magnesium for depression

Why you need magnesium for depression (and why supplements are not the best) 

Should we take magnesium for depression?

About last week, my friend, Tolu was advised to increase her magnesium intake to better the depression she feels. This made me wonder what magnesium has got to do with depression.

From my research I realized that truly, magnesium plays a role in our mental health and should not be taken lightly.

magnesium for depression

Magnesium is a macromineral in the body and is also called the magic mineral because of its numerous health benefits

It is believed that it can help fight depression and reduce its symptoms.

If you want to know whether magnesium can truly fight depression despite the type, and if it is truly worth your time, then read on. 

You can also learn more about the types of depression here.

Can magnesium really work for depression? 

Indeed, there is a relationship between magnesium and mental health. Magnesium is even nicknamed “the original chill pill”. 

According to research, magnesium deficiency may make you more likely to develop depression or worsen pre-existing conditions.

magnesium for depression

Still, according to this research, it has been observed that depressive symptoms occur more in people with low levels of magnesium. 

Also, not having enough magnesium can increase your risk of anxiety and stress.

Researchers have undergone studies about the link between magnesium deficiency and depression. After doing it for a couple of years, they suggested that magnesium deficiency is a primary cause of major depression and other mental health problems.

Also, a study was done from 2017 in PLOS One, and it examined whether over-the-counter magnesium chloride can improve the symptoms of depression. 

For this study, the participants took 248 mg of elemental magnesium daily for 6 weeks. After that, they were allowed to stay for six more weeks with no intervention to compare their results. 

At the end of the research, the participating patients said that they observed improvement when using magnesium. According to them, 61% of the participants said they would continue taking magnesium for depression to better their mood.

However, whether you should get magnesium from supplements or food is another thing entirely. We will look at this more in a subsequent session.

How does magnesium work for depression? 

The following are ways magnesium helps boost your mood.

  1. Magnesium regulates your hormones

Magnesium helps regulate some hormones in your body. These hormones include: 


Cortisol is the stress hormone, and magnesium helps regulate its level in the body.  

magnesium for depression

It prevents your body from producing it in excess and calms your nervous system. since stress triggers the production of cortisol,  calming your nervous system prevents the stress from affecting you. 

When your cortisol level is balanced, it will contribute to balancing your other hormones like progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone. 


Serotonin is needed by the body to stabilize mood. The level of this hormone in your body is dependent on the amount of magnesium you have. 

Beyond your moods, serotonin also affects your appetite, cognitive functions, emotions, and other essential functions of your body.

Thanks to research, it has been found that taking magnesium for depression can increase your serotonin level. 

Here are other ways to increase serotonin in your body. 


 Having an underactive thyroid also causes the symptoms of depression. So, it is vital to keep your thyroid healthy. Magnesium is a mineral that assists the production of thyroid hormones

Because of the anti-inflammatory properties of magnesium, it also offers protective benefits to your thyroid.

Hormone creation

Magnesium is a helpful mineral that assists the creation of some types of hormones in the body like progesterone and estrogen, and testosterone. 

It is very vital, especially when patients get older and their reproductive hormones start declining naturally. 

  1.  Magnesium reduces sugar cravings

No doubt, processed food and sugars are things we should avoid when battling depression. And taking magnesium has been found to reduce sugar cravings.

However, that is not all. 

Taking magnesium has a significant impact on balancing blood sugar since it controls the production of insulin.

This function is beneficial to all, especially those with diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome, which negatively impact insulin. 

  1. Magnesium makes you sleep better  and boost your energy 

Insomnia, low energy, and depression fatigue are prevalent symptoms of depression.

Taking magnesium for depression can help people that find it hard to fall asleep. 

You can also get this effect from herbal teas. Learn more about herbal teas for depression here.

This is because magnesium helps your body maintain healthy   GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) levels, making it possible to have deeper and more restorative sleep.  

The central nervous system has GABA as a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is vital for promoting sleep. 

Most sleep medications are targeted to affect the GABA and improve sleep. However, magnesium does this same work without the awful side effects of the drugs. 

Magnesium also helps improve sleep by dealing with restless leg syndrome, significantly disrupting a person’s sleep. 

Restless leg syndrome makes patients feel an uncomfortable sensation in the leg and move their legs frequently to ease the feeling; sometimes, it affects the arms.  This condition is associated with anxiety and depression.  

However, a study showed that taking magnesium for depression can reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. 

Since your level of sleep directly impacts your energy during the day, taking magnesium will help give an energy boost. But besides this, magnesium also helps in producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) depends on magnesium for its production. And for it to be biologically active, it has two combined with magnesium. 

When this combination occurs, it powers numerous body processes, including every metabolic process necessary to help you eat and convert the food to energy. 

magnesium for depression
  1.  Magnesium reduces stress and stabilizes your mood

Magnesium regulates the way the body responds to stress by managing the body’s stress response system. Because of its positive impact on GABA, it stabilizes your mood and reduces stress. 

This is why people with healthy GABA levels are less likely to have anxiety.

The body’s stress response system is a part of the autonomic nervous system, which generates the fight-or-flight response. 

The autonomic nervous system includes two systems: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). 

When you encounter stress, the SNS puts up the fight or flight response and tells your adrenal gland to increase the amount of adrenaline and cortisol. This causes symptoms like increased heart and breathing rate. 

After the threat goes, your body should return to normal. However, when you are facing chronic stress, your body stays in the fight or flight mode for a long time, thereby leading to wear and tear of the body. 

Taking magnesium can help regulate this response and make it easier for your body to handle.  

