Transdermal magnesium therapy is a new form of magnesium supplementation that is easy, convenient, and affordable. Transdermal, or “topical” magnesium is particularly helpful for those seeking a safe method of increasing magnesium intake beyond that possible with oral supplements.
Transdermal magnesium is also an excellent choice for the many people who suffer from with low tolerance to oral magnesium, evidenced by diarrhea or other intestinal complaints.
In this article, learn more about transdermal magnesium and get answers to the following:
- Why Magnesium Therapy?
- How is Transdermal Magnesium Used?
- What Studies Prove Transdermal Magnesium is Effective?
- How Do I Know if I Need Magnesium Treatments?
- What Do I Need to Know Before I Begin Taking Magnesium Transdermally?
Why Magnesium Therapy?
Widespread acknowledgment of the depletion of magnesium in American diets has made it one of the most important nutrients to supplement in the diet. Magnesium is one of seven nutrients placed on the U.S. Department of Health’s list of nutrients of concern, published as a part of its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 1
Recognition of low magnesium intake across all industrialized nations has led to an exponential growth of magnesium research. Magnesium’s potent activities as a healing agent are part of a diverse history in traditional medicine around the world, and have been studied actively by medical practitioners as early as the 1600’s. Today’s medical research has even more pressing motivations.
- A 2006 report from the World Health Organization estimated that 75% of adults consume a diet that is deficient in magnesium. 2
- One in five adults consumes less than half of the U.S. RDA for magnesium. 3
With poor health on the rise, and dietary magnesium levels at an all time low, scientists have begun to turn to magnesium as the possible “missing link” behind several of today’s most troubling illnesses. A study by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control, published in the Journal of Nutrition, explains:
Despite the role of magnesium in maintaining health, much of the U.S. population has historically not consumed adequate amounts of magnesium…Magnesium is an essential element that is crucial to hundreds of physiologic processes in humans. Not surprisingly, inadequate intake of magnesium has been linked to various adverse health outcomes, including the development of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and headaches. Furthermore, magnesium is important in bone growth and may play a role in athletic performance.” 4
Benefits of Transdermal Magnesium
Transdermal magnesium is a powerful tool in the battle against magnesium deficiency.
Benefits reported by those who use transdermal applications of magnesium relate specifically to its therapeutic application on the skin and its direct absorption into the cells:
- Increased sleep
- Reduced muscle aches, pains, cramping and spasms
- Healthy skin and reduced outbreaks of eczema and psoriasis
- Better relaxation and stress management
- Increased energy levels and improved moods
- Increased athletic performance
How is Transdermal Magnesium Used?
Transdermal magnesium is applied topically, using either magnesium oil, magnesium gel, magnesium lotion or magnesium bath salts.
These are super-concentrated forms of magnesium chloride, a form of magnesium known for its superior solubility. Magnesium is absorbed through the skin, giving transdermal magnesium therapy many of the same benefits as some of the transdermal patches available today.
Though it is commonly prescribed as a treatment by holistic health practitioners, transdermal magnesium is applied easily and quickly in one’s own home, either by simply spraying directly on the skin, applying as a lotion or a gel, or even more effortlessly through the simple ritual of taking a bath.
- Is an easy and convenient, “do it yourself” method of magnesium supplementation
- Avoids problems of gastrointestinal irritation and diarrhea, through bypassing the digestive system entirely
- Passes directly into the tissues via the skin, where it is quickly transported to cells throughout the body
Magnesium Replacement Therapy
A clear benefit of transdermal magnesium is its potential to accelerate the process of magnesium replacement therapy. It has been shown that restoration of magnesium levels can take anywhere from six weeks to an entire year. 5 6
In order to achieve faster results, intravenous magnesium has previously been the only option. Yet magnesium injections are expensive, painful and inconvenient.
Dr. Carolyn Dean, licensed M.D. and naturopathic doctor, summarized some of the benefits of transdermal magnesium in her book The Magnesium Miracle:
Magnesium oil can be sprayed or rubbed on the body and is easily absorbed through the skin. It helps to greatly to increase the amount of magnesium in body tissues and overcomes the problems that some people have with loose stools when they try to take enough magnesium to meet their needs.This can be especially important in cases of severe magnesium deficiency that were treatable only with IV magnesium before magnesium oil came along.” 7
In contrast with intravenous magnesium injections, transdermal magnesium’s price is inexpensive and its application requires no professional experience. Transdermal magnesium products are available online or purchasable directly through many health care practitioners.
