By Dr. Krisel Nagallo

Magnesium is one of the more multifaceted minerals when it comes to health and wellness. Not only does it play an important role in basic metabolic pathways including energy production and hormone conversion, studies demonstrate how suboptimal magnesium levels can play a role in liver detoxification, menstrual cycle, thyroid function, muscle repair, and bone health.

Types of Magnesium

Typically, there are several types of magnesium on the supplement shelf. How do I know which one to take? Below is a quick rundown (in alphabetical order):

  • Magnesium ascorbate: A source of both vitamin C and magnesium, this neutral salt can be moderately absorbed with minimal nausea or bowel movement changes. Unfortunately, this form provides a lower amount of elemental magnesium and there are less clinical trials available – so take it with a grain of salt.
  • Magnesium aspartate: A recent study demonstrated the decreased effect of magnesium on chronic pain and migraine reduction by interacting with the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain. The presence of aspartate in the brain is consistent with this form’s higher bioavailability and alludes to its potential to cross the blood-brain barrier.
  • Magnesium citrate: With considerable bioavailability, this form is best used for its mild laxative effect in the treatment of constipation. This from also has the stability to draw water into the intestinal tract to assist with bowel movements.
  • Magnesium glycinate: In this form, magnesium is bound to a complex of glycine and lysine conferring high bioavailability and absorbability so that magnesium can reach various body parts including the extremities that experience muscle cramping. Glycine is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter and can confer a calming effect. An added bonus is that this form has a fairly high amount of elemental magnesium.
  • Magnesium malate: Although this form of magnesium is easily soluble, the availability of elemental magnesium is low. I have seen reputable nutraceutical companies offer magnesium in this form likely because of the benefit malate has on the mitochondria – the energy powerhouse of our cells; moreover, malate is an important step in the Kreb’s cycle – a critical process in cellular metabolism. The silver lining is that this form is best used as a slow-release so a little can go a long way.
  • Magnesium orotate: This form is generally well-absorbed and some studies suggest that orotate confers protection to the cardiovascular system, including regulating blood pressure and irregular heartbeats (cardiac arrhythmias); moreover, this effect is dose dependent so pay attention to the ratio of magnesium when choosing this form.
  • Magnesium oxide: Like magnesium citrate, this form has considerable bioavailability and was often used for the treatment of constipation; however, this form does not endure pH changes as it passes the stomach and pancreas to reach the bowels. This may explain why cramping is often reported by patients who choose this form (or did not know there are different forms available)!
  • Magnesium taurate: This form offers considerable bioavailability so high doses are not needed to ensure a therapeutic dose of magnesium enters systemic circulation. Taurate is a form of the amino acid taurine, which helps relax blood vessels and can act like a relaxing neurotransmitter. This may explain why the research is associating magnesium taurate with migraine treatment and prevention. More recent studies are demonstrating the therapeutic effect of magnesium taurate in elevated blood pressure (hypertension) and cataracts.

Keep in mind that one size does not always fit all and the path to overall well-being is dependent on selecting the right supplements based on the whole picture – not just the symptoms. When in doubt, consult your naturopathic doctor.


1. Bujalska-Zadrozny M, Tatarkiewicz J, Kulik K, Filip M, Naruszewicz M. Magnesium enhances opioid-induced analgesia – what we have learnt in the past decades? Eur J Pharm Sci. 2017 Mar 1;99:113–27.

2. Choudhary, R. & Bodakhe, S.H. Magnesium taurate prevents cataractogenesis via restoration of lenticular oxidative damage and ATPase function in cadmium chloride-induced hypertensive experimental animals. Biomed Pharmacother. 2016 Dec;84:836-844.

3. Lindberg, JS et al. Magnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide. J Am Coll Nutr. 1990 Feb;9(1):48-55.

4. Mathus- Vliegen, FMH et al. Efficacy and Safety of Sodium Picosulfate/Magnesium Citrate for Bowel Preparation in a Physically Disabled Outpatient Population: A Randomized, Endoscopist-Blinded Comparison With Ascorbic Acid-Enriched Polyethylene Glycol Solution Plus Bisacodyl (The PICOMOVI Study). Dis Colon Rectum. 2018 Feb;61(2):239-249.

5. McCarty, MF. Magnesium taurate and fish oil for prevention of migraine. Med Hypothesis 1996

6. Torshin, IY et al. Meta-analysis of clinical trials of cardiovascular effects of magnesium orotate. Ter Arkh. 2015; 87(6):88-97.


Subscribe to my wellness newsletter & get a FREE eBook: "10 Supplements Everyone Should Have."  Plus, get 15% OFF your first order from my new online store! You may unsubscribe at any time.