the Best Magnesium Supplement For Your Needs

Whether you're looking to cope better with stress, get a handle on PMS symptoms, sleep more soundly, or recover from exercise more easily, there's the best type of magnesium for you. Here are some recommendations based on different health goals:

For Fighting Stress and Anxiety

Magnesium glycinate is one of the best forms for combating stress and supporting overall health. In fact, magnesium is depleted during times of elevated stress, meaning you may need even more if you're run down, under a lot of pressure, or dealing with HPA dysregulation (formerly known as adrenal fatigue).

You'll find this form in my Magnesium Plus supplement, which can be helpful for maintaining a healthy mood, getting restful sleep, and supporting hormone balance.

For Healthy Menstrual Cycles and Managing PMS

Studies suggest that magnesium can be effective as a PMS remedy when combined with vitamin B6, which is why these two nutrients are added to my Balance Women’s Hormone Support supplement. You'll find magnesium malate in this formula…

Magnesium may also reduce fluid retention, one of the most common PMS problems, and it can help your liver process estrogen more efficiently, which is crucial for eliminating PMS symptoms like IBS, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and insomnia.

When looking for the best magnesium supplement that isn't in combination with other ingredients, magnesium glycinate offers not only the best absorption, but promotes a calm and restful state in the brain. This is especially important for when the night waking or difficulty sleeping symptoms of PMS arise. Magnesium Plus is one of the best magnesium supplements for women because it contains magnesium glycinate.

Additionally, magnesium can support women in menopause, as it's critical for warding off osteoporosis and also has anxiety-fighting effects due to its ability to influence the HPA axis, a connected system of glands that regulates hormone production.

While about 300 mg/day is a typical recommendation, some people benefit from increasing their magnesium supplement dosage to about 400 mg/day+ during the week leading up to their period.

For Sleep and Energy Support

Because magnesium malate can help you get more rest and feel more energized, I include it in my Balance formula, along with other key nutrients and nervous system-calming herbs, to help you feel calmer, get better sleep, and support thyroid health.

If you're currently pregnant or nursing and in need of more rest and energy, magnesium malate is also found in my Prenatal Plus supplement, a comprehensive formula that features other essential vitamins and minerals for thyroid support and healthy fetal development.

For Digestive Health and Fighting Constipation

As mentioned above, some forms of magnesium are considered laxatives due to their effect on fluids and muscles within the digestive tract. Magnesium pulls water into the bowels and can stimulate muscle contractions, helping things to get moving easier.

Magnesium oxide is one form of magnesium that has a noticeable laxative effect. You don’t absorb much magnesium oxide, so if you’re looking to elevate your magnesium stores, another form might be better.

Magnesium citrate also gets things moving and can be gentler than other stimulant-type laxatives.

Another benefit of taking mag supplements is that they can have positive effects on muscular function and spasms within the esophagus, which is one possible cause of indigestion and reflux. Magnesium is capable of encouraging stomach acid production, which may decrease indigestion.

Who Should Not Supplement With Magnesium?

Magnesium is generally considered safe, although it can cause side effects and interactions in some cases. If you have diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease, consult with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements.

Also, if you're taking any of the following medications, magnesium could interfere with them:

  • Antibiotics
  • High blood pressure medication
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Spironolactone or other potassium-sparing diuretics

When it comes to thyroid medication, magnesium supplements are best taken 2-4 hours after your medication since that can interfere with absorption.

Improving Magnesium Intake Through a Healthy Diet

While supplements can certainly be a reliable and convenient way to increase your magnesium intake and help lower the risk of deficiency, don't forget about magnesium-rich foods, which are often full of other essential nutrients, too.

Dietary sources of magnesium aren't as likely to cause problems as supplemental magnesium, so it’s not advisable to avoid healthy foods because of their magnesium content.

Here are some of the best food sources of magnesium:

  • Leafy Greens: spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens.
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, oats, and barley.
  • Legumes: black beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes.
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Bananas
  • Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, and halibut.
  • Tofu
  • Dairy products: yogurt, kefir, cheese, and milk

You can download my free recipe guide to help you stick to a healthy diet that will naturally increase your magnesium intake.

Can You Combine Different Magnesium Supplements?

It's generally safe to combine different forms of magnesium supplements; in fact, combining different types can provide a more comprehensive approach to addressing potential deficiencies and may have more widespread benefits, such as for stress, sleep, hormone, and muscle support.

That said, it's essential to be mindful of your total magnesium intake to avoid exceeding the recommended daily limits. Excessive magnesium intake can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, as well as more severe complications in rare cases.

Here are some benefits of combining different forms of magnesium:

  • Magnesium glycinate with magnesium citrate: This combo can provide both the benefits of glycinate for relaxation and sleep support, as well as the laxative effects of citrate for bowel regularity.
  • Magnesium oxide with magnesium malate: This duo may offer benefits for both muscle relaxation and energy production.

Before combining different magnesium supplements or making any changes to your supplement regimen, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications that may interact with magnesium. A provider can provide personalized guidance based on your individual needs and health status and ensure your medications won't interact with magnesium supplements.

Key Takeaways on the Best Magnesium Supplements

When it comes to selecting the best magnesium supplement for you, it's essential to consider factors such as absorption, tolerability, and specific health goals. For example, magnesium citrate and oxide offer unique benefits for digestion, while magnesium glycinate and malate stand out as top contenders for superior absorption, stress-fighting, and sleep-promoting properties. By incorporating the recommended dosages of magnesium into your daily routine, you can harness the benefits of this essential mineral for improved hormonal health, relaxation, sleep, digestion, and more.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. As a licensed naturopathic physician who is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, she takes an integrative approach in her clinical practice. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones. She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News. Read more about me here.