test-The Science Behind Magnesium for Stress Mood  &  Beyond
Vitamins & Supplements
The Science Behind Magnesium for Stress Mood & Beyond
Lindsey Toth, MS, RD • March 15, 2018

Who knew one little mineral could do so much for our health? Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for your body. Every organ uses it in some way, especially your heart, kidneys, muscles and bones. Magnesium helps keep your heart happy and your immune and nervous systems healthy, but it helps your mind, too. Magnesium is a top supplement for managing stress and easing anxious minds while supporting health and wellness throughout your body. Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough of this mineral from their diets.1

Many of us have accepted it as an inevitable part of life, but if left unchecked, prolonged stress and anxiousness can be harmful to our health. Constant, low-grade worries keep our bodies in fight or flight mode, which is a mechanism that evolved to help keep us safe, but in that state, our bodies and immune systems don’t function as well as they should and we are constantly exposed to adrenaline and other stress-related hormones. A Harvard Health researcher compared it to a motor that is “idling too high, for too long,” which leaves us susceptible not only to mental and emotional concerns but also to other potential health issues.2

Magnesium for Anxiousness

Everyone feels anxious from time to time but if it happens to you a lot, it can start to affect your quality of life and may even undermine your health. Being anxious is a normal reaction to stress in many situations, and sometimes it’s healthy to feel that way. But more often than not, worrying about something doesn’t really help and it just creates unhealthy tension in both your mind and your body. Especially if it's a regular occurrence.

Magnesium is often used to help soothe anxious symptoms. In fact, a deficiency in magnesium can contribute to having anxious feelings, so if you are anxious often, you may be magnesium deficient.3 Also, when you become stressed your body actually uses more magnesium than when you aren’t stressed, so then you need even more.4

Signs of Anxiousness

  • feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • having trouble concentrating on anything except what you are worried about
  • having trouble sleeping
  • gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • feeling tired

Magnesium has a calming effect on the body and mind. It induces relaxation, helps regulate the nervous system and combats stress, anxiousness, irritability and restlessness. If you experience signs of anxiousness, you might want to try supplementing your diet with magnesium.

Best Magnesium Supplement for Anxiousness

Because of the many uses for magnesium in the body, magnesium supplements are available in a lot of different forms. Most magnesium supplements come in pills or capsules that contain magnesium combined with other nutrients. Some of them are better-suited to relieve anxiousness and stress, while others are used for digestive issues, heart health and more. Not all supplements are created equally, though. The quality and sources of the ingredients in magnesium supplements are really important, and the way the supplements are made is equally important.

So how do you find a good magnesium supplement for calming anxious feelings? Look for supplements that offer maximum bioavailability and quality ingredients like our delicious Mellow Mag Drink Mix or Swanson Albion Chelated Magnesium. Chelated magnesium means the magnesium is bound to an amino acid that is readily absorbed across the intestinal wall, and Albion’s glycinate chelates are small enough to transport directly into cells.

Magnesium for Sleep and Anxiousness

Have you ever had trouble sleeping because of anxious feelings? Or have you gotten into bed exhausted only to find that you can’t sleep because your mind is racing with thoughts and worry? If anxiousness is keeping you up at night, you’ll probably want to know about how magnesium helps with sleep and tension at night.

One of the biggest ways magnesium helps counter the stress and worry that can keep you up at night is by stimulating and binding to GABA receptors. GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, and it’s a calming, inhibitory neurotransmitter, similar to serotonin, which means it slows down some of that brain activity.5 If your body is low in GABA it can be hard to relax your mind, and worrisome thoughts may persist longer than they should, which in turn makes it hard to sleep.

Magnesium also helps relieve stress and anxiousness because it helps relax your muscles.6 Deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to sleep issues, and supplementation of magnesium may improve sleep efficiency and help you fall asleep and stay asleep until morning.7

Magnesium for Stress

Often when you look for a magnesium supplement for stress, you’ll encounter several forms of magnesium that all work a little bit differently in your body, including:

  • Magnesium Malate – helps you produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which plays a major role in cellular energy
  • Magnesium L-Threonate –often used for cognitive health and memory
  • Magnesium Aspartate – also promotes cellular energy
  • Magnesium Taurate – supports heart health and promotes calmness; the taurate in this complex helps transport magnesium through cell membranes
  • Magnesium Orotate – supports heart health and is often used by athletes for endurance8
  • Magnesium Lysinate Chelate – chelated magnesium that includes the amino acid lysine, plus supports gastric and immune health
  • Magnesium Glycinate – optimum availability, a popular type of magnesium for help with stress and anxiousness, and may be less likely to have a laxative effect than some other types of magnesium
  • Magnesium Sulfate – good for muscle relaxation and muscle fatigue, also known as Epsom salts
  • Magnesium Chloride – nourishes and soothes skin; available as a magnesium chloride bath salt as well as in oils, pills and capsules
  • Magnesium Citrate – budget-friendly and can be supplemented with capsules/tablets, ionic liquid or drink mix
  • Magnesium Oxide – common and inexpensive form of magnesium; provides a laxative effect

Be sure to read the label on your magnesium supplements closely because some are more easily absorbed by the body and better for relieving stress than others. The cheapest and most common type of magnesium is magnesium oxide, and you’ll see it in a lot of supplements for that reason. It’s cheaper because it’s so readily available. But as you probably guessed, cheaper isn’t necessarily better when it comes to magnesium for stress. Choose a magnesium supplement that offers high bioavailability like Magnesium Taurate or Magnesium Glycinate for anxiousness and stress.

