Unveiling the Powerful Effects of Magnesium for Anxiety

  • By Performance Lab
  • 6 minute read
Unveiling the Powerful Effects of Magnesium for Anxiety

Magnesium plays a vital role in energy metabolism, bone health, muscle contraction, and nervous system function, but did you know it also has powerful benefits for mental health? Thanks to its role in regulating neurotransmitters and promoting relaxation, magnesium supplementation might be helpful for people with anxiety.

If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety—or even anxious feelings—you know it’s not pleasant.

Whether it’s intense fear, worry, nervousness, or the like, feelings can stem from certain situations, but they can also arise without a single identifiable source. 

It’s estimated that a whopping 37.7% of the population is affected by an anxiety disorder at some point during their life 1.

With such a high prevalence, there’s no shortage of medical treatments to deal with it, but what about natural alternatives?

One of the supplements that has recently gained interest to treat anxiety is magnesium. Nicknamed “the original chill pill” or “nature’s valium,” does magnesium have a place as an anti-anxiety supplement?

If you’re not familiar with the link between magnesium and anxiety, we’re covering all the details of magnesium supplements and whether they work for alleviating anxiety.

Magnesium and Anxiety: What’s The Link?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in nearly every system in the body, ranging from energy metabolism and muscle contraction to nerve transmission and bone health. But perhaps one of its most known roles in brain health is with stress and anxiety.

One such way magnesium can counter stress is through its actions on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Magnesium binds to and stimulates GABA receptors in the brain 2; GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps to slow brain activity and induce calmness. When GABA levels are low, you’re stuck in the “ON” position, and relaxing becomes nearly impossible.

Magnesium also has intricate links to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the body’s main system for managing stress. It does this by regulating the release of stress hormones, primarily cortisol, and their entry into the brain 3.

High circulating cortisol levels can lead to symptoms like anxiety, depression, brain fog, mood swings, impaired memory, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and more.

Think about it this way: magnesium acts like an emergency brake on your nervous system—when things are getting a little too wild, magnesium pulls up the E brake to prevent your body from going into overdrive.

Magnesium can also help to reduce levels of inflammation 4. Chronic inflammation is a big no-no and a massive contributor to several chronic diseases, but it can be disastrous when it happens in the brain.

Neuroinflammation has been linked to various neurological and psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer’s 5, 6.

And there’s one more “unconventional” way magnesium might help anxiety—and low magnesium levels could contribute to it.

Magnesium is known to regulate blood sugar levels, which is great news for brain function, as its preferential fuel source is glucose, and it requires a steady supply to maintain optimal function 7.

When glucose levels drop (i.e., you’re hypoglycaemic), the adrenal glands shoot out cortisol and epinephrine to get blood sugar levels back up to normal.

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But if you’ve ever experienced low blood sugar, what do the symptoms mimic? Anxiety--nervousness, shaking, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness.

If you suspect your anxiety might be related to low blood sugar, keep an eye on your diet 8. You want to limit your intake of refined (quick digesting) carbohydrates and increase your intake of healthy fats, complex carbs, and protein—oh, and add a magnesium supplement!

To summarize that, here are the mechanisms of magnesium for anxiety:

  1. Magnesium blocks the activity of stimulating/excitatory neurotransmitters and binds to calming receptors like GABA, decreasing brain activity and inducing relaxation.

  2. It helps regulate the release of stress hormones from the adrenal gland to put the brakes on your nervous system and prevent it from going into overdrive.

  3. Magnesium can regulate levels of inflammation, especially in the brain, which are linked to a host of psychiatric and neurological disorders, including anxiety.

  4. Magnesium regulates blood glucose levels, which helps to prevent the release of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine when blood sugar drops too low.

Can Magnesium Supplements Help Anxiety?

So, can magnesium help anxiety?

Although research isn’t wholly conclusive, it does show promise concerning the beneficial effects of magnesium on anxiety and mental health.

But what’s staggering is that while a true deficiency is rare, most of the population doesn’t get enough magnesium through diet alone—and they’re not taking supplements—so, is it any wonder why people are so anxious?

Let’s take a look at some of the research.

  1. A 2010 systematic review published in Nutrition Journal looked at various nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders and found that taking magnesium supplements improved anxiety symptoms 9.

