We all feel tired and achy sometimes, but what if those feelings weren’t just the result of a long day, but actually linked to a major magnesium deficiency?
Fewer than 60 percent of American adults meet the Adequate Intake values for magnesium, according to the World Health Organization. Dr. Jennie Ann Freiman calls magnesium deficiency “a silent epidemic” in the United States. And no matter how many kale salads with walnuts you eat, you might still not be getting enough, which is why many are turning to magnesium oil to get the magnesium they need, either with store-bought magnesium oil or a simple make-at-home recipe.
Why Do You Need Magnesium Oil?
Most of us are deficient in magnesium, and yet even if your doctor tests you for magnesium deficiency, chances are, you'll test negative. According to Dr. Steven Gundry, founder of Gundry MD, this is because magnesium is such a critical element that your blood will do anything to replenish its supply – even leech it out of your cells.
“Even if your magnesium level is normal, it actually tells us nothing about what the intra-cellular level of magnesium is,” he explains. “And it turns out that the inter-cellular level of magnesium is where it has all the beneficial effects.”
While you'd usually supplement deficient minerals through diet, unfortunately, when it comes to magnesium, that's kind of tough.
“We used to get quite a lot of magnesium through the foods we eat – particularly dark vegetables and some nuts,” explains Gundry. “But our soil worldwide – particularly in the United States, has become profoundly depleted in magnesium.”
Gundry notes that some evidence points to the current magnesium level in spinach being only about 13 percent of what it was in 1950, meaning that even if you're eating spinach by the bucketful, you're probably deficient in magnesium.
So why not take an oral supplement to compensate for all this magnesium we’re not getting? Well, a number of reasons. Firstly, magnesium taken orally can give people loose bowel movements or even diarrhea, making it a slightly less than ideal way to add it to your daily regimen. But more important, we actually absorb magnesium at a much faster rate through the skin.
“A lot of people don’t even realize that skin is an organ,” explains Anna Pamula, the owner and founder of Renu Day Spa in Deerfield, Illinois. “Whatever you put on your body goes into the bloodstream so much faster than what you put in your stomach.”
In a 2010 study, patients using transdermal magnesium therapy saw increases in their cellular magnesium levels after just 12 weeks, with an average increase of 25.2 percent. And since magnesium plays a crucial role in more than 300 daily biochemical reactions, increasing your magnesium levels in this way is essential for better health.
13 Benefits of Magnesium Oil
Here are just a few of the specific benefits that magnesium oil can bring to your daily life.
1. Reduce Pain
One of the top uses of magnesium oil is to reduce pain. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD wrote for Dr. Oz that magnesium can remedy both muscle and nerve pain: not only is it an excellent muscle relaxant, but a new study in The Journal of Physiology showed that magnesium helps to calm NDMA – a chemical that, when stimulated, creates pain.
Kerri Knox, RN, notes that magnesium oil, when applied topically, can provide relief for localized back pain, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
“Some people with carpal tunnel can rub magnesium oil on their wrists and the pain sometimes vanishes almost instantly,” she says.
Magnesium oil can also be used on the legs for all variety of pain and other leg discomfort, according to Gundry.
“I have a number of people who get leg cramps every night or even what they view as restless legs, and magnesium oil, applied to your feet, calves, and thighs, is a great relief,” he explains.
2. Strengthen Teeth and Bones
Magnesium is a major key to successful calcium absorption, so it’s no surprise that when magnesium levels are low, calcium is not absorbed as well.
A 2013 data review in Nutrients found that “a tight control of magnesium homeostasis seems to be crucial for bone health.” This means that not only do you need to up your magnesium levels, but you need to do so regularly to ensure strong teeth and bones.
3. Repair Muscles
Magnesium has long been used by athletes to relieve pain associated with muscle soreness and inflammation.
Pamula uses magnesium oil often for this reason at her spa. “We have clients who work out a lot, and they very often they overwork themselves and they have very tense muscles, so we recommend it for that,” she explains.
4. Sleep Better
Magnesium’s natural muscle relaxant characteristics are part of what makes it such a great sleep aid – given its ability to relax GABA receptors in the brain and nervous system, magnesium oil makes it much easier to fall asleep.
In fact, even when Gundry asks patients to use magnesium oil for other reasons, he suggests that they do so in the evening, right before they go to bed.
5. Improve Dental Health
Believe it or not, magnesium can also be used as part of your oral hygiene regimen.