What Studies Prove Transdermal Magnesium is Effective?
Dr. Norman Shealy
Dr. Norman Shealy, M.D. Ph.D. and founder of the American Holistic Medical Association, was an early advocate for the advantages of magnesium and the particular benefits of transdermal applications of magnesium:
The problem is magnesium absorption, as well as magnesium deficiency in our diets. The soil in every country in the world except Egypt has been farmed to a point of magnesium depletion… Furthermore, magnesium salts are laxatives so that all of them may lead to a more rapid gut transit time. Magnesium needs to travel through the intestinal system slowly, so if the gut transit time is less than twelve hours, one is not likely to absorb the magnesium well.” 8
Upon being introduced to the potential of liquid soaks for magnesium and natural DHEA stimulation, Dr. Shealy, a trained neuroscientist and medical researcher who studied at Duke University, performed experiments to test the ability of the skin to absorb magnesium.
Sixteen individuals with low intracellular magnesium levels were enlisted in his study. Participants were instructed to perform a 20 minute foot-soak daily with transdermal magnesium chloride bath flakes, in additional to spraying their entire body once daily with magnesium oil. Intracellular magnesium levels were assessed on all participants after 4 weeks, utilizing a diagnostic called ExaTest. The results – 12 of the 16 participants in the study showed marked improvements in their intracellular magnesium levels. 9
Averaged diagnostic results after 4 weeks of daily body spraying and foot soaks:
|Electrolyte Name||Before||After||Reference Range|
|Magnesium||31.4||41.2||33.9 – 41.9|
|Calcium||7.5||4.8||3.2 – 5.0|
|Potassium||132.2||124.5||80.0 – 240.0|
|Sodium||3.4||4.1||3.8 – 5.8|
|Chloride||3.2||3.4||3.4 – 6.0|
|Phosphorous||22.2||17.6||14.2 – 17.0|
|Phosphorous/Calcium||4.2||8.6||7.8 – 10.9|
|Magnesium/Phosphorous||1.4||2.3||1.8 – 3.0|
|Magnesium/Calcium||4.2||8.6||7.8 – 10.9|
|Potassium/Calcium||17.6||26.1||25.8 – 4.6|
|Potassium/Magnesium||4.2||3.0||2.4 – 4.6|
|Potassium/Sodium||39.1||30.5||21.5 – 44.6|
Dr. Shealy’s conclusion was that the unique properties of supersaturated transdermal magnesium allow it to be absorbed into the skin, raising intracellular magnesium levels in nearly all individuals.
In discussing transdermal magnesium therapy versus oral magnesium supplements, Dr. Shealy has explained that:
- Transdermal therapy creates “tissue saturation”, which allows magnesium to travel to the body’s tissues and cells at a high dose without losses through the gastrointestinal tract.
- When taken orally, however, magnesium may be absorbed inefficiently, either due to the laxative effect of oral doses; due to the effect of other foods, vitamins or minerals in the gut that lessen absorption; or due to individual differences, such as leaky gut syndrome, that reduce magnesium processing.
Dr. R.H. Waring
Dr. R.H. Waring of the University of Birmingham has also studied topical magnesium absorption in the form of magnesium sulfate salts. In his study, nineteen subjects in good health took daily baths of 12 minutes in duration for a period of seven days. Magnesium sulfate was added to baths and agitated to solution prior to entry. Magnesium blood levels and urine samples were measured in the study, by a flame photometric method.
The results of the study reported changes in magnesium levels in blood before and after the testing period. Blood levels showed an average increase of 10 ppm/ml after one day of soaking, and 36.3 ppm/ml after seven days, indicating an increase in blood magnesium concentration after prolonged soaking.
Dr. Waring’s study proposed that bathing in solutions of magnesium produces effects consistent with saturation of the skin transporters.
The study concluded that bathing 2-3 times per week in a 1% solution of magnesium bath salts would result in health benefits related to an increase in magnesium levels.
How Do I Know if I Need Magnesium Treatments?
Magnesium deficiency is not easily diagnosed, which is why so many people operate with low-level chronic deficiencies unaware of the long term effects on their health, or the cause of symptoms such as eczema, allergies, headaches, anxiety and chronic pain — all of which may signify chronic magnesium depletion.