  2. A 2017 review looked at 18 different studies on the effects of magnesium supplements on anxiety and stress 10. Researchers found that magnesium status is positively associated with subjective anxiety, leading them to conclude that taking magnesium supplements may attenuate anxiety symptoms. This may be due to magnesium’s role in regulating neurotransmitters.

  3. A 2012 study published in Neuropharmacology looked at the relationship between magnesium deficiency and anxiety-like behavior. It concluded that because of its role in modulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a magnesium deficiency might lead to heightened levels of anxiety 11.

But not all research points to its efficacy. A 2020 systematic review found that while magnesium might have positive effects on symptoms of depression, there was no significant connection between magnesium levels and generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder symptoms 12.

Key takeaway: Research suggests that low magnesium levels may contribute to anxiety, and a magnesium supplement may help to alleviate symptoms.

What Form of Magnesium is Best For Anxiety?

If you’re looking for supplemental magnesium to boost levels and reduce anxiety symptoms, what kind should you choose?

There are two main factors to consider when looking for supplemental magnesium:

  1. Bioavailability: How much magnesium can be absorbed in the gut.

  2. Access to the brain: The ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain.

Surprisingly, the two most commonly recommended forms of magnesium—magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide—actually have the lowest bioavailability, which is why they often cause GI distress (diarrhea) when taken in large doses and are best for relieving constipation.

Magnesium salts like magnesium sulfate and carbonate have similar absorption issues, making them less than ideal for anxiety disorders.

So, what are the other options?

Based on current evidence, magnesium glycinate (or bisglycinate) and magnesium taurate have high bioavailability, and most research shows positive effects on anxiety and other mental health disorders. However, magnesium malate and threonine may also be helpful.

How To Use Magnesium to Alleviate Anxiety

If you’re struggling with anxiety and tired of the ups and downs, magnesium is a good (and natural) option to consider.

But how do you use magnesium to curb anxiety? There are two ways: diet and magnesium supplements.


Because studies have shown that diets low in magnesium may contribute to anxiety-like symptoms, boosting your magnesium intake through food is an easy fix.

Here are some of the best magnesium-rich foods:

  • Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, collards, mustard greens)
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Legumes (black beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Whole grains (barley, oats, buckwheat, quinoa)
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts)
  • Seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin)
  • Tofu
  • Fatty fish (mackerel, halibut, salmon)
  • Bananas


The other option is magnesium supplementation, like Performance Lab NutriGenesis Multi and Performance Lab Sleep (hint: getting a good night’s rest is essential for anxiety!).

Performance Lab supplements are curated with ultramodern nutrients designed to mimic what’s found in nature. They’re pure and highly bioavailable, designed for maximum absorption and bioactivities.

With Multi and Sleep, you get the perfect stack to boost magnesium levels, support balanced stress response, and curb anxiety before it starts.


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  2. Möykkynen T, Uusi-Oukari M, Heikkilä J, Lovinger DM, Lüddens H, Korpi ER. Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABA(A) receptors. Neuroreport. 2001;12(10):2175-2179.
  3. Murck H. Magnesium and affective disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 2002;5(6):375-389.
  4. Moslehi N, Vafa M, Rahimi-Foroushani A, Golestan B. Effects of oral magnesium supplementation on inflammatory markers in middle-aged overweight women. J Res Med Sci. 2012;17(7):607-614.
  5. Won E, Kim YK. Neuroinflammation-Associated Alterations of the Brain as Potential Neural Biomarkers in Anxiety Disorders. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(18):6546.
  6. Kwon HS, Koh SH. Neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative disorders: the roles of microglia and astrocytes. Transl Neurodegener. 2020;9(1):42.
  7. Barbagallo M, Dominguez LJ. Magnesium and type 2 diabetes. World J Diabetes. 2015;6(10):1152-1157.
  8. Aucoin M, Bhardwaj S. Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Hypoglycemia Symptoms Improved with Diet Modification. Case Rep Psychiatry. 2016;2016:7165425.
  9. Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutr J. 2010;9:42.
  10. Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429.
  11. Sartori SB, Whittle N, Hetzenauer A, Singewald N. Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology. 2012;62(1):304-312.
  12. Botturi A, Ciappolino V, Delvecchio G, Boscutti A, Viscardi B, Brambilla P. The Role and the Effect of Magnesium in Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020;12(6):1661.