Research shows that people with migraines often have low levels of magnesium. Some studies indicate that 200-600 milligrams (mg) of magnesium per day may reduce how often these people get migraines (UMMC, 2011).
Some headache patients who use magnesium report relief from migraines. However, studies regarding the effectiveness of magnesium for migraines are limited. Authors of a 1996 German study wrote that “high-dose oral magnesium appears to be effective" in treating migraine (Peikert et al., 1996).
Magnesium is thought to affect changes in the blood vessels in the brain. Magnesium supplements are sometimes recommended to prevent migraines. They are also recommended to treat acute migraines.
Magnesium may be helpful for menstrual migraines, according to some research. Treatment of migraines during pregnancy requires great care. Magnesium may be a safer choice than powerful prescription medications.
When given intravenously, magnesium is "possibly effective" for treatment of migraines, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Magnesium is one of several therapies being tested for effectiveness in prevention and treatment of migraines. Other potential therapies include feverfew, butterbur, riboflavin, coenzyme Q10, and vitamin B12.
Your body needs magnesium to be healthy. It is absorbed in your small intestines and eliminated through your kidneys. About half of the magnesium in your body is found in your bones. Most of the rest is in tissue and organ cells. One percent is in your blood.
Magnesium is essential to muscle and nerve function. It helps to maintain steady heart rhythm and to keep bones strong. Magnesium also supports your immune system. Magnesium plays a role in blood sugar regulation and in maintaining blood pressure. Research into how magnesium may help prevent and manage diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease is ongoing.
Recommended Dietary Allowance for Magnesium (NIH, 2009):
- age 1-3: 80 mg/day
- age 4-8: 130 mg/day
- age 9-13: 240 mg/day
- age 14-18: 410 mg/day for males, 360 mg/day for females, 400 mg/day during pregnancy
- age 19-30: 400 mg/day for males, 310 mg/day for females, 350 mg/day during pregnancy
- age 31 and over: 420 mg/day for males, 320 mg/day for females, 360 mg/day during pregnancy
If you're thinking about taking magnesium for migraines, ask your doctor if it's a good choice for you. Tell your doctor about all dietary supplements you take. Supplements—even those purchased over-the-counter—can react with other supplements or medications.
Potential interactions with magnesium supplements include:
- Antibiotics that contain tetracycline. These can combine with magnesium in the gut and decrease absorption of tetracycline.
- Antacids and laxatives that contain magnesium. These can lead to elevated magnesium levels in the blood. In extreme cases, this can cause magnesium toxicity.
Some forms of magnesium tablets may cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
The best way to get your daily dose of magnesium is with a healthy diet. Magnesium is found in a wide variety of healthy foods, including:
- green vegetables
- legumes (peas and beans)
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains (unrefined—magnesium is absent from processed white flour)
- potatoes with skin
- long-grained brown rice
- tap water (varies by water supply—hard water has more magnesium than soft water)