Which Magnesium Supplements Work?

We’ve had a lot of discussion here about magnesium for migraine.  One of the most popular versions of magnesium for migraine is magnesium citrate.  But some ask, what if magnesium citrate isn’t working?  Or is there a better magnesium citrate supplement for headache?  What about the dosage of magnesium for migraine?

Instead of bringing a lot of new information today, I went over some of the practical suggestions that we’ve discussed here before.

Which Magnesium should I take for migraine?

Here are some of the key suggestions:

  • Do NOT take a magnesium supplement that contains calcium.  Read the label.  If you take calcium supplements, take them at another time of day.
  • Usually, the "ate" forms, such as citrate or glycinate are better absorbed.  Although some have recommended magnesium oxide, most people are still going for the "ate" forms.
  • If magnesium tablets aren’t working well for you, try capsules or liquid/water soluble magnesium.
  • If you’re getting diarrhea, your magnesium probably isn’t absorbing well.  Try another type.

Now, what specific brands or types of magnesium have been recommended here?  Here are the most common:

I notice that it can be confusing how much you get in a bottle.  Watch for how many capsules, for example, you need to get a serving.

Here are a few specific comments from you our visitors:

Liz says: I had only been told by my neurologist to take Magnesium during menstruation.  Also i take a more rare, and highly unavailable kind-magnesium glycinate.  It didn’t seem to make much of a difference, but after doing more research I’ve up’d my dose to 400mg/day and will likely double that will menstruating.  It has already begun to make a difference!

Judith:  Recently (summer 2010) you published a testimonial by a reader who indicated that she had had impressive results by using Solaray brand Magnesium Asporotate.  I switched to Magnesium Asporotate in August 2010.  In September the frequency of my migraines began to drop off. … I credit the magnesium asporotate with my 8 week freedom from migraines.  This is huge!

Angie:  I am still on Magnesium, James.  I still have severe attacks but also mild ones and less vomitting.  I am able to walk my dog even while having an attack…I also found this Mg citrate in liquid form [Flora Floradix Magnesium Liquid Mineral Supplement].  It is what I am taking now.

Aurora:  It didn’t stop me from having my attacks, but I am a bit "useful" now than before and the nauseous feeling is lesser so I vomit lesser, too.  I found this Magnesium in syrup form—Floradix Magnesium!  Tastes like tropical fruits with honey so I don’t have to take those large chewable tables.

Evie:  I’ve been taking the Solaray brand of magnesium citrate from Whole Foods because it comes in a capsule which is more easily absorbed than a tablet. … I really noticed a difference and though I’d still get migraines, they were less often and much, much more bearable.

Now, there are some combinations, magnesium + something else, but we’ll talk about those tomorrow.  Let’s talk about dosages next.

How much magnesium supplement should I take?

With the disclaimer that you should always talk to your doctor about the dosage that’s right for you, here are some suggestions and comments from our visitors.

First, let me tell you what my research has turned up.  Generally, around 400mg per day seems to be a good place to start for migraine.  But many are now suggesting larger doses, like 800mg-1200mg.  So you’re probably looking at 400-1200mg of magnesium daily, usually in more than one dose (ie 400mg 3x per day).  Your doctor will probably recommend starting with a lower dosage and raising it slowly.

Now let’s see some of the experiences of our visitors.

Stephen says:  My neurologist told me that the key to dosing magnesium is to increase until it causes diarrhea and then back off until it doesn’t.   I am up to 1250 mg and climbing but it is magnesium oxide so I don’t really know how much I am absorbing.

Shari writes:  700 mg of Magnesium was recommended to me by my neurologist.

Rachael:  [My doctor] recommended I take 500 mg of magnesium every day.  I started this two weeks ago and I have had two minor headaches that I didn’t have to take any medication for and I have not had a migraine since starting the magnesium.

Also we have Liz’ comment above, saying that she wanted to try 400mg and double that during menstruation.  We do know that magnesium levels change in women depending on your time of the month.  See more about Menstrual Migraine here.

So if you haven’t taken magnesium, give it a try!  If your magnesium citrate isn’t working, try a different type of magnesium, or a liquid supplement.

There should be a lot of ideas here to get started.  But there’s more – a lot of people are trying combinations, and that’s what we’ll talk about tomorrow.

Meanwhile, what are your suggestions?  Is there some form of magnesium you’ve found especially helpful?