Magnesium Relaxation

Magnesium has earned a reputation as the most powerful relaxation mineral available. It plays a vital role in muscle contraction and relaxation, as a counter-ion for calcium and potassium in muscle cells.4 It affects stress hormones, nerve function and it even helps regulate blood pressure.9 If you are tense, your muscles may be tight or you might be feeling moody, so consider giving magnesium a try. Take magnesium as a supplement for relaxation, or you can add magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) to your bath.

Magnesium for Mood

Need your spirits lifted? Magnesium is a natural mood-booster. It helps with mood swings, irritability, mental clarity and other mental and emotional concerns. Scientists have repeatedly noted magnesium deficiencies in people who suffer from a variety of mental health issues, and have attributed numerous mental health concerns to a widespread lack of magnesium in our diets. Some say the culprit is processing that removes magnesium from otherwise natural sources of magnesium, like wheat flour and drinking water.10

There are many signs of low magnesium that are related to or affect your mood, including:

  • Anxiousness & Stress – there is a lot of research linking magnesium deficiencies to negative impacts on mental health, including stronger stress responses and a more anxious mind10,11
  • Hormone Balance – magnesium affects concentrations of parathyroid hormone1 and regulation of stress hormones, which can affect mood
  • Sleep Problems – magnesium helps your body and mind relax so you can sleep; if you have trouble sleeping your mood can be affected
  • Low Energy – it’s difficult to be in your best mood when you feel lethargic, and magnesium is required for cellular energy production1
  • Vitamin D Absorption – magnesium is necessary for vitamin D absorption, and a deficiency in vitamin D may also affect mood1,12

How Much Magnesium Should I Take for Anxiousness?

Most healthy adults need between 300 mg – 400 mg of magnesium per day, and there’s a very good chance you’re not getting much from your food.13 That is, unless you eat a lot of nuts, like almonds (80 mg per ounce), cashews (74 mg per ounce), peanuts (63 mg per ounce), or spinach (78 mg per ounce). But if you take vitamin D supplements or have a vitamin K deficiency, drink alcohol or are consistently under stress, you may need to take more magnesium because those factors affect how your body absorbs and uses magnesium.4

Recommended Daily Magnesium Intake for Adults

  • 18 years: 410 mg male/360 mg female
  • 19–30 years: 400 mg male/310 mg female
  • 19–30 years, pregnant female: 350 mg
  • 19–30 years, nursing female: 310 mg
  • 31+ years: 420 mg male/320 mg female
  • 31+ years pregnant female: 360 mg
  • 31+ years nursing female: 320 mg

Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?

Over time, the negative impacts to your health from stress and anxiousness can really add up. Be kind to your body and help keep it healthy by getting proper nutrition, including adequate magnesium intakes to help relieve stress.

You may also consider other stress-busting supplements like Ashwagandha, which helps neutralize stress, and Valerian Root, which promotes restorative relaxation, and vitamin C and B complex vitamins to help replenish nutrients that are in demand during stressful times. These supplements are available together in Swanson Health’s Keep Calm and Carry on Bundle. For more everyday tips on relaxation, read Say Om: 6 Tips to Help You Relax and Reduce Stress.

As always, check with your doctor about how to create the best wellness plan for you, especially if you have concerns about changes in your mood that might be affecting you daily.

Learn more about the wonders of magnesium in these articles: Magnesium Uses & Benefits and What is the Best Magnesium Supplement for You.

Lindsey Bristol, Swanson Health Products

About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products

Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.

Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.


1 Magnesium Fact Sheet for Consumers: National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-healthProfessional/ (Accessed 01/11/2018)

2 Understanding the stress response. Chronic activation of this survival mechanism impairs health. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response (Accessed 01/11/2018)

3 Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198864/ (Accessed 01/11/2018)

4 Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201106/magnesium-and-the-brain-the-original-chill-pill (Accessed 01/11/2018)

5 Benzodiazepine/GABA(A) receptors are involved in magnesium-induced anxiolytic-like behavior in mice. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18799816 (Accessed 01/02/2018)

6 Magnesium basics. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4455825/ (Accessed 01/11/2018)

7 The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703169/ (Accessed 01/12/2018)

8 What is the benefit of magnesium orotate compared to other forms of magnesium? ConsumerLab.com https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/what-is-the-benefit-of-magnesium-orotate-compared-to-other-forms-of-magnesium/magnesium_orotate/ (Accessed 01/11/2018)

9 Magnesium and hypertension. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15692166 (Accessed 01/11/2018)

10 Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16542786 (Accessed 01/12/2018)

11 Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198864/ (Accessed 01/02/2018)

12 Vitamin D Council. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/depression/ (Accessed 01/12/2018)

13 Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 01//11/2018)

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.