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Magnesium is a macro element with the atomic number of 12 and also known as the anti-stress mineral. It is an important nutrient for the brain as it raises the resistance against stress, depression, tensions and helps against mental tiredness. It also strengthens the memory and concentration. Magnesium is involved in releasing energy from the diet and is involved in a good functioning nervous system and muscles. It is also involved in the formation of strong bones and teeth and is active as an assistant cofactor of the B and C vitamins.

Magnesium is necessary for many body functions, such as energy production and cell division and is essential for the transfer of nerve impulses. It protects against heart and vascular diseases, repairs and maintains the cells and is necessary for hormone production and can lower blood pressure. Magnesium is useful in the treatment of fibromyalgia, prostate problems, 'restless legs' and premenstrual tension.

This mineral acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion. All human tissues contain small amounts of magnesium. The adult human body contains about 25 g of this mineral. The greater part of this amount is present in bones in combination with phosphate and carbonate. Bone ashes contain less than one per cent magnesium. About one-fifty of the total magnesium in the body is present in the soft tissues, where it is mainly bound to protein. Next to potassium, magnesium is the predominant metallic action in living cells. The bones seem to provide a reserve supply of this mineral in case of shortage elsewhere in the body.

Magnesium is the mineral that stabilises the heart, calms the nerves and regulates the heart beat. Biochemists call magnesium the " cool, alkaline, refreshing, sleep-promoting mineral". Magnesium helps one keep calm and cool during the sweltering summer months. It aids in keeping nerves relaxed and normally balanced and is necessary for all muscular activity.

This mineral is an activator for most of the enzyme system involving carbohydrate, fat and protein in energy-producing reactions. It is also involved in the production of lecithin which prevents the building up of cholesterol and consequent atherosclerosis. Magnesium promotes a healthier cardiovascular system and aids in fighting depression. It helps prevent calcium deposits in the kidneys and gallbladder and also brings relief from indigestion. This mineral together with vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has also been found effective in the prevention and treatment of bladder, kidney stones and bile and gall stones. Magnesium has also proved useful in other bladder and urinary problems and in epileptic seizure.

Magnesium is nature's own calcium channel blocker. When there is enough magnesium around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart.

Magnesium rich foods are commonly recommended to people who suffer from asthma issues. It can increase lung capacity and build on the efficiency of the respiratory process.

Magnesium deficiency

It is estimated that 80% of the population of western countries are magnesium deficient. Magnesium deficiency was the cause of death from sudden heart attacks in 8 million people in the USA from 1940-1994. Diabetes can cause magnesium expulsion and lead to heart attacks.

Heavy drinkers and alcoholics often show a low plasma magnesium concentration and a high urinary output. They may, therefore, require magnesium therapy especially in an acute attack of delirium tremens.

Too much phosphorous can cause diarrhoea and calcification (hardening) of organs and soft tissue and can interfere with the body's ability to use iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It is a matter of getting the balance right which is why supplementation is not advised. Foods that contain these minerals will never overdose the consumer with phosphorous.

Some bottled mineral waters contain good amounts of magnesium but some do not so it is best to always check labels. The treatments done to some bottled waters and tap water can remove the magnesium content altogether.

The body does not store magnesium like it does calcium. Magnesium is excreted as a result of drinking alcohol or high caffeine drinks such as coffee and fizzy drinks, high stress, diarrhoea, sugar intake or high levels of protein and fruit in the diet.


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Magnesium deficient soil

Magnesium is widely distributed in foods and is a part of the chlorophyll in green vegetables but it does depend upon where and how the food is grown. Organically grown natural foods contain more magnesium especially if they come from volcanic regions or the sea. The levels of magnesium in land-based crops can be low due to intense farming techniques stripping the soil of its mineral content and not replacing it. Therefore it is best to consume natural marine sourced foods or foods grown organically or those grown in lava-rich soils.