Dermatologist, Dr. Dendy Engelman explains that magnesium oil can be sprayed orally to reduce plaque buildup and promote healthy gums, and Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, noted in his book that using a magnesium gargle could strengthen oral and dental environments to such an extent that it reduces the risk of mouth cancer.
Just be sure to spit it out, or risk experiencing the intestinal discomfort that can come with taking too much magnesium orally.
6. Treat Skin Problems
Magnesium oil can be used topically to help solve a variety of skin troubles, including oily skin and acne.
A 1981 study in Lipids showed that magnesium can break apart different fats and oils, thus reducing the oiliness of the skin and helping with some types of acne.
Engelman notes that in her dermatology practice, she uses magnesium oil to solve an even wider variety of skin problems, including rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema.
8. Use as Deodorant
You know by now that deodorants containing aluminum have been linked to all sorts of health problems, but you might not know that magnesium is a great replacement for your regular stick deodorant.
“It has been shown in studies to minimize odor caused from excessive perspiration,” explains Engelman. You can even add a bit of your favorite essential oil, like lavender, to smell even better. Just be wary of spraying on freshly shaven skin, as this may cause irritation.
9. Relieve Stress
We could all use a bit of stress relief these days, and our experts claim that magnesium may be the answer.
Magnesium is typically evacuated from the body via urine in times of stress, and since magnesium is a key to the success of many major hormonal processes in the body, supplementing with magnesium during stressful times is always a good idea.
“It’s a major anti-anxiety agent, and it actually works because it quiets down the excitability of nerves, not only in our muscles and our heart, but also in our brain,” explains Gundry.
Naturopathic doctor Serena Goldstein also notes that magnesium is depleted by pharmaceuticals, caffeine, and alcohol, so those turning to an extra cup of coffee or glass of wine in stressful times should take special note to up their magnesium oil use.
10. Reduce Hypertension
Hypertension and other heart problems are often linked to severe magnesium deficiency, according to Gundry, due in part to the fact that magnesium, along with potassium, is key to regulating our cardiac rhythm.
“The average person that comes into our hospital with heart disease, either heart attack or needing bypass surgery, is so deficient in magnesium that I have to give them two grams of magnesium sulfate intravenously every six hours for 48 hours to get their magnesium levels back up to a baseline,” he says.
Not all instances of magnesium helping with hypertension are so extreme. A 2012 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that simple magnesium supplementation could help lower blood pressure in patients suffering from hypertension.
11. Regulate Diabetes
Magnesium can also be helpful in regulating diabetes, according to Dr. Axe.
“Poorly controlled diabetes results in a large excretion of glucose in urine, which in turn, depletes magnesium levels and has major implications in insulin resistance,” he writes. “Proper magnesium levels are incredibly important in diabetes patients, as insulin resistance can result in major problems in trying to control diabetes mellitus.”
Gundry has seen the effects of magnesium supplementation on people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic first-hand. “The addition of magnesium or magnesium oil is what really kind of kick starts them into having insulin work properly,” he says.
12. Migraine Relief
Magnesium is a great general pain reliever, but migraine sufferers will be happy to learn that it also has a specific effect on migraine pain.
Studies have shown that regular magnesium supplementation can reduce the frequency of migraines, as migraine sufferers have lower levels of intracellular magnesium during acute migraine attacks.
13. Reduce Symptoms of PMS
When you really boil this one down to its essence, it’s not surprising: since magnesium can help with both pain and stress, it definitely helps PMS sufferers. A 1995 study in Towsend Letter for Doctors showed that 95 percent of women tested experienced less breast pain and had less weight gain before their periods when supplementing with magnesium.
Whenever you choose to add a new supplement to your regimen, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or healthcare professional first. But certain people should be especially mindful of possible side effects of magnesium oil, including individuals with low blood pressure, people taking anti-anxiety medication, people with limited kidney function, and those with sensitive skin.
The Best Magnesium Oils Reviewed
Despite its name, magnesium oil isn’t actually an oil, but magnesium chloride salt dissolved in water. The solution takes on a slippery texture, thus the (slightly confusing) name.
Magnesium oil should only contain two ingredients: water and magnesium. The water, of course, should be pure, and the magnesium should be free of heavy metals, such as arsenic and bromides. Most magnesium oil producers will provide certifications of purity upon request.
One of the best ways to be sure that your magnesium is pure is to know its source: the purest magnesiums come from the ancient Zechstein Seabed, which was found in the late 1990s. It is here that the purest natural magnesium chloride salt is found; it has been certified free of mercury, lead, arsenic, and fluoride, some of the most common contaminants.