It can reduce the risk of depression in people facing chronic stress.  According to research, taking enough magnesium can help reduce mild to moderate depression and mild to moderate anxiety. 

  1.  Magnesium boosts cognitive functions 

When depressed, people find it difficult to concentrate and focus and have poor memory. 

According to researchers, it has been concluded the magnesium can improve a person’s cognitive ability

Research done earlier on this subject showed that taking magnesium for depression could promote synaptic plasticity.  

Brain plasticity is defined as the ability of the brain to modify its connection to rewire itself essentially.  This is why the brain can develop throughout human life and recover after being injured.

magnesium for depression
  1. Magnesium reduces pain

Magnesium has been a traditional pain relief for years, and since physical pain is one of the manifestations of depression, it is a helpful remedy.

Taking magnesium has been found to improve back, joint, and muscle pain. Research also showed that patients with fibromyalgia had reduced symptoms of depression and tender point pain when they took magnesium supplements. 

These two sets of symptoms were also found to be higher in people with this condition when their magnesium level is low

Again, magnesium has been found to alleviate headaches. This research showed that magnesium deficiency increases a person’s risk of migraine headaches, amongst others. 

So, if the deficiency contributes to depression and headache, then replenishing the deficient mineral will alleviate the symptoms.

  1. Magnesium can reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms

Symptoms of PMS are common for about 90% of women. This is because of the changes that occur in their bodies before their menstrual period.

However, it has been discovered that taking magnesium around the beginning of your menstrual period can help reduce the symptoms of PMS. 

The symptoms of PMS that magnesium for depression makes more tolerable include bloating, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and tension. 

magnesium for depression

What is the recommended daily intake of magnesium for adults? 

The recommended amount of magnesium for an adult is classified according to gender and age. 


  •  Age 19 to 30, 400 mg  
  •  Age 31 to 50, 420 mg  
  •  Age 51 and above, 420 mg 


  • Age 19 to 30, 310 mg
  • Age 31 to 50, 320 mg   
  • Age 51 and above,  320 mg

Should I take magnesium supplements for depression or anxiety?

Magnesium is best gotten from food, though some quantities can be obtained from supplements when foods cannot provide enough.

When obtaining magnesium from foods, you need to know the diets that can better or worsen your depression. Find out more about diets in depression here.

However, know that not every type of magnesium supplement sold in the store works. The body may find it difficult to break some of them down.

For instance, if you take a tablet that contains 400 mg of magnesium, your body may only absorb a fraction of that. 

There are potential side effects and a risk of magnesium poisoning when you take too much. Because of this, some people avoid the supplement option.

The side effects of magnesium may occur when people take too much magnesium for depression. They experience:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • In case of extreme overdose, it can lead to death.

Besides these, magnesium supplements can also react with some antibiotics, diuretics, and other medications.

So, to answer whether you should take a magnesium supplement for depression, I would advise you to consult your doctor first.

Also, you should make your doctor aware of any strange symptoms you get from taking any supplement.

Though magnesium is not typically a treatment for depression, most doctors treat magnesium deficiency issues with magnesium injections.

However, if you are looking for goods ways to increase your magnesium intake without side effects, you should try getting it from foods.

Best foods for magnesium

You can obtain a healthy amount of magnesium for depression without side effects by including the following foods in your daily diet:

  1. Leafy greens

Trust leafy greens for a full load of magnesium. They are very healthy, and you can never go wrong with them. 

magnesium for depression

You can get the needed amount of magnesium for depression from leafy greens like:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Turnip greens

157 mg of magnesium is contained in one cup of boiled spinach contains. 

Besides being excellent sources of magnesium for depression, they also serve as great sources for vitamin A, C, and K. 

They also contain compounds that reduce your risk of cancer and protect your cells from damage.

  1. Bananas

Bananas have a very high potassium content. However, eating one large banana can provide you with a whopping amount of 37 mg of magnesium

magnesium for depression

Alongside its mood-lifting benefits, banana also lowers blood pressure and reduces one’s risk of developing a heart disease

  1. Legumes

Legumes rich in magnesium include

  • Beans 
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Soybeans, etc.

They are nutrient-dense and contain different nutrients, including magnesium. 

You can obtain 130 mg of magnesium from eating a cup serving of black beans.

  1. Nuts

Nuts are known to be very tasty and nutritious. The nuts listed below have very high amounts of magnesium for depression.

magnesium for depression
  • Almonds
  • Brazilian nuts
  • Cashews

From one ounce (28 grams) serving of cashews, you can obtain 82 mg of magnesium.

Besides magnesium, Brazilian nuts are also very rich in selenium, a mineral needed for a happy mood.  

  1. Whole grains

You can get a wide range of nutrients, including magnesium, from whole grains. 

You can obtain this original chill pill from whole grains like:

  • Brown rice
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat 
  • Quinoa

Buckwheat and quinoa have a very high antioxidant and protein content than traditional grains like wheat and corn.

How long does magnesium work for depression? 


Magnesium is beneficial for depression, and obtaining it from natural foods are the best. Even when you are not magnesium deficient, it is important to include this super-healthy mineral in your diet for its other benefits.

Never forget that the best source of magnesium for depression is from foods. If you need more than food can supply, your doctor will make a recommendation.

Medical Disclaimer

The information shared on this website is gathered from researches, peer-reviewed studies and real-life observations. We aim to educate and help you live mentally strong and positive. What we share here may be controversial, but we expect you to use your intuition and judgment. Our information does not replace professional medical advice. In fact, we encourage you to seek professional help when you need it.

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