The alternative is to self-grow food crops in a garden or allotment where cover crops are grown and dug back into the soil, such as alfalfa, buckwheat or red clover etc., as these release minerals back into the soil. Adding Epsom salts to the soil where food crops are to be grown can also help. See Grow Your Own Health Garden


Farming plough
Today's intensive farming techniques have stripped the soil of its magnesium content which can cause deficiency in the food crops consumed by humans.

Possible outcomes of magnesium deficiency

Home-made magnesium bicarbonate water


  • One litre of plain sparkling bicarbonate water

  • One bottle of milk of magnesia


Chill a one litre bottle of plain carbonated water. Shake the bottle of milk of magnesia well, then measure out three tablespoons (45 ml) and have it ready.  Then take the carbonated water out of the refrigerator and open carefully to minimize the loss of carbon dioxide. Add the measured milk of magnesia in the bottle and put the cap back on. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Leave it for half hour so that it dissolves and the water clears. When the water is cleared, you’ll notice the un-dissolved magnesium hydroxide settled on the bottom of the bottle. Shake it again for 30 seconds and leave it again until it dissolves. This one litre of concentrated magnesium bicarbonate water will have approximately 1500 mg of magnesium and approximately 7500 mg of bicarbonate. The sides of the bottle will “cave in” slightly when the liquid clears which shows that the reaction is complete. Store this bottle of magnesium bicarbonate water in refrigerator.

Drink half a cup of this water per day. It can be increased to one full cup but do not pass that limit because it can cause loose stools.

Magnesium overdose

Magnesium is poisonous for people with kidney problems or disturbances in the heartbeat. High doses can cause hot flushes, thirst, low blood pressure and sometimes loss of reflexes and therefore supplements are not advised. Natural foods containing magnesium will not cause severe overdose as they also contain the other minerals required for a natural balance.

NOTE: Athletes and anyone that partakes in intense physical activities are often lacking in magnesium as they perspire profusely but do not replace lost minerals so they should consume plenty of these magnesium-rich foods.

Highest sources of magnesium in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Rice bran 781 mg

  • Basil, coriander, dill and sage 694 mg

  • Hemp seeds 640 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 535 mg

  • Raw cocoa 499 mg

  • Flaxseeds 392 mg

  • Brazil nuts 376 mg

  • Sesame seeds 353 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 346 mg

  • Chia seeds 335 mg

  • Chlorella 315 mg

  • Wheat germ 313 mg

  • Cashew nuts 292 mg

  • Almonds 268 mg

  • Caraway seeds 258 mg

  • Black strap molasses and dulse 242 mg

  • Buckwheat 231 mg

  • Spirulina 189 mg

  • Oats 177 mg

  • Durum wheat 144 mg

  • Macadamia nuts 130 mg

  • Adzuki beans 127 mg

  • Kelp 121 mg

  • Millet 114 mg

  • Kale 88 mg

  • Anchovies 69 mg

  • Amaranth 65 mg

  • Globe artichoke 60 mg

  • Okra and nettles 57 mg

  • Chestnuts 54 mg

  • Rocket 47 mg

  • Dates 43 mg

  • Plantain 37 mg

  • Lentils 36 mg

  • Butternut squash 34 mg

  • Coconut 32 mg

  • Potatoes with skin 30 mg

  • Passion fruit 29 mg

  • Savoy cabbage, halibut 28 mg

  • Bananas, rabbit 27 mg

  • Bread fruit, green beans 25 mg

  • Peas 24 mg

  • Raspberries 22 mg

  • Guava 22 mg

  • Blackberries 20 mg

  • Courgettes 18 mg

  • Kiwi fruit, fennel, figs 17 mg

  • Endive 15 mg

  • Cucumber, lettuce 13 mg

Recommended daily requirement

The recommended dietary need for magnesium is around 420 mg per day for an average build adult man, 320 mg for women and 450 mg during pregnancy and lactation.

Natural sources of magnesium in alphabetical order


Inulin is a form of starch which enhances magnesium absorption in the intestines.

Highest natural sources of inulin

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"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC

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