Another great source of magnesium is the Dead Sea, although as of recent years, this once-therapeutic place has become polluted and contaminated. Companies that choose to source their magnesium here must take special care to ensure its purity.
1. Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil
This is by far the top brand recommended by our experts. Pamula, who used to make her own magnesium oil for her spa, began buying from Ancient Minerals given its reputation and long-time presence on the market.
Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN also prefers Ancient Minerals thanks to the purity: the company sources from the Zechstein Seabed and certify the purity of its magnesium oil.
Life-Flo is another brand that Pamula has tried and likes. Life-Flo also sources its magnesium from the Zechstein Seabed, but some users have noted that it does not have the same pain relieving effects as the Ancient Minerals Brand, and the spray bottle could use a bit of work for ease of application.
3. MagneSoothe Magnesium Oil
MagneSoothe sources its magnesium not from Zechstein but from the Dead Sea, popular the world over for its therapeutic effects. Recent pollution has been cause for skepticism when it comes to this source, though MagneSoothe has takes steps to ensure the purity of its oil, extracting minerals only from the Southern Basin of the Dead Sea, which is further from contaminated zones.
MagneSmoothe also offers products like a body cream infused with arnica, which not only reduces the tingling sensation so often associated with magnesium oil but also adds to the pain relief.
While most magnesium oils are made with magnesium chloride, which is the most absorbable and least irritating form on the market, other brands, such as Ease, use magnesium chloride hexahydrate, which some users claim is less irritating to the skin.
Like MagneSoothe, Ease is sourced from the Dead Sea. While the company has had its product tested by a lab for purity, it's important to be wary of possible contaminants.
How to Use Magnesium Oil
Once you have chosen your brand of magnesium oil, how should you apply it?
1. Choose a Spot
It's important to choose the spot you spray carefully. The first time you use magnesium oil, you feel a tingling sensation though this should dissipate the longer you use the product.
“Using it on a different site each time one applies it helps to lessen this problem,” notes Knox. “Also, using it on sites that aren't very sensitive, such as the upper arms, hips, and abdomen can lessen the itching or burning as well.”
Pamula notes that if you’re hoping for all-over effects, the best place to apply your magnesium oil is your feet, a method that comes from the ancient art of reflexology.
When using magnesium oil for pain relief, meanwhile, apply it directly to problem areas, such as back, wrist, or knee.
2. Spray It On, and Massage It In
Many brands come in a spray bottle, so the easiest way to apply is to just spritz a bit onto the affected or chosen spot and massage to help it absorb and increase blood flow to the affected area. While according to Pamula, you can’t really overdo it when it comes to magnesium oil, it’s also not a great idea to waste it.
“When your skin stops absorbing it, it means that it’s oversaturated, so you can stop,” she says.
3. Let It Sit
Let magnesium oil absorb for at least 30 minutes before rinsing or wiping away any white residue. Some people wipe away the residue and top with a moisturizer, while others prefer to apply the magnesium oil right before a shower and then rinse it off entirely.
4. Don’t Stop!
It’s important to use magnesium daily, not only to increase your magnesium levels over time, but also to ensure that they don't deplete again. Start with six sprays daily, and work your way up from there to about 15-20.
If you experience loose bowels or diarrhea, reduce the dose or frequency of your use and consult with your primary care doctor.
Can't I Just Make My Own Magnesium Oil?
When you shop for magnesium oil, you may balk at the price; it's no wonder that some opt to forgo store-bought magnesium oil entirely and just make their own by combining magnesium flakes and water.
Companies such as Ancient Minerals frown upon this, noting that their magnesium bath flakes, while used in the composition of their magnesium oil, don't create as pure a product.
That said, many experts believe that making your own magnesium oil at home is just fine – Dr. Gundry even notes that you can simply dissolve some Epsom salts in water for a cheaper product that does essentially the same thing as magnesium oil, though you can't use it in exactly the same way.
Epsom salts are made from a different type of magnesium -- magnesium sulfate as opposed to magnesium chloride. The former is rapidly excreted through the kidneys which makes it difficult to assimilate. You'll need to make an Epsom salt bath or foot soak to reap the same benefits as with a quick spritz of magnesium oil.
Homemade Magnesium Oil Recipe
1 cup magnesium chloride flakes
1 cup distilled water
Bring the water to a boil in a nonreactive pan. Once the water has reached a boil, pour into a nonreactive bowl, such as glass, and add the flakes. Stir until dissolved. Cover to prevent evaporation. Once cool, transfer to a glass bottle or container, and use as you would store-bought oil.
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