The most common laboratory test for assessing magnesium status is serum magnesium, which is known to inconsistently represent actual total-body or intracellular magnesium content (content inside the cells). In a study published by the American College of Nutrition, it was noted that as many as 50% of cases of magnesium deficiency are not recognized, due to statistical errors in the normal range set for serum magnesium testing. 10
Researchers suggested both changes in the way that serum magnesium tests are evaluated, as well as a more proactive stance by the medical community on providing magnesium therapy for patients whose symptoms or diagnoses stood to benefit. These included:
In addition, dietary habits and other risk factors can play a part in magnesium status. Conditions and circumstances of high risk groups include:
- Low stomach acid, common in older adults
- Low magnesium diets, processed foods and sodas
- Soft water sources
- Active calcium supplementation
- Certain prescription and over the counter medications
- Stress, surgery, and chronic disorders such as diabetes
- Diarrhea and vomiting for any reason
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Crohn’s disease, celiac sprue, and any disorder of the digestive or intestinal function
- Kidney disorders
- Genetic magnesium absorption disorders
What Do I Need to Know Before I Begin Taking Magnesium Transdermally?
There are almost no precautions to observe with regard to transdermal magnesium therapy. For most people without kidney disorders, the skin automatically regulates safe intake, so dosage issues are simply a matter of personal choice.
Types of Transdermal Magnesium
To begin therapy, you simply need to make an initial choice between forms of transdermal magnesium:
- Magnesium Oil The most concentrated form of transdermal magnesium.
- Magnesium Bath Flakes Soothing and relaxing form of magnesium therapy, especially good for children and those with broken skin or wounds.
- Magnesium Gel Ideal for skin conditions and deep tissue massage.
- Magnesium Lotion A gentle application blending daily skin moisturizing with the benefit of transdermal magnesium therapy.
Application may differ for each individual; to find what’s right for you read our article on Magnesium Application and Use.
Considering the significant number of magnesium-related symptoms and conditions, you may want to seek information on your personal level of magnesium deficit, as this can provide clues as to the amount of magnesium replacement therapy may be required for you.
Consulting with a medical practitioner knowledgeable and active in the area of nutrition can be helpful. You can also take our Magnesium Self-Assessment for a good starting point as to whether you may be deficient.
The Miracle of Transdermal Magnesium
Magnesium supplementation may be the new panacea of our age. The deficiency is so widespread that at least three out of four adults in industrialized nations have cause to actively increase their intake — especially to avoid symptoms which can otherwise linger and compound over years to produce serious chronic illness.
Transdermal magnesium therapy is a powerful new tool that combines the healing power of the body’s largest organ — the skin — with the life sustaining properties of one of our most vital minerals. It stands poised to usher in a new era of health.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs. In: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. 2005. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/pdf/DGA2005.pdf. Accessed January 28, 2010.|
|2.||↑||World Health Organization. Calcium and Magnesium in Drinking Water: Public health significance.Geneva: World Health Organization Press; 2009.|
|3.||↑||King DE, Mainous AG 3rd, Geesey ME, Woolson RF. Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. Journal Of The American College Of Nutrition. 2005 Jun;24(3):166-71. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 6, 2009.|
|4.||↑||Ford ES, Mokdad AH. Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of US adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 2003 Sep;133(9):2879-82. Available at: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/133/9/2879. Accessed March 1, 2010.|
|5.||↑||Gullestad L, Oystein Dolva L, Birkeland K. Oral versus intravenous magnesium supplementation in patients with magnesium deficiency. Magnesium and Trace Elements. 1991-1992; 10(1):11-16.|
|6.||↑||Shealy N. Life Beyond 100: Secrets of the Fountain of Youth. Tarcher; 2006.|
|7.||↑||Dean C. The Magnesium Miracle. New York: Ballantine Books; 2007.|
|8.||↑||Shealy N. Life Beyond 100: Secrets of the Fountain of Youth. Tarcher; 2006.|
|9.||↑||Sircus M. Transdermal Magnesium: A New Modality for the Maintenance of Health. Available at: https://www.amazon.com/Transdermal-Magnesium-Therapy-Modality-Maintenance-ebook/dp/B005LH30EU. Accessed March 18, 2010.|
|10.||↑||Liebscher DH, Liebscher DE. About the Misdiagnosis of Magnesium Deficiency. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23(6):730S-731S.|
|11.||↑||Liebscher DH, Liebscher DE. About the Misdiagnosis of Magnesium Deficiency. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23(6):730S-731S.|