Many people in the UK and across the world suffer from anxiety. This can manifest as feelings of fear, uneasiness, or dread.
It’s important to note the difference between feeling anxious in relation to a legitimate stressor – which can be a healthy and normal response and even be beneficial (for example, feeling a bit nervous before a driving test is pretty normal!) and generalised anxiety disorder (either diagnosed or suspected).
People living with GAD worry about many things all the time – to the extent that this worry becomes debilitating and all-consuming.
This article will cover both ends of the spectrum but will focus on the use of magnesium for generalised anxiety disorder.
So can magnesium really, truly help people suffering from anxiety? If so, why?
Let’s take a look at the following:
- How magnesium for anxiety works
- Which is the best magnesium for anxiety?
- How to use magnesium for anxiety
In this guide:
Is magnesium good for anxiety?
Magnesium plays a really important role in brain function. The mineral is essential in more than 300 biochemical processes throughout the body, including in the regulation of neurotransmitter processing.
Various neurotransmitters are involved in anxiety – including serotonin, glutamate, gamma-aminobutyric acid, Cholecystokinin, and Adenosine.
All are thought to play a role in the regulation of anxiety disorders. Furthermore, magnesium both harmonises nerve signal transmission and preserves the integrity of the blood–brain barrier.
It also stimulates the production of melatonin and serotonin, thought to boost your mood and improve sleep, consequently supporting relaxation and helping combat feelings of anxiety.
At present, a number of studies support the use of magnesium for anxiety, although we still need to better understand the connections and the exact relationship between the mineral and the condition.
Magnesium is thought to block the activity of stimulating neurotransmitters and binds to calming receptors. As such, it’s increasingly thought to play a role in stress management, which can overlap with and compound anxiety disorders.
One systematic review into the effectiveness of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress (subjective refers to the assessment tool used commonly in behavioural research) considered the results of 18 studies in total.
The studies covered samples of people with mild anxiety, anxiety during premenstrual syndrome, postpartum anxiety, and generalised anxiety.
The review found that existing evidence suggests that magnesium does have a beneficial effect on subjective anxiety.
However, the quality of currently available evidence is poor (insufficient sample sizes, self-reporting, etc.).
So, we need further high-quality research (well-designed, randomised, controlled trials) to make empirical conclusions and confirm the efficacy of magnesium supplementation in relation to anxiety.
Which type of magnesium is best for anxiety?
A number of forms of magnesium are thought to work well with anxiety. In particular, we recommend magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, magnesium L-threonate, or any combination of these.
Magnesium glycinate is made up of magnesium and glycine. As a neutral amino acid, glycine slows down the firing of neurons and protects the brain from overstimulation, giving it powerful anti-anxiety properties.
This makes the compound an obvious choice for those looking to take magnesium specifically for anxiety.
The most well-researched form of magnesium and a highly bioavailable one to boot, magnesium citrate is a powerful form of magnesium suitable for use in anxiety.
Like magnesium citrate, magnesium L-threonate is also highly absorbable. Further, magnesium L-threonate is unique in its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (the brain’s protective filter). This unlocks magnesium’s neuroprotective properties (including the mineral’s ability to improve cognitive function).
And, while the relationship between neurology and anxiety isn’t clear cut, anxiety disorders are characterised by and thus interlinked with a variety of neuroendocrine, neurotransmitter, and neuroanatomical disruptions.
The use of magnesium L-threonate for anxiety is supported within the scientific literature, too. One 2011 study looked at the impact of magnesium L-threonate on fear extinction, neuronal plasticity, and fear conditioning within anxiety disorders.
The study found that magnesium L-threonate might be a useful therapeutic tool in situations where cognitive therapies hadn’t worked – and crucially, could help without triggering adverse side effects.
How to use magnesium for anxiety?
The best way to use magnesium for anxiety is to take it regularly – i.e., every day! There are a number of ways to consume magnesium, but the best way to use magnesium for anxiety is either in powder form or in capsules.
Magnesium powder is a highly bioavailable form of magnesium. Like with capsules and tablets, the powder can begin to work within a week of consistent supplementation. If you are trying to correct a severe deficiency, it will take longer to see noticeable improvement.
To use magnesium powder effectively, follow the instructions specified by the brand you choose. For example, our top-rated magnesium L-threonate and citrate blend works best when you dissolve 5mg in water or another liquid and drink once every day.
Capsules and tablets
Capsules and tablets are an easy method by which to integrate magnesium supplements into your dietary and wellness routine. If you choose to take magnesium in pill form, note that it will take at least a week of consistent dosing to show any effect, although it can be longer.
Further, if you’re looking to improve a condition such as anxiety, huge changes aren’t going to be visible overnight! You should take capsules or tablets consistently over at least four weeks (as the absolute minimum) in order to see results.
So, don’t be disheartened if you don’t feel any difference over a couple of days or weeks.
How much magnesium should you take for anxiety?
The right amount of magnesium for you will depend on your height, weight, age, and the severity of the deficiency or condition you are attempting to correct.
The NHS website advises nobody should take over 400mg of magnesium each day. Note that the magnesium you get from eating food doesn’t count here – the maximum limits relate to supplementation only.
Always follow the recommended dosage guidelines on the product packaging and speak with a medical professional if you plan to begin taking magnesium. They will be able to advise you on an appropriate dose.
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When is the best time to take magnesium for anxiety?
Magnesium supplements can be taken at any time of the day. The time you take magnesium depends on why you are taking it.
So the best time to take magnesium for anxiety will be personal. Whatever time you are more likely to remember to and stick to taking magnesium consistently is the best time to take your supplement.
Side effects of using magnesium for anxiety
In general, magnesium is a safe and effective supplement and doesn’t tend to cause side effects. However, some people may experience stomach issues when they take magnesium, including nausea and diarrhoea.
Do note that taking too much magnesium can cause magnesium toxicity. This can lead to more serious symptoms as your body attempts to excrete the excess magnesium it is not able to absorb. This can manifest as an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, dizziness, and lethargy.
Frequently asked questions:
Yes, magnesium is thought to help calm anxiety. One way in which magnesium may calm anxiety is by blocking the activity of stimulating neurotransmitters and inseam binding to calming receptors.
Yes, preliminary studies support the use of magnesium for panic attacks. This is because, even when mild, magnesium deficiency can increase human susceptibility to psychological stressors. In correcting magnesium deficiency, you may be able to prevent panic attacks.
Anxiety-related conditions are the most common affective disorders present across general populations.
And, with so many anxiety medications being associated with a number of nasty side effects, using magnesium to restore harmony and equilibrium in the body and correct a potential magnesium deficiency can be a great way to combat anxiety naturally.
This doesn’t mean that supplementing with magnesium is guaranteed to cure an anxiety disorder. Rather, that magnesium supplementation can support the fight against anxiety as one generally safe element of a multifaceted tool kit.