Transdermal Magnesium Therapy:A New Modality for the Maintenance of Health

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A variety of drugs including antibiotics, chemotherapeutic agents, diuretics and proton pump inhibitors can cause magnesium loss and hypomagnesemia. In addition, magnesium deficiency exacerbates potassium-mediated arrhythmia, in particular in the presence of digoxin intoxication [ 1 ]. Magnesium compounds are widely used as medicinal and dietary supplements.

The effectiveness of oral magnesium supplementation for the treatment of magnesium deficiency is beyond controversy [ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ]. Transdermal magnesium application should be the ultimate way to replenish cellular magnesium levels since every cell in the body bathes in it. It passes directly into the tissues via the skin, where it should quickly be transported to cells throughout the body. Scepticism based on ignorance impairs scientific evaluation as much as claims based on excessive faith.

The skin is the largest organ of the body, covering about 1. The primary function of the skin is to provide a barrier between the body and the external environment. This barrier protects against the permeation of ultraviolet UV radiation, chemicals, allergens and microorganisms, in addition to the loss of moisture and body nutrients [ 8 ].

This means that the absorptive capacity of healthy skin for substances from the outside is very limited. This becomes evident particularly in the limited application for topical drugs.

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To get through the skin, a substance must penetrate the epidermis or has to be absorbed by sweat glands or hair follicles. The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the epidermis consisting of dead cells corneocytes.


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This layer is composed of about 15 to 20 layers of flattened cells with no nuclei and cell organelles. Their cytoplasm shows filamentous keratin. These corneocytes are embedded in a lipid matrix composed of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. The stratum corneum functions to form a water-repellent barrier to protect underlying tissue from infection, dehydration, chemicals and mechanical stress [ 9 ].

Overcoming this layer in significant quantities is only possible for lipophilic substances. In magnesium chloride solution, magnesium is present in ionized form and therefore not able to penetrate a lipophilic layer. In addition, the radius of the hydrated magnesium ion 86 pm has been reported to be times higher than its dehydrated form, leading to the assertion that it is almost impossible for magnesium ions to pass through biological membranes [ 2 ]. Therefore, cellular magnesium uptake is only being carried out by specific magnesium transporters and not by diffusion.

However, since dead cells of the upper skin layer do not contain functional magnesium transporters, which have not yet been identified in detail, magnesium absorption may be possible only at the small area of sweat glands and hair follicles. A recently published study showed that magnesium ions can penetrate the stratum corneum in a concentration and time dependent manner which is significantly facilitated by hair follicles. However, hair follicles and sweat glands constitute only 0. Even if a substance is absorbed in this area, the question of the clinical relevance of absorbed amounts needs to be addressed.

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In the study that examined the permeation of topically applied magnesium no information is given on the quantity of absorbed magnesium [ 10 , 11 ]. One of the first studies on transdermal magnesium absorption was published by the naturopathic doctor and founder of the American Holistic Medical Association Norman Shealy, M. D in He was an early advocate for the particular benefits of transdermal applications of magnesium [ 12 ]. Shealy argued that a magnesium deficiency can be compensated by transdermal application within 4 to 6 weeks, whereas an oral supplementation is effective only after 4 to 12 months.

A full publication of this comparative study could not be found. Only an abstract for a conference was published not showing any additional data to substantiate this statement [ 7 ]. Another study that is often cited for proving that transdermal magnesium absorption offers a simple, cost effective and efficient methodology to increase cellular magnesium levels was a trial that took place over a week period and involved a total of nine patients aged between 22 and 69 years only weak statistical power.

Following provision of a hair sample, although known to be only less representative for total body magnesium handling, for analysis of mineral content each patient tested was instructed to apply 20 sprays of magnesium oil. The original treatment consisted of the daily spray, anywhere on the body, as well as a min foot soak using mL magnesium oil using a simple water footbath twice weekly. At the end of week treatment a further hair analysis was conducted. One patient ceased application prematurely, three weeks before the final analysis.

Overall an average increase of No data on serum magnesium concentration was available [ 6 ].


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  • Blood samples were taken before the first bath, at 2 h after the first bath and at 2 h after the seventh consecutive bath. Baths were taken daily at the same time for 7 days for the experiment. Urine samples were collected before the first bath and then 2 h after the first bath and at all subsequent baths. Urine samples were also taken 24 h after the last bath.

    All urine samples were corrected for creatinine content. Of the 19 subjects, all except three showed a rise in magnesium concentrations in plasma, though this was small in some cases. The values before the first bath had a mean of The continuation of bathing for 7 days in all except two individuals gave a rise to a mean of Prolonged soaking in Epsom salts therefore increases blood magnesium concentrations.

