How It Works, When To Take It, Best Brands

Whether you deal with anxiety regularly or sporadically, the idea that a supplement could bring some relief sounds pretty appealing. So the rumor that magnesium could potentially be effective for anxiety is definitely intriguing—and worth further investigation.

Magnesium is a mineral naturally found in the body and is present in foods, dietary supplements, and some medications, says Sasha Hamdani, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and author of Self-Care for People with ADHD. Magnesium helps protein synthesis (when your cells make proteins that can help build hormones, muscle, and more), muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation, she explains.

Additionally, magnesium is thought to minimize symptoms of anxiety since it assists the functioning of your body’s stress response system and reduces stress hormones in the brain, says Cassandra Boduch, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and chief medical officer at PsychPlus.

That said, magnesium is not a solution for extreme or acute anxiety, adds Dr. Hamdani. “You should consider consulting a doctor about anxiety if you experience persistent or severe symptoms that interfere with your daily life, well-being, or overall functioning,” she says. “A doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options, which may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination, and offer guidance on managing anxiety effectively.”

Meet the experts: Sasha Hamdani, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and author of Self-Care for People with ADHD. Cassandra Boduch, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and chief medical officer at PsychPlus.

But can magnesium treat some forms of anxiety? If so, what type of magnesium is best? Read on for everything you need to know about the relationship between magnesium and anxiety, including the mineral’s general health benefits and potential side effects.

Health Benefits Of Magnesium

Magnesium can play a number of beneficial roles, but your body relies on the mineral for nerve and muscle function, blood pressure regulation, cholesterol production, bone wellness, and proper heart rhythm, says Dr. Boduch.

Additionally, magnesium is a key nutrient that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.

How Magnesium May (Or May Not) Work For Anxiety

Magnesium supplements can reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety and stress, according to a 2017 review of 18 different studies. However, the claims of lower anxiety were self-reported by the studies participants, which leads to subjective evidence, explains Dr. Boduch. As a result, more research is still needed to fully understand the role of magnesium in potentially reducing anxiety, she adds.

All that said, magnesium—including what’s naturally present in your body and what you get from food or supplements—does help regulate neurotransmission (the transfer of information between neurons and how brain cells communicate), which can mitigate symptoms of stress and anxiety and reduce muscle tension, says Dr. Hamdani. This can then lead to a soothing impact on the body and, in turn, help reduce anxious feelings, she explains.

Magnesium may also enhance sleep quality since it increases GABA, a neurotransmitter related to sleep, which plays a role in controlling anxiety, stress, and fear, says Dr. Hamdani. Plus, since magnesium can alleviate muscular stress and regulate the nervous system, this may also improve sleep, she adds.

Another perk? Magnesium can reduce stress hormones in the brain which may lead to less anxiety, depression, and insomnia, says Dr. Boduch. “Magnesium does this by limiting the release of the primary stress hormone cortisol, preventing much of it from reaching the brain,” she explains.

When It Makes Sense To Try Magnesium For Anxiety Symptoms

In most cases, magnesium supplements are best for moderate, generalized anxiety, says Dr. Hamdani. “While it can make some of the [anxiety] peaks less extreme, it generally doesn’t work quickly enough to aid in a panic situation,” she explains.

If you’re experiencing severe or acute anxiety, magnesium is not the best option or first line of defense and you should speak to a health care professional, adds Dr. Boduch. From there, they can give you a proper diagnosis and guide you on the best anxiety management techniques.

The Best Types Of Magnesium For Anxiety

While a magnesium supplement may be beneficial if your doctor gives the green light, it’s also a good idea to add magnesium-rich foods to your diet such as kale, spinach, black beans, edamame, almonds, cashews, quinoa, and brown rice, adds Dr. Hamdani

Now, not all magnesium supplements are the same, and different forms of the mineral have specific benefits, says Dr. Boduch. As it relates to anxiety, a 2019 study on rats (so, best to take this one with a grain of salt) found that magnesium taurate was rapidly absorbed and reduced anxious symptoms, while magnesium glycinate is known for its calming properties to soothe stress and improve sleep, she adds.

On top of that, most studies used magnesium lactate or magnesium oxide supplements, which may also minimize symptoms of anxiety, according to the 2017 review.

Magnesium Glycinate
Nature Made Magnesium Glycinate

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Credit: NatureMade

WH editors named this pick “best overall” magnesium supplement for any health reason that you’re taking it due to its ability to absorb well while being gentle on the stomach.

Magnesium and Ashwagandha Supplement
New Chapter Magnesium and Ashwagandha Supplement

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Editors and experts like this pick for relaxation, in particular—and it contains magnesium oxide, which may minimize symptoms of anxiety.

Magnesium Bisglycinate
Thorne Magnesium Bisglycinate
Credit: Thorne

Another glycinate option, this one is called “bisglycinate” because the company says it has two glycine molecules attached, which also purportedly helps with absorption.

How To Take Magnesium For Anxiety

You should always talk with your doctor to discuss the correct dosing and ideal time of day to take magnesium. However, generally speaking, it’s typically best to take magnesium at night since it can make you sleepy, says Dr. Hamdani. You should also always take the recommended dose at the same time every day, adds Dr. Boduch.

In terms of dosage, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is between 310 and 320 milligrams for females in general. But your exact dose will depend on your age, gender, whether or not you’re pregnant, and any underlying health conditions. Just note there is not a widely recommended official dose since it’s still inconclusive whether magnesium definitely helps with anxiety, explains Dr. Boduch. It’s also worth mentioning that it may take days to several weeks for you to notice the benefits of a magnesium supplement, adds Dr. Hamdani.

Lastly, magnesium supplements can impact the absorption of certain medications and antibiotics in your body, so it’s best to consult your physician before starting any supps, especially if you’re taking other medications for existing health conditions, Dr. Hamdani says.

Side Effects Of Magnesium Supplements

Side effects are typically minimal, but magnesium supplements can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping, says Dr. Hamdani. You may also experience low blood pressure and lethargy if you take too much, adds Dr. Boduch.

To avoid undesirable side effects, the National Academy of Medicine recommends taking no more than 350 milligrams of magnesium daily, unless otherwise directed by a doctor, says Dr. Boduch. Taking magnesium supplements with meals may also minimize GI distress.

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Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.  

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