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What to Know if You're Considering Taking Magnesium for Migraine

Living Well

July 03, 2023

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Photography by Andreswd/Getty Images

Photography by Andreswd/Getty Images

by Elinor Hills


Medically Reviewed by:

Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT


by Elinor Hills


Medically Reviewed by:

Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT


Research suggests that magnesium may help reduce migraine frequency and severity. Here’s what you need to know about the different forms of magnesium that may help manage migraine.

While migraine is a chronic neurological condition that doesn’t have a cure, many treatment options can help people living with migraine manage their symptoms and reduce the frequency of their episodes.

Treatment options include prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some people with migraine have found success complementing their treatment plan with lifestyle and diet changes, mindfulness practices, and supplements.

One supplement that has garnered significant interest is magnesium. A growing body of research supports the role of magnesium in helping with migraine.

A common challenge with magnesium for migraine is determining which form of magnesium is best.

This article covers the basics of magnesium for migraine and the different forms of magnesium you may consider if you try adding magnesium to your migraine management routine.

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Magnesium for migraine

According to a 2016 review, people experiencing migraine often have lower levels of magnesium than people who don’t have migraine. As a crucial mineral, magnesium contributes to various physiological functions, including nerve transmission and muscle contraction.

Magnesium plays a role in preventing cortical spreading depression, the wave of brain signaling responsible for the visual and sensory changes associated with migraine.

This mineral may block the release of pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain and improve platelet function, helping your body respond more effectively to pain.

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Common forms of magnesium

Each form of magnesium has a different level of bioavailability, or how effectively your body absorbs it. Here are some forms of magnesium taken for migraine and why someone may choose one form over another.

Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium. It tends to provide the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability. This type of magnesium is bound to glycine, an amino acid with calming qualities, which can enhance the natural relaxation properties of magnesium.

Magnesium glycinate can be particularly beneficial for people whose migraine episodes are triggered or exacerbated by stress or anxiety.

Magnesium glycinate also tends to be gentle on the stomach.

It’s often recommended for people trying to correct a magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium threonate

Magnesium threonate, also called magnesium L-threonate, is one of the newest, most potent forms of magnesium on the market.

It can penetrate the mitochondrial membrane. Crossing the blood-brain barrier allows magnesium threonate to directly affect brain function, which has the potential to be particularly beneficial for people with migraine.

However, there’s been less research into magnesium threonate than other forms of magnesium. Studies suggest it may positively affect cognitive function, which may be helpful for people with migraine, but more research is needed.

Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is a common over-the-counter form of magnesium that combines magnesium with citric acid. This combination increases the water in the intestines, which may help induce bowel movements. Because of this, magnesium citrate is often used to treat constipation.

While magnesium citrate is easily absorbed, the potential for digestive side effects may not make it the first choice for migraine prevention unless other benefits, such as constipation relief, are needed.

Magnesium oxide

Magnesium oxide is a nonchelated type of magnesium. It’s bound to an organic acid or a fatty acid. It contains 60% magnesium and has stool-softening properties.

Clinical studies have used magnesium oxide for migraine prevention. It’s also commonly used as a supplement due to its high concentration of magnesium per dose.

However, it has a lower absorption rate in the digestive tract than other forms, like magnesium glycinate and threonate.

Recommended dosage of magnesium

The suggested amount of magnesium for migraine management varies.

For adults, a common dosage is 400–420 milligrams (mg) per day for men and 310–320 mg per day for women.

Before starting any new supplement regimen, talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional. They can make sure it’s suitable and safe for you.

Sometimes, people need more or less magnesium depending on their age, whether they’re pregnant or breastfeeding, if they have a magnesium deficiency, and which form of magnesium they take.

A healthcare professional can provide personalized advice based on your health history and specific needs.

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When to take magnesium for migraine

There’s no definitive best time of day to take magnesium for migraine, but some people find that taking it at night might promote better sleep. This could indirectly help manage migraine if sleep quality affects your migraine symptoms.

Consistency is essential, so choose a time that aligns with your daily schedule.

Foods with magnesium

Diet can also be a significant source of magnesium. Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • leafy green vegetables
  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • legumes
  • bananas
  • avocados
  • dark chocolate
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The takeaway

A growing body of research suggests that magnesium has the potential to be an effective complementary treatment to a migraine management plan.

Before you try any new supplement regimen, consult with a healthcare professional. They can help you decide which form of magnesium may be best for you based on your health needs, potential side effects, and interactions with other medications or conditions.

Medically reviewed on July 03, 2023

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About the author

Elinor Hills

Elinor Hills has an MSc in Medical Anthropology and is passionate about the intersection of emotional well-being and physical health. Outside of work, she is an avid runner and enjoys yoga, photography, and drawing.

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