Magnesium For Epilepsy


Epilepsy is a neurological disease that causes recurring seizures in patients as a result of a change in the firing patterns of neurons in the brain. Magnesium deficiency has been suggested to contribute to epileptic seizures. This article will explore the connection between magnesium and epilepsy and how much magnesium is necessary to maintain health. 

How does magnesium affect epilepsy

Epilepsy is a debilitating neurological disorder that affects about 50 million people worldwide. The condition is characterised by recurring, unprovoked seizures.2 There are 2 main types of epilepsy based on where the seizures originated in the brain:

  1. Focal seizures - seizures that start in one area of the brain. 
  2. Generalised seizures - seizures that affect neuron networks on both sides of the brain simultaneously.

A focal seizure can start in one area and become generalised as it spreads to both sides of the brain. Epilepsy patients show different symptoms based on their seizure type. Epilepsy patients may experience the following symptoms:

  • Uncontrollable jerking of the limbs
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Loss of awareness
  • Temporary confusion

Magnesium deficiency has been found to lower the seizure threshold in animal studies, which is the level of stimulation that the brain can tolerate before a seizure is triggered. In several human studies, magnesium levels in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid were found to be significantly lower in people with epilepsy compared to healthy people.1,5

In a study done in 2019, the authors observed that adult men who followed the recommended intake of dietary magnesium had a lower risk of developing epilepsy.6 Too few vegetables and fruits, which are major sources of magnesium, and high fat and alcohol consumption are all associated with magnesium deficiency. A stressful lifestyle also promotes the loss of magnesium.1    

How much magnesium should I take

According to the Recommended Dietary Allowance, average male adults require 400-420 mg of magnesium daily while average female adults require 310-320 mg. This recommended magnesium consumption may vary for people with certain health conditions that affect their magnesium levels. For example, people with gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, may require more magnesium than healthy people.

Magnesium supplementation has shown some positive effects in animal seizure studies and was suggested to help infantile spasms when used with epilepsy medications.1,3 In a newer study in 2022, the authors observed that epileptic children between 3 months to 5 years old with a normal initial level of magnesium showed improvements in EEG brain activities when given magnesium alongside their epilepsy medication, compared to epilepsy patients who did not receive magnesium supplementation.4

It is, however, important to note that magnesium should not be used as an alternative to epilepsy treatment, as there is still not sufficient evidence that magnesium alone is effective. Magnesium supplementation is best consumed under the guidance of your doctor.   

Side effects and other concerns

Around 30-40% of magnesium is absorbed from the food that we consume, and the excess is excreted by the kidneys. If you do consume magnesium supplements, you should keep it within the Tolerable Upper Intake Level - 350 mg per day. Excessive magnesium intake from supplements can cause diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and nausea.

You should also get advice from your healthcare provider if you have been prescribed gabapentin as an epilepsy treatment and wish to take magnesium supplements, as it has a known interference with the drug.  


Epilepsy patients suffer from recurring seizures that can be very debilitating. Some studies have looked into whether magnesium can help with epilepsy, as epilepsy patients generally show lower serum magnesium levels compared to healthy individuals. Based on animal studies, magnesium deficiency appears to lower the threshold for triggering epilepsy seizures. The recommended amount of magnesium to be consumed every day is about 400-420 mg for adult males and 310-320 mg for adult females. 

Some studies have found that magnesium supplementation had positive effects on the control of infantile spasms and EEG brain activities. If you wish to take magnesium supplementation to help with your epilepsy, it is recommended to speak to your GP as magnesium may interfere with your current medications. It is also important to keep your daily magnesium supplement consumption to 350 mg per day. 


  1. Yuen AWC, Sander JW. Can magnesium supplementation reduce seizures in people with epilepsy? A hypothesis. Epilepsy Research [Internet]. 2012 Jun [cited 2023 Jan 28];100(1–2):152–6. Available from: 
  2. Bromfield EB, Cavazos JE, Sirven JI. Basic mechanisms underlying seizures and epilepsy [Internet]. American Epilepsy Society; 2006 [cited 2023 Jan 29]. Available from: 
  3. Zou LP, Wang X, Dong CH, Chen CH, Zhao W, Zhao RY. Three-week combination treatment with ACTH + magnesium sulfate versus ACTH monotherapy for infantile spasms: a 24-week, randomized, open-label, follow-up study in China. Clin Ther. 2010 Apr;32(4):692–700. 
  4. Yadav VK, Amrita A, Yadav S, Kumar R, Yadav KK. Role of magnesium supplementation in children with west syndrome: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Iranian Journal of Child Neurology [Internet]. 2020 Dec 15 [cited 2023 Jan 29];16(1). Available from: 
  5. Sinert R, Zehtabchi S, Desai S, Peacock P, Altura BT, Altura BM. Serum ionized magnesium and calcium levels in adult patients with seizures. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2007;67(3):317–26. 
  6. Yary T, Kauhanen J. Dietary intake of magnesium and the risk of epilepsy in middle-aged and older Finnish men: A 22-year follow-up study in a general population. Nutrition [Internet]. 2019 Feb 1 [cited 2023 Jan 29];58:36–9. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Pei Yin Chai

Bachelor of Science - BS, BSc(Hons) Neuroscience, The University of Manchester, England

Pei Yin (Joyce) is a recent neuroscience degree graduate from the University of Manchester. As an introvert, she often finds it easier to express herself in written words than in speech, that's when she began to have an interest in writing. She has 2 years of experience in content-creating, and has produced content ranging from scientific articles to educational comic and animation. She is currently working towards getting a career in medical writing or project management in the science communication field.

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