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11 comments… add one
  • Betsy May 30, 2012

    I’ve found that when I have a *really* bad migraine that doesn’t respond to any triptans, an slow IV magnesium infusion given by my neurologist works like a charm about 90% of the time. (That said, my neuro is the ONLY one who’ll do this – urgent care places are terrified I’ll kick off on them 😉 So this is great – IF I can get in to see my neuro when I need one).

    Given my proven positive reaction to magnesium, I’m pretty sure that if I could find the *right* magnesium supplement that absorbed well, that might be very helpful for me. I’m currently taking Migralief from Whole Foods, but I’d definitely be interested in trying something else. I also have the additional issue of having had bariatric surgery, so absorption of pretty much anything is an issue. Perhaps one of the liquids you’ve recommended might work better for me. Thanks for all the suggestions – I’ll check them out.

  • Carol Jun 1, 2012

    My neurologist recommended 800mg daily of magnesium glycinate. I started using 800mg of Solaray Magnesium Glycinate daily more than a year ago, and recently reduced it to one 400mg capsule every day. It has made a tremendous difference; the headaches come less often and are less intense.

  • Aurora Aug 5, 2012

    My neurologist sent me to the pain clinic and the nurse there recommended Magnesium but did not heed the advice at once. But when I read this post on the mineral I remembered what the pain nurse said. So I started on Mg and it gave me good results. I am taking Solaray or the syrup form both which bave citrate. I incidentally tested what would happen if I did not take my magnesium dose. My husband forgot to buy my usual bottle for a week so I was not able to have mu daily dose. It was horrible. It felt like the floor was right on my face. The vomitting was worse and I had to crawl because it felt like I was falling if I stood. It was the worst vertigo ever. So I always have a backup bottle.

  • Seth Kaplan Dec 17, 2012

    The most bio available form of Mg is magnesium maleate. Take 400 mg twice a day. When a migraine starts, take 800 mg with a lot of water. This should help control it.

  • Karen Dec 28, 2012

    I take 500 mg daily, 1000 during menstruation. And I actually had a period without a migraine this last cycle–first time ever!!!! Also over 2 weeks without a bad migraine (new record!)–had 2 mild ones, but they responded to rescue medicine, so I they don’t count.

    My SIL used magnesium flakes of some sort to make an oil you rub on the skin that easily absorbed. I think “Wellness Mama” on Twitter gives instructions for making the oil. Might be an option for some who are having trouble absorbing the magnesium properly.

  • Marisa Dec 28, 2012

    I’ve had good luck with Magnesium W/SRT (Sustained Relase Technology). No stomach upset. The company is called “Jigsaw” and you can find them on line at jigsaw.com.

  • Sarah Dec 28, 2012

    One type that wasn’t mentioned is Magnesium Oil/Lotion. I’ve used several different types of oral Mag, and transdermal was the best way for me! Absolutely no gastro side-effects whatsoever. The only downside is that its a little harder to manage the exact dosage (a dime-sized dollop was perfect for me) and it leaves a bit of an after-film. But it works super fast! *available on Amazon.com

    • Karen Dec 28, 2012

      Yes, that’s what “Wellness Mama” teaches you to make, to save the $ on buying the premade oil. My SIL loves it. Wish I had a direct link to the instructions, but sadly I don’t.

  • Andrew M Apr 7, 2015

    Interesting reading all the types of magnesium that have been working for people. I’ve been taking magnesium glycinate in the morning and malate at night before bed and it has reduced the frequency of my migraines quite a bit.

    My neurologist gave me a pretty big range for what I could take on a daily basis though: 400mg to 1000mg. Going over 600mg caused diarrhea so I try to stay around 500mg a day which so far has been great.

  • KevinPatton Aug 29, 2016

    Why shouldn’t we take Magnesium with Calcium? Are there studies showing this to be problematic?

    • James Sep 6, 2016

      Thanks for the question, Kevin. I should really do a post just on this topic.

      First, magnesium can be taken with calcium. It often is, because magnesium helps with the absorption of calcium.

      But for migraine it’s different. As far as I know, the research done with magnesium for migraine is done with just magnesium, not a blend. If you can find any studies on a blend, I would like to see them.

      The concern is that the calcium could actually hinder the absorption of magnesium for migraine. So if you take calcium, just take it at a different time of day as your magnesium for migraine.

      One of the key proponents of magnesium for migraine, Dr. Alexander Mauskop, tells his patients the same thing. If you’re going to try magnesium, give it the best chance you can, and don’t go with a magnesium/calcium blend.

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