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HOMEMEDICINEMagnesiumNeurological and Emotional Diseases

Magnesium in Neurological Diseases and Emotions

Published on December 8, 2009

Even a mild deficiency of magnesium can cause increased sensitivity to noise, nervousness, irritability, mental depression, confusion, twitching, trembling, apprehension, and insomnia. Imagine being able to clear these symptoms without dangerous drugs! Magnesium is the premier medicine for depression, sleep disturbances, emotionally disturbed behavior, and neurological diseases because of its strong positive effect in calming and nourishing the nervous system.

Evidence is mounting that low levels of magnesium contribute to the heavy metal deposition in the brain that precedes Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. Many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be overcome with high magnesium supplementation. In a trial with 30 epileptics 450 mg of magnesium supplied daily successfully controlled seizures. Another study found that the lower the magnesium blood levels the more severe was the epilepsy. In most cases magnesium works best in combination with vitamin B6 and zinc.

Magnesium is essential in regulating central nervous system excitability thus magnesium-deficiency may cause aggressive behavior[1], depression, or suicide.[2] Magnesium calms the brain and people do not need to become severely deficient in magnesium for the brain to become hyperactive. One study[3] confirmed earlier reports that a marginal magnesium intake overexcites the brain’s neurons and results in less coherence–creating cacophony rather than symphony—according to electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements.[4]

If magnesium is severely deficient, the brain is particularly affected. Clouded thinking, confusion, disorientation, marked depression and even the terrifying hallucinations of delirium are largely brought on by a lack of this nutrient and remedied when magnesium is given. Symptoms that multiple sclerosis (MS) has in common with magnesium deficiency include muscle spasms, weakness, twitching, muscle atrophy, incontinence, nystagmus (rapid eye movements), hearing loss, and osteoporosis. People with MS also have higher rates of epilepsy than controls, which have been linked to magnesium deficiencies. [5]

Women’s bodies are known to crave for chocolate during PMS. Some researchers believe that women crave chocolate prior to menstruation because it contains magnesium. The medical journal for the American Heart Association created a stir when it reported a study of 22 heart transplant patients who were given a dose of dark chocolate or fake chocolate. Just two hours after eating the real thing, patients had measurable improvements in blood flow, vascular function, and less clotting, compared to placebo chocolate eaters who experienced no change.


Chocolate cravings are potentially a sign of a magnesium deficiency since chocolate is high in magnesium. Though it is widely accepted that chocolate affects our moods, few make the correlation between magnesium and emotions. People often report when eating chocolate that their mood is elevated and they feel better. This elevation in mood is temporary and when the effect wears off, subjects again reverted to their previous state of mind. The mood changing effect is greater when magnesium is used medicinally in high doses, which is most efficiently administered transdermally. Chocolate is not high enough in magnesium to be used medicinally and would be undesirable because of the high sugar component of most chocolates. Natural magnesium chloride (magnesium oil) is more effective to raise cellular magnesium levels mood to affect moods positively.

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Magnesium deficiency or imbalance plays a crucial role in the symptoms of mood disorders. Observational and experimental studies have shown an association between magnesium and aggression, [6],[7],[8],[9],[10], anxiety, [11],[12],[13], ADHD, [14],[15],[16],[17], bipolar disorder, [18],[19], depression [20],[21],[22],[23] and schizophrenia [24],[25],[26],[27]. The two most basic requirements for the normal operation of our brain are a sufficient energy supply and an optimal presence of biochemicals involved in transmitting messages. Magnesium is crucial in both the production of energy and neurotransmitters, and the integrity of the blood brain barrier. Solid neuroscience connects magnesium to neurological disorders. [28]

Depression and other emotional disorders of the heart are addressed most directly with magnesium. There is a definite link between how we feel and the condition of our cells. If we think of our cells as a microcosm of our total self, then we can see how cellular degeneration can affect every aspect of our being. When our cells are open, permeable and healthy we feel happy, energetic and optimistic. But when our cells become rigid (from excess calcium and insufficient magnesium) they become closed off and toxic, which can lead us to feel depressed with low energy and pessimistic moods. The condition of our cells will affect us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The healthy cell is permeable. This means that nutrients are able to pass into them efficiently to be absorbed and the toxic byproducts of metabolism are eliminated. When the cells are healthy the polarity of the cell is correct, i.e., there is intracellular potassium and magnesium as well as extracellular sodium and calcium. The cell in this state is healthy, and the person functions optimally both physically and emotionally. The unhealthy cell is not permeable. This leads to unhealthy cells with sodium and calcium going inside the cell, and magnesium and potassium being lost.

[1] Bernard Rimland. While no patient has been cured with the vitamin B6 and magnesium treatment, there have been many instances where remarkable improvement has been achieved. In one such case an 18-year-old autistic patient was about to be evicted from the third mental hospital in his city. Even massive amounts of drugs had no effect on him, and he was considered too violent and assaultative to be kept in the hospital. The psychiatrist tried the B6/magnesium approach as a last resort. The young man calmed down very quickly. The psychiatrist reported at a meeting that she had recently visited the family and had found the young man to now be a pleasant and easy-going young autistic person who sang and played his guitar for her.

