What is the Difference Between Magnesium and Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium and magnesium citrate are two compounds that have different properties and benefits. Magnesium is an essential mineral that is crucial for various bodily functions, such as muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and bone health. However, magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that combines the mineral with citrate ions. It is a common supplement choice due to its high bioavailability.

What is the difference between magnesium and magnesium citrate? Magnesium is an element whereas magnesium citrate is a compound.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Magnesium  
      – Definition, Features
2. What is Magnesium Citrate
      – Definition, Features
3. Relationship Between Magnesium and Magnesium Citrate
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Magnesium and Magnesium Citrate
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Magnesium and Magnesium Citrate
      – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Magnesium, Magnesium Citrate, Supplement

Difference Between Magnesium and Magnesium Citrate - Comparison Summary

What is Magnesium

Magnesium is a shiny grey metal with the atomic number 12. It has a low density, low melting point, and high chemical reactivity. It is an alkali earth metal and is present in the second group of the periodic table. Magnesium usually occurs in combination with other elements. Its most common oxidation state is +2. This metal burns with a brilliant white light. The most common reaction seen in magnesium is its reaction with air, which results in a thin magnesium oxide layer on the surface of the metal. Magnesium is extracted from magnesium salts in seawater by the process of electrolysis.

Magnesium is also considered an important mineral in the body. Over 300 enzyme reactions in the body involve magnesium. Magnesium mainly helps in muscle function, nerve function, supporting the immune system, and regulating blood pressure. It’s also vital for strong bones, as it assists in calcium absorption. It aids in energy production and protein synthesis too.

Sources of Magnesium

Magnesium can be obtained from our diet, with leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. If we do not consume enough magnesium, deficiencies may occur. Symptoms can include fatigue, muscle cramps, and even high blood pressure.

What is Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is a salt that forms from the combination of positively charged magnesium ions and negatively charged citrate ions. The most common form has a 1:1 ratio of magnesium to citrate, but variations exist with different ratios.

Magnