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Is magnesium chloride truly the ‘master magnesium compound’?

Fact Checked

magnesium chloride flakes

Story at-a-glance -

  • Magnesium chloride is a naturally occurring inorganic compound composed of one magnesium and two chloride ions
  • Magnesium chloride contains only 12% elemental magnesium, which may seem low compared to other forms of magnesium supplements, such as magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate
  • A study published in the Journal of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism confirms magnesium chloride’s positive effects on insulin sensitivity

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in your body, as it’s used by nearly every cell and organ, especially your heart, muscles and kidneys. If you’re struggling to get enough magnesium from the foods you eat, taking a magnesium supplement may make up for your deficiency.

One of the most popular magnesium supplements in the market is magnesium chloride. In fact, it’s known as the “master magnesium compound” since it’s said to be highly potent and effective.1 Read on to learn more about the benefits and uses of this supplement, and whether it’s indeed the best form of magnesium for your health.

What is magnesium chloride?

Magnesium chloride is a naturally occurring inorganic compound composed of one magnesium and two chloride ions.2 It’s usually extracted from places with high salt content like the Dead Sea.3

This compound comes in anhydrous and multiple hydrated crystal forms. Anhydrous crystal forms are more readily available, while multiple hydrated crystal forms, also called magnesium chloride hexahydrate, are produced through an evaporation process and typically sold as magnesium flakes for bath and foot soaks.4

Magnesium chloride was first used for medicinal applications during World War I, when a French surgeon named Dr. Pierre Delbet used it as an antiseptic. Today, this compound is commonly used as a supplement to help treat magnesium deficiency and promote better overall health.5

Magnesium chloride supplements contain only 12% elemental magnesium, which may seem low compared to other magnesium supplements, such as magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate.6 However, a study published in the journal Magnesium Research shows that magnesium chloride is better absorbed by the body compared to magnesium oxide, as it has the same bioavailability as organic magnesium salts.7

9 benefits of magnesium chloride

Here are some potential benefits of magnesium chloride, thanks to its ability to optimize the magnesium levels in your body:8,9,10

  • Better heart health
  • Optimized brain, muscle and nerve function
  • Mental and physical relaxation
  • Improved bone health
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Better digestive process
  • Stronger immune system
  • Lower risk of developing migraines
  • Improved sleep

Magnesium chloride is also believed to help fight free radicals and lower the risk of various illnesses, including tumors,11 arteriosclerosis,12 prostate problems,13 intestinal disorders14 and kidney stones.15

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What are the other uses of magnesium chloride?

Because of magnesium chloride’s high absorption rate, it can be used for transdermal magnesium therapy. It’s available in topical forms, like oil, gel, lotion and bath salts, which are directly applied on the skin to help relieve muscle pains and skin problems.16,17

According to a 2017 study published in PLOS ONE, magnesium chloride may be useful in the management of depression. The study involved 126 adults diagnosed with mild-to-moderate depression. After six weeks of taking magnesium chloride, the participants exhibited marked improvements in their symptoms, with some even experiencing improvements in as early as two weeks.18

Studies done on magnesium chloride support its benefits

Several studies have put magnesium chloride’s efficiency to the test, and most of them showed positive results. For instance, a study conducted in 2008 focused on the effects of this compound in the treatment of depression in elderly Type 2 diabetes patients with hypomagnesemia. The results showed that daily supplementation of magnesium chloride led to an improvement of depression symptoms, further confirming this compound’s ability to promote overall mental balance.19

A study published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism confirms magnesium chloride’s positive effects on insulin sensitivity. This study involved oral magnesium supplementation for overweight and nondiabetic patients. After the trial, the participants showed significant improvement in fasting plasma glucose and insulin sensitivity indices, which means that magnesium chloride may help inhibit insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.20

Even the efficiency of transdermal magnesium chloride was analyzed in research conducted by the Herbal Research Centre in the U.K. In this study, patients underwent transdermal magnesium treatment for 12 weeks. The results showed that magnesium chloride did enhance cellular magnesium levels and promote detoxification.21

Magnesium threonate: The better form of magnesium supplement

While magnesium chloride may be effective in addressing magnesium deficiency, I don’t believe that it’s the best magnesium supplement for you.

When it comes to magnesium supplements, I personally recommend magnesium threonate over magnesium chloride. Magnesium threonate is a newer and emerging type of magnesium supplement that can penetrate cell membranes, including the mitochondria, which results in higher energy levels. It can also penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which may help enhance your memory.

What makes this formulation even better than magnesium chloride is that it doesn’t have a laxative effect. Its high absorption rate allows you to increase your magnesium levels without experiencing loose bowel movement.

6 possible side effects of magnesium chloride

As with other magnesium supplements, magnesium chloride may cause loose stools. There are also rare cases when this supplement may cause adverse reactions that require immediate medical care. Some of these serious side effects include:22

  • Allergic reactions, such as skin rashes, itching and swelling
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Severe diarrhea

Avoid taking magnesium chloride if you’re suffering from any of the following conditions:23,24

  • Preexisting diarrhea
  • Kidney disorders, especially renal failure
  • Myocardial disease

Magnesium chloride may also interact with other medications, such as:25

  • Antibiotics
  • Cellulose sodium phosphate
  • Digoxin
  • Sodium polystyrene sulfonate
  • Tetracycline
  • Bisphosphonate

If you’re taking any of the medications mentioned above, talk to your physician before using magnesium chloride to determine if it’s suitable for your condition.

A healthy diet is the best source of magnesium

You shouldn’t just rely on supplements to make up for your magnesium deficiency. Keep in mind that the best way to maintain proper magnesium levels in the body is by eating healthy foods rich in this nutrient. Leafy green vegetables are some of the best sources of magnesium, some of which include:26,27

Other foods rich in magnesium include avocados, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, squash and unsweetened cocoa powder.

Pay attention to your calcium, vitamin K2 and vitamin D levels too

If you want to make the most out of your magnesium supplement, you should monitor your calcium, vitamin K2 and vitamin D intake. These four nutrients work together to provide optimum health benefits.

Calcium may help regulate the muscle-relaxing effect of magnesium. However, excessive amounts of it may lead to heart attack, stroke and even death, so make sure your magnesium to calcium ratio is 1-to-1. Meanwhile, increasing your vitamin K2 levels may help lower the risk for health complications caused by excessive calcium intake, whereas vitamin D may help improve your body’s absorption of calcium and magnesium.

Balancing your nutrient levels not only helps you enjoy the benefits of different vitamins and minerals, but also inhibits possible complications caused by unbalanced nutrient ratios.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about magnesium chloride

Q: What is the formula for magnesium chloride?

A: The formula for magnesium chloride is MgCl2, as it consists of one magnesium and two chloride ions.28

Q: What is magnesium chloride used for?

A: Magnesium chloride is primarily used to supplement magnesium deficiency. It may also be used topically to help alleviate muscle aches, improve skin condition and reduce inflammation in atopic dry skin.29,30

Q: How is magnesium chloride made?

A: According to study published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, the common process used for extracting magnesium chloride from seawater bitterns involves the use of calcined limestone to precipitate magnesium hydroxide — this is then treated with hydrochloric acid to form magnesium chloride.31

Q: What does magnesium chloride do in the body?

A: Magnesium chloride may help increase the magnesium levels in the body, which may lead to various health benefits, including better nerve function, lower blood sugar levels, improved heart health and stabilized mood, among others.32