    Transdermal Magnesium Therapy A New Modality for the Maintenance of Health 2nd ed.

    The measurement of magnesium levels in urine showed a rise from the control level, mean Those individuals where the blood magnesium levels were not increased had correspondingly large increases in urinary magnesium showing that the magnesium ions had crossed the skin barrier and had been excreted via the kidney, presumably because the blood levels were already optimal. Generally, urinary magnesium levels 24 h after the first bath fell from the initial values found after day 1 mean The measurement of magnesium levels in urine 24 h after the seventh bath gave values almost back to control levels.

    However, this study has only been published on the internet—on the commercial site of the Epson-salt-council—but not in a scientific, peer-reviewed journal [ 13 ]. The most plentiful source of biologically available magnesium, however, is the hydrosphere i. The Dead Sea, the deepest and most saline lake on earth, has been known from biblical times for its healing properties and the effectiveness of bathing in the Dead Sea is well known Figure 1.

    Thus, there is a substantial gradient into the human body. Eighteenth century bath card [ 16 ]. Near-drowning in the Dead Sea is expected to result in severe electrolyte abnormalities and respiratory failure. This suggests that magnesium does not pertain to the topic of dermal absorption. In one cohort study, the data were abstracted from the archives of Soroka University Medical Center. The cohort comprised 69 patients who nearly drowned in the Dead Sea. There were two major manifestations of near-drowning in the Dead Sea: electrolyte imbalance and acute lung injury.

    Serum calcium, magnesium and phosphorus but not sodium, potassium and chloride were abnormal in most patients. Median serum electrolyte levels and range on admission were These levels quickly normalized with forced diuresis within 24 h. Acute lung injury—namely, hypoxic bilateral pneumonitis—occurred in 29 patients. Mechanical ventilation was required in 11 patients.

    Sixty-five patients recovered fully, while the remaining four had minor sequelae [ 17 ].

    The penetration of electrolytes through the human skin was measured in healthy volunteers and in psoriatic patients after bathing in the Dead-Sea Dead Sea water balneotherapy or in simulated bath-salt solutions. Significant increases in the levels of serum Bromine, Rubidium, calcium and zinc were noticed only in the psoriatic patients after daily bathing in the Dead-Sea for a four-week regimen. Traces of each radionuclide were detected in the blood and in some internal organs after 60 min of bathing. The radionuclides showed a physiological pattern in their organ distribution.

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    Even though the whole investigation was carried out in hypertonic solutions, there is a definite penetration of salts through healthy human and guinea-pig and damaged psoriatic epidermis [ 17 ]. However, Dead Sea water balneotherapy does not lead to the worsening of blood pressure. Substantial ingestion of Dead Sea water generally in unusual near-drowning cases is toxic and can result in cardiac rhythm disturbances because of electrolyte concentration abnormalities. A laboratory analysis of Dead Sea mud did not reveal mineral concentrations that could represent a health concern for their intended use [ 18 ].

    Eight normal subjects were immersed in Bath spa water for two hours and the renal, haematological, and cardiovascular responses were compared with those in the control periods before and after immersion. The mean SEM total excess volume of water excreted as a result of immersion over the 2-h period was 85 ml. A mean loss of weight of 0—14 kg occurred. This corresponds with the losses of water from diuresis and also some loss from sweating.


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    • Extensive studies of the Israel army with a magnesium-containing skin protectant lotion IB1 showed that magnesium is not absorbed through the skin, as tested in preclinical animal studies in pigs in contrast to the lipophilic nature of sulfur mustard and VX, potent chemical warfare agents that penetrate rapidly through the skin, causing severe prolonged injuries and sometimes death [ 19 ]. The topical skin protectant lotion IB1 containing magnesium was tested in a human study. Preclinical studies in several animal models have proven the protective efficacy of IB1. In a randomized, placebo-controlled phase I clinical study it was examined whether a magnesium-rich lotion, after repeated topical application, leads to changes in serum magnesium concentrations in 34 healthy volunteers.

      The 34 subjects administered 10 mL of magnesium-rich lotion or placebo lotion three times daily over a period of three days. The study tested the safety of repeated applications, including ruling out the transdermal permeation of magnesium, which may lead to a dangerous blood magnesium level, since the lotion contains magnesium sulphate.

      Other objectives included the detection of dermatological adverse effects, the assessment of application convenience, and the effect on daily activities.