[2] C. M. Banki, M. Arato and C. D. Kilts. Aminergic studies and cerebrospinal fluid cations in suicide. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol 487, Issue 1 221-230, Copyright © 1986 by New York Academy of Sciences

[3] This is the first experimental study in which magnesium intakes were tightly controlled and EEG measurements were analyzed by computer so they could be statistically compared.

[6] Izenwasser SE et al. Stimulant-like effects of magnesium on aggression in mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 25(6):1195-9, 1986.

[7] Henrotte JG. Type A behavior and magnesium metabolism. Magnesium 5:201-10, 1986.

[8] Bennett CPW, McEwen LM, McEwen HC, Rose EL. The Shipley Project: treating food allergy to prevent criminal behaviour in community settings. J Nutr Environ Med 8:77-83, 1998.

[9] Kirow GK, Birch NJ, Steadman P, Ramsey RG. Plasma magnesium levels in a population of psychiatric patients: correlation with symptoms. Neuropsychobiology 30(2-3):73-8, 1994.

[10] Kantak KM. Magnesium deficiency alters aggressive behavior and catecholamine function. Behav Neurosci 102(2):304-11, 1988

[11] Buist RA. Anxiety neurosis: The lactate connection. Int Clin Nutr Rev 5:1-4, 1985.

[12] Seelig MS, Berger AR, Spieholz N. Latent tetany and anxiety, marginal Mg deficit, and normocalcemia. Dis Nerv Syst 36:461-5, 1975.

[13] Durlach J, Durlach V, Bac P, et al. Magnesium and therapeutics. Magnes Res 7(3/4):313-28, 1994.

[14] Durlach J. Clinical aspects of chronic magnesium deficiency, in MS Seelig, Ed. Magnesium in Health and Disease. New York, Spectrum Publications, 1980.

[15] Kozielec T, Starobrat-Hermelin B. Assessment of magnesium levels in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Magnes Res 10(2):143-8, 1997.

[16] Kozielec T, Starobrat-Hermelin B. Assessment of magnesium levels in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Magnes Res 10(2):143-8, 1997.

[17] Starobrat-Hermelin B, Kozielec T. The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Positive response to magnesium oral loading test. Magnes Res 10(2):149-56, 1997.

[18] George MS, Rosenstein D, Rubinow DR, et al. CSF magnesium in affective disorder: lack of correlation with clinical course of treatment. Psychiatry Res 51(2):139-46, 1994.

[19] Kirov GK, Birch NJ, Steadman P, Ramsey RG. Plasma magnesium levels in a population of psychiatric patients: correlations with symptoms. Neuropsychobiology 1994;30(2-3):73-8, 1994.

[20] Linder J et al. Calcium and magnesium concentrations in affective disorder: Difference between plasma and serum in relation to symptoms. Acta Psychiatr Scand 80:527-37, 1989

[21] Frazer A et al. Plasma and erythrocyte electrolytes in affective disorders. J Affect Disord 5(2):103-13, 1983.

[22] Bjorum N. Electrolytes in blood in endogenous depression. Acta Psychiatr Scand 48:59-68, 1972.

[23] Cade JFJA. A significant elevation of plasma magnesium levels in schizophrenia and depressive states. Med J Aust 1:195-6, 1964.

[24] Levine J, Rapoport A, Mashiah M, Dolev E. Serum and cerebrospinal levels of calcium and magnesium in acute versus remitted schizophrenic patients. Neuropsychobiology 33(4):169-72, 1996.

[25] Kanofsky JD et al. Is iatrogenic hypomagnesemia common in schizophrenia? Abstract. J Am Coll Nutr 10(5):537, 1991.

[26] Kirov GK, Tsachev KN. Magnesium, schizophrenia and manic-depressive disease. Neuropsychobiology 23(2):79-81, 1990.

[27] Chhatre SM et al. Serum magnesium levels in schizophrenia. Ind J Med Sci 39(11):259-61, 1985.

[28] Murck H. Magnesium and Affective Disorders. Nutr Neurosci., 2002;5:375-389: Murck showed many actions of magnesium ions supporting their possible therapeutic potential in affective disorders. Examinations of the sleep-electroencephalogram (EEG) and of endocrine system points to the involvement of the limbic-hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical axis because magnesium affects all elements of this system. Magnesium has the property to suppress hippocampal kindling, to reduce the release of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and to affect adrenocortical sensitivity to ACTH. The role of magnesium in the central nervous system could be mediated via the N-methyl-D-aspartate-antagonistic, g-aminobutyric acid A-agonistic or the angiotensin II-antagonistic property of this ion. A direct impact of magnesium on the function of the transport protein p-glycoprotein at the level of the blood-brain barrier has also been demonstrated, possibly influencing the access of corticosteroids to the brain. Furthermore, magnesium dampens the calcium ion-protein kinase C related neurotransmission and stimulates the Na-K-ATPase. All these systems have been reported to be involved in the pathophysiology of depression. Murck et al. also demonstrated induced magnesium deficiency in mice to produce depression-like behavior which was beneficially influenced with antidepressants.

Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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