Which Magnesium is Best for Migraines?

Written and verified by Holly Hazen


Be careful choosing which magnesium is best for migraines... your body and your migraine attacks. It comes in many forms. Glycinate is one of the best forms to take if you get migraines. But there are also a couple of other formulations you need to know about… especially magnesium malate and threonate. This is really important because they may be much more effective at reducing your attacks.

And there’s Sulfate (a.k.a. Epsom salts) and magnesium oil for transdermal delivery. I have not had a lot of success with the topical applications. But it is another way to add a little boost to your oral intake.

But don’t get confused… there is also citrate which is recommended by some doctors. Oxide, hydroxide, gluconate, carbonate, and chloride are not recommended for migraine reduction.

Confused yet? No wonder… let’s look at some of these in more detail.

These are my top 4:

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Which Magnesium Is Best For Migraines? Here are my top 4: glycinate, threonate, malate and citrate @migrainesavvyWhich Magnesium Is Best For Migraines? Here are my top 4: glycinate, threonate, malate and citrate. There are more @migrainesavvy


This is a great infographic courtesy of Swanson's Vitamins:


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Magnesium supports your entire body. It’s involved in hundreds of your body's chemical processes that help you maintain optimal health. You can read more about that here.

Which Magnesium is Best For Migraines?

What's the best type of magnesium for migraine? Truthfully, I can't answer that. Because what works well for me may not work for you at all. I recommend reading through the different types and deciding what might work best for the issues and other health conditions you have. (Diarrhea versus constipation for example). 

But I am going to go over the most popular ones, and the ones that have had studies done for efficacy. Here are the ones you need to consider as a person living with migraine:

Magnesium Glycinate

This is one of the most bioavailable sources of magnesium, which means you will absorb and digest it well. It is the least likely to cause problems in your intestines, and with diarrhea. It helps support energy production, heart and lung function, and metabolism of sugar and carbs.

The form glycinate (glycine) is the amino acid to which the Magnesium is bonded. It supports cognitive function and calms neural functions. It can help with reducing inflammation, sleep, and anxiety. It’s also very good if you have a sensitive stomach. 

Magnesium Malate

This one has become my first choice as the combination of magnesium and malic acid improves and supports ATP production at a cellular level. This increases energy and reduces pain. If you do experience diarrhea with this form, just reduce the dose or try the glycinate.

This form is great for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. It's a combination of malic acid and magnesium which has higher bioavailability. It also has an ability to chelate toxic metals. 

It is best to take form in the morning as it can be energizing. This one is gentle on the stomach, much gentler than citrate or oxide.

Magnesium Threonate (or L- Threonate)

This one enhances memory and cognitive function. It can help lift brain fog and energy. It has recently been studied and found to promote brain health and support learning. It has been shown to cross the blood brain barrier which means we are getting magnesium levels up in the brain. Right where we need it! 

This is a third option for you to experiment with if you’re not getting the results you want from the other two. It’s a little more expensive, so it might be an idea to combine it with another form to get the benefits of different forms. 

What is chelated?

If you hear the word ‘chelated’ this refers to a more complex process required to make the supplements. It means that the magnesium has been "chemically bound to amino acid proteins." [3] It tends to be more expensive, but it is easier to digest and absorb.

"Chelation is actually a natural process that occurs during digestion to help facilitate transport of minerals across the intestinal wall so they can be used by your body." [3]

There are others forms of magnesium out there, as I mentioned, but they differ in bioavailability and usefulness to you as a migraine sufferer. Some can be detrimental…

"You should also avoid magnesium glutamate and aspartate. These break down into neurotransmitters that can trigger headaches for many people." [1]

Also, please consider quality when you investigate testing magnesium supplements. If you are searching for a new magnesium supplement without really knowing what to look for, price can dictate your decision making. But this could cause a poor result. And you literally end up throwing it all down the toilet. 


Magnesium Citrate

Citrate is a very popular form of magnesium. The bond is with citric acid making it more absorbable than some other forms like oxide. It is often promoted to relieve constipation, which is great for some of us, especially pregnant women. However, if you're taking this in a higher dose of 400 milligrams or so it could cause diarrhea. It might be worth lowering the dose, replacing it or combining it with another type like glycinate, threonate, or malate.

Magnesium Oxide

This form is not as bioavailable as some of the other forms. It is widely recommended because it has been in many studies for migraine relief, it's cheap and widely available. It is most often prescribed to relieve constipation and heartburn. While many migraine medications can cause constipation, this could be an option for you however you may not be able to reach the maximum dose without causing some digestive upset. In this case you may not experience the benefits from it.

Even though magnesium oxide is well studied, it is not the best form for absorption and can often lead to digestive problems when you use larger doses.

Magnesium Orotate

Magnesium orotate can be used to treat symptoms of too much stomach acid, this could be problematic for us as we already have compromised digestive function due to migraine which commonly causes low stomach acid. There have not been a lot of studies on this form, and this is not the best choice for magnesium supplement.

Magnesium Taurate

Taurate, on the other hand is more well studied. It is the amino acid taurine combined with magnesium which is shown to promote stable blood sugar levels and reduce heart attacks and improver cardiovascular health. In my own experience I found it very stimulating which increased my energy substantially almost to the point of feeling quite anxious. I quickly discovered that this was not a good choice for me.

