What is Transdermal Magnesium

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Have you ever seen transdermal magnesium and wondered what it is?

I used this topical form of magnesium chloride myself once. I'd recently walked 20 miles and my legs and calves were killing me. I used some transdermal magnesium chloride and it seemed to help provide temporarily relief.

Today, I want to discuss this topic more in depth. I want to share when I think this type of magnesium therapy is useful and when I think it isn't the best choice.

In this article, I will cover:

We will start by looking at what this supplement is and how it is supposed to work.


What is transdermal magnesium?

Most of us are probably familiar with oral magnesium supplements. This mineral is usually taken as a pill.

But it can also be used transdermally – meaning through the skin. That is called transdermal magnesium. It is a concentrated form of magnesium chloride that is meant to be absorbed through the sin. It comes in products like magnesium oil, lotions, or even bath salts.

Woman’s hands on white background with topical cream in palm, using fingers to spread.

The idea is that we can boost absorption of this mineral by applying magnesium oil or lotion to our skin. And that this can help to increase our magnesium levels and correct magnesium deficiencies.

When applied to skin, magnesium can only be absorbed through our sweat glands and hair follicles. That represents only 1% of our entire skin surface, so it is only going in in very small amounts.

Most people do transdermal applications of magnesium to attempt to treat things like joint pain, muscle aches, leg cramps, and fibromyalgia.

But why would you want to boost your magnesium absorption this way? What does magnesium chloride actually do in the body?


The purpose of magnesium in the body

Magnesium is a very important mineral in the body.

It is involved in over 400 enzymes. That means that it is used in many different reactions that our bodies have to carry out every single day to keep everything in balance. For example, magnesium helps to do the following things:

  1. Generate ATP (the energy currency of the cells).
  2. Repair DNA and RNA.
  3. Relax your muscles.
  4. Promote nerve conductivity.
  5. Promote synthesis of muscle proteins.
  6. And much more.

You need magnesium for a lot of things. And when you don't have enough of this mineral, it can cause many different problems.

Text label for magnesium mineral in blue rectangle, with green leaves illustration.

Symptoms of low magnesium levels

If your magnesium levels are low, you can end up with symptoms like:

Magnesium deficiency is surprisingly common. Probably 60% of us are deficient (or at least sub-clinically deficient) in this mineral. The symptoms can start off minor, as with muscles cramps, but you can eventually get major problems like heart issues if you don't fix the problem.

One of the reasons that so many of us are deficient in magnesium is that we don't eat enough vegetables. Veggies are rich in this essential nutrient and are key to a nutritious diet.

Foods high in magnesium

We can boost our magnesium intake by eating more nutrient-packed veggies and healthy foods.

Some of the best magnesium foods include:

  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Leafy greens
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Other nuts

Adding plenty of these foods to your daily routine will help you make sure you don't get low in this important nutrient.


When is transdermal magnesium useful?

As you can see, the mineral magnesium plays a lot of vital roles in the body. And you need enough of it to keep your health in top shape.

But is transdermal magnesium really the way to go? I believe magnesium oil and other topical applications can be helpful for acute, temporary fixes.

I think this kind of therapy can be useful for people that have over-trained with their workouts, have had an extra big day at the gym, have just walked a long distance, or have done something similar.

Athletic man applies topical cream from a tube to knee, joint pain remedy.

In those cases, the transdermal magnesium may provide some positive benefit. It may help to relieve the discomfort of things like cramping and muscle aches.

But for the majority of people who are trying to use this remedy for chronic problems, it is really not the best option. That is because people are trying to fix things like fibromyalgia or chronic joint pain from the outside in. When really, we need to look inward at the deeper problem going on.


Look for the root cause rather than trying to fix things on the surface

Many times, we try to fix chronic problems with surface-level solutions.

That is often the case with magnesium oils or magnesium creams.

For example, many people try to use these for fibromyalgia. But this condition is usually a systemic problem with something deeper at the root of it. In my experience, fibromyalgia is often connected to the gallbladder.

When you have problems with the gallbladder, it can result in a lot of pain in your body and symptoms of fibromyalgia. Many people with this condition have their pain on the right side of the body. That is where the gallbladder is located.

If you try to fix the problem by applying magnesium oil to your skin, you won't ever be able to have success. Because you have to look deeper. If you start to address the issue with your gallbladder, you might be able to start to solve the problem.

Illustration of root cause concept, roots, trunk, leaves with text for symptoms, problem, and causes.

So if you have chronic issues, it is important to look for the root problem underneath your symptoms. And you can't just turn to topical, external fixes to make things better.

Here are some tips for things that might be important to pay attention to.

  • Take a look at your gallbladder health. Gallbladder issues can cause pain in the body. And that may mimic other health problems. So if you are experiencing chronic pain, make sure this organ isn't to blame. To read more about the gallbladder and learn how to keep it healthy, go here.
  • Boost vitamin D. Vitamin D is an anti-inflammatory vitamin. If you have things like muscle aches, joint pain, or even fibromyalgia, you likely have too much inflammation in your body. And so you probably need more vitamin D to fight that inflammation. It is interesting to note that if you are low in magnesium, then vitamin D will not work properly. So make sure you are getting plenty of magnesium-rich foods to boost your vitamin D activity.
  • Try keto and intermittent fasting. Again, the root of these problems is often too much inflammation in the body. Two great strategies for lowering inflammation include Healthy KetoTM and intermittent fasting. These ways of eating are very good for your body. They help to calm everything down so it functions smoothly.

    Ketogenic diet nutrient chart surrounded by healthy keto foods like meat, vegetables, nuts.

So before your turn to magnesium oil or some other transdermal magnesium therapy, think about the factors above first. And take a look at your overall health. Where might your body need some support? What habits might be taking a toll?

Lifestyle and dietary changes just might help you to solve the puzzle.


The bottom line

Have you ever considered magnesium oil or cream?

Every once in a while, topical magnesium might be worth your while. It can be useful if you've worked out too hard or over trained. I used it once for just that purpose. I'd walked 20 miles, and it did seem to help.

An athlete in running shoes applies magnesium cream to her legs, muscle cramps, magnesium cream.

But if you have any ongoing issues, it is not the solution for you. It probably won't work very well for you in the long run.

Instead, you'll need to start looking deeper for the root cause. Only then will you be able to start solving the problem and getting relief.

Some things to consider include:

  • Checking your gallbladder.
  • Boosting your vitamin D.
  • Fixing your diet and trying Healthy KetoTM.

Transdermal magnesium therapy has its time and place. But most people aren't using it effectively. And they are relying on it to fix things from the outside in. In reality, most of the time we have to work from the inside out.

What are your thoughts? Share your experiences with magnesium oil or other transdermal applications in the comments below.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.


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