Anybody who has suffered a migraine knows it’s not a pretty business. A throbbing, severe headache characterises the serious neurological condition, often accompanied by a sensitivity to light, nausea, and visual disturbances.
Symptoms can last anywhere between four hours and three days. However, some people report feeling tired for up to a week after migraines.
It is estimated that around 10 million adults in the UK are affected, with migraines being between two and three times more prevalent in women than in men.
So can you use magnesium for migraines? What is the relationship between magnesium and migraines, and might migraines result from a magnesium deficiency?
Let’s take a look at the following:
- Is magnesium good for migraines?
- Which magnesium is best for migraines
- How and when to take magnesium for migraines?
In this guide:
Does magnesium help migraines?
The evidence supports magnesium for migraines.
A significant body of scientific literature indicates a strong link between magnesium deficiency and migraines and mild to moderate tension headaches.
A study conducted in 2021 found that magnesium oxide works as well as valproate sodium in preventing migraine attacks.
The study also showed that participants didn’t suffer any adverse side effects. Other research has also shown that taking daily magnesium supplements can be effective in preventing menstrual-related migraines.
So what is the link between magnesium and migraines?
Significant research has shown that people with migraines often have lower magnesium levels than those without them.
This is partly due to magnesium’s vital role in forming neurotransmitters and regulating receptors, including serotonin and CGRP receptors.
Scientists believe magnesium can interrupt the transmission of pain in the nervous system and block the action of substances thought to trigger migraines, such as Glutamate.
Moreover, magnesium is a muscle relaxant, which can help the person suffering a migraine feel soothed and may help migraines go away quicker.
Which magnesium for migraines?
We’ve established the role of magnesium in migraines. But with more than twelve forms of magnesium to choose from, which magnesium works best?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this.
But, we always recommend using a form of magnesium that is highly bioavailable. This means this maximum amount of magnesium can enter your system and be put to work addressing any deficiencies.
Magnesium citrate for migraines
Magnesium citrate is an ionic compound containing both positive magnesium ions and negative citrate ions. It’s one of the forms of magnesium we know the most about: it’s well-researched, multi-functional, and has high levels of bioavailability.
Further, research supports the effectiveness of magnesium citrate in migraine sufferers. One double-blind, placebo-controlled and randomised study gave 600mg of magnesium citrate to 80 participants once a day. The results showed that the frequency of migraines was reduced by 41.6% in the group given magnesium, compared with 15.8% in the control group.
Magnesium oxide for migraines
Magnesium oxide is frequently used in pill form to prevent migraine.
However, it’s not the most effective form of magnesium due to its poor bioavailability. While it is often the type of magnesium that doctors tend to mention for migraines, it’s likely one of the least effective forms.
Magnesium L-threonate is one of magnesium’s most absorbable and highly bioavailable forms. The compound is the result of mixing magnesium and threonic acid, derived from the metabolic breakdown of vitamin C.
While there’s little evidence looking at the effect of magnesium L-threonate specifically on migraines, this magnesium compound is unique in its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Thus, it’s thought to have particular benefits for the brain, including helping to relieve symptoms of depression and age-related memory disorders.
Animal research also indicates that magnesium l-threonate may be the most effective form for increasing the amount of magnesium in brain cells. And, as migraines are a neurological disorder, this form of magnesium may be a good option for treating migraines.
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How much magnesium for migraines?
There are no exact guidelines when it comes to migraines and magnesium. Still, studies supporting magnesium in migraines have generally used large doses of the mineral (up to 600mg).
However, note that the recommended magnesium dose is around 310-320 mg for women and 400-420 mg for men. The amount of magnesium a person should consume also depends on age, sex, and the level of magnesium deficiency.
According to the NHS, nobody should take more than 400mg of magnesium daily. Do note that taking excessive doses of magnesium (ten or so times the recommended dose) can seriously harm you and may cause hypermagnesemia.
Furthermore, as your body cannot process the excess magnesium, taking higher doses won’t help more than consuming safe, recommended amounts.
How often should I take magnesium for migraines?
Magnesium should be consumed daily for you to achieve optimal results. It doesn’t matter if you prefer to split a daily dosage into two rather than one (such as if you are consuming magnesium powder instead of capsules).
Side effects of taking magnesium for migraines
Magnesium can cause side effects in some people—high doses cause nausea, cramping, and diarrhoea. As mentioned earlier, incredibly high intakes of magnesium can lead to an irregular heartbeat and potentially cardiac arrest, which can be dangerous.
It’s also important to note that magnesium could interfere with certain medicines, including bisphosphonates (used to treat certain osteoporosis) and antibiotics.
As such, it’s important to speak with a medical professional before integrating magnesium into any health and wellness routine.
Frequently asked questions:
Magnesium likely won’t stop a migraine in its tracks. However, in addressing a magnesium deficiency, magnesium supplementation may help to prevent migraines.
While migraines are not solely caused by magnesium deficiency, significant research has shown that people with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than those without them.
Final thoughts on migraines and magnesium
Research on magnesium and migraines have shown that the mineral may be budget-friendly, well-tolerated, and generally safe in migraine prevention.
While it may not work for everyone, there are established links between migraine management and magnesium and the relationship between magnesium deficiency and a tendency to suffer from migraines.
While no specific form of magnesium is thought to be unequivocally best for migraines, we recommend choosing a form with high bioavailability, such as magnesium L-threonate or magnesium citrate.