You can still experience gut related issues like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting with this form especially when taken in large doses.

Which Delivery Method is Best?

Magnesium supplements are available in different forms of delivery, not just tablets. Orally there is: powder, capsules, liquid, syrup, and tablets.

It also comes in: intramuscular injections, intravenous (normally with saline too which is great to hydrate) and transdermal oil. 

My choice is capsules with power in them (third on the list) as I tend to forget to take powder forms. But they are great if you hate or can’t swallow capsules or tablets.

  • Injections or IV, if you are really deficient (and if you can afford this option. It can be expensive but is effective for fast relief).
  • Powder
  • Capsules
  • Tablets (too hard to digest)

It's even more effective if you can take magnesium with cofactor Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) or a bioavailable B-complex. They can help speed up your absorption and provide faster relief. [1]

There are great combination products like Migravent that you can trial as well.

What Dose is Best?

The dose can vary on each product, so make sure you read the supplement facts and serving size on each one. You can also consider your weight and age when choosing which magnesium is best for migraines. And then double check with your physician or naturopath. 

It's important to note these amounts are the elemental value. Occasionally brands will print the maximum value which makes it look like 1000+ milligrams of magnesium in one pill when the elemental value will be 50mg. Look carefully at what you're buying to make sure it is in elemental values.

~ Alicia Wolf

Most ‘migraine-free’ adults need between 300 mg - 400 mg of magnesium daily. Here are the specific daily recommendations for magnesium intake from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) based on age.

Children

  • Under 6 months: 30 mg
  • 7-12 months: 75 mg
  • 1-3 years: 80 mg
  • 9-13 years: 240 mg
  • 14-18 years: 410 mg male/360 mg female

Adults

  • 19-30 years: 400 mg male/310-360 mg female
  • 31+ years: 420 mg male/320 mg female*

*The dose is different if you are pregnant or nursing, so make sure you check with your doctor.

The above numbers are just a general guideline. As a person living with migraine, you might need more or less due to other factors that may affect your ability to absorb, store and use magnesium. 

High levels of stress, drinking alcohol or having some other diseases can all affect the way magnesium is absorbed and used by your body. [2] 

The most common recommended dose is 200 mgs twice a day. However recent research suggests "that taking 300 mgs magnesium twice a day, either alone or in combination with medication, can prevent migraines." [2]

200 - 300 mgs twice a day is the recommended dose

If you have a hard time sleeping, you can try taking 400 mgs before bed and see how that works instead of splitting it up through the day.

You can take more, up to 1,000 mgs per day but check with your doctor first before starting on any supplement regime, to make sure there is nothing else for it to interact with or cause problems.

How Long Until You See Results

Don't expect to see results immediately. Finding which magnesium is best for migraines and your body can take a couple of months.

You can read more on this post Can Magnesium Help Migraine?

And I talk more about it in my workshop. Click here to join the FREE Migraine Relief workshop right now >>



A Word of Caution... Unwanted Side Effects

Note: Magnesium, if taken in high doses, can cause unwanted side effects like these:

  • abdominal cramps and diarrhea
  • low blood pressure
  • weak muscles
  • loss of appetite
  • mental changes
  • irregular heartbeat
  • nausea
  • problems breathing

So please check with your doctor before deciding on supplementation and which magnesium is best for migraines.

Please get urgent medical attention if you have a severe reaction.

Also if you have kidney problems or kidney failure you should not take magnesium. As with any supplement, magnesium can interact negatively with other medications... so it's essential to check with your doctor before trying to find which magnesium is best for migraines for you.

Always check with your doctor first... always.

Just One Last Note on Fillers and Binding Agents

In your quest to find which magnesium is best for migraines, you may encounter some reactions along the way. This is why I normally recommend individual supplements over combination products. 

Another problem with supplements is you never really know if you are reacting to the capsule shell which may be made of gelatin, the supplement itself, or the fillers and binding agents. These are most commonly: cellulose, stearic acid, and magnesium stearate. Any one of these can be a migraine trigger for you. [4]

Fillers are used to bulk up the capsule which might only be filled with a very tiny amount of product. So, try to choose reputable brands that use only one filler. Rice flour is a preferred filler that I look for where possible. Some use turmeric or ginger… which is even better. This is one of the things I consider with the products I recommend.

Here are the only brands I recommend:

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Which Magnesium is Best for Migraines References:
1. Knight, Erin. (2017) Magnesium for Migraines: Why and How to Choose The Right Supplement [Online], Available at: https://www.engineeringradiance.com/2017/10/magnesium-migraines-choose-right-supplement/ Accessed Feb. 4, 2018.
2. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements (2018) Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Consumers. [Online], Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-healthProfessional/  Accessed Feb. 4, 2018.
3. Swanson Blog (2016) What is the Best Magnesium Supplement Form for You? [Online], Available at: https://www.swansonvitamins.com/blog/chelsea/magnesium-types-compared  Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
4. Wolf, A. (2022) The Best Magnesium Supplements for Migraine. Available [online] at: https://thedizzycook.com/magnesium-supplements-explained-which-one-is-best-for-vestibular-migraine/    Accessed May 10, 2022.