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Where Tradition Meets the Lab: Magnesium

The Cabinet — 09.03.19
by Gretchen Lidicker

Hilma ingredient: Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that — brace yourself — you are likely deficient in. It's estimated that over 50% of the US population is deficient in Magnesium, which can lead to a wide range of symptoms that you might be experiencing, like headaches, anxiety, and insomnia.

So what is this powerful mineral and why aren’t we getting enough? Here, we’ll dive deep into the history, science, and benefits of Magnesium.

The History

Using magnesium as a natural remedy was first done by way of Epsom salts, which are actually made of magnesium sulfate. First discovered in the 1700s in a town outside London, people would travel from all over Europe to bathe in the relaxing “healing water” at the bitter saline spring in the town, which they used as a remedy for anything from skin issues and wound healing to decreasing infections and digestive problems.

Today, we know that Magnesium can be used for much more than that. Particularly because so many people are deficient, it has become highly recommended as a supplement by doctors and herbalists alike.

The Benefits

Headache sufferers particularly benefit from magnesium supplementation. The American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society believes that Magnesium is "probably effective" for migraine prevention and many headache clinics offer IV magnesium therapy for migraine patients.

Magnesium Glycinate is one of the most bioavailable types of magnesium, meaning it's easiest for your body to absorb. It is also milder on the stomach than other forms of Magnesium, like Magnesium Oxide or Citrate.

The Science

Over half the US population is deficient in Magnesium. There are multiple reasons for this, ranging from soil depletion, to stress, to the fact that the standard American diet—full of processed and refined foods—is essentially devoid of Mg. If you want to stock up -- Magnesium-rich foods include whole wheat, spinach, quinoa, fatty nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts, as well as legumes like black beans and edamame.

Other risks for Magnesium deficiency include diabetes, GI problems, or alcohol dependency issues. Chronic stress is also a risk factor, because it causes our body to use more Magnesium than it would when we’re in a relaxed state.

Magnesium acts as a cofactor to many physiological processes such as heart rhythm, vascular tone, nerve function, muscle contraction and relaxation. This means that Magnesium is important to catalyze each of these processes, and a deficiency can slow them down and compromise your health. Studies have connected deficiency in magnesium to health issues like headaches, mood disorders, and insomnia in certain populations.

Research on Magnesium is well-established. Studies show that a person’s magnesium levels are low during a migraine and that a deficiency in this critical mineral can lead to headaches by affecting the chemicals in the brain and the way our blood vessels constrict. Additional clinical research has confirmed that Magnesium improves cognition and promotes head comfort.


This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician before treating any disorder.


  1.  National Institute of Health 
  2. The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency., 2001
  3. National Institute of Health
  4. The Migraine Trust
  5. Lodi R1, Iotti S, Cortelli P, Pierangeli G, Cevoli S, Clementi V, Soriani S, Montagna P, Barbiroli B. Deficient energy metabolism is associated with low free magnesium in the brains of patients with migraine and cluster headache. Brain Res Bull. 2001 Mar 1;54(4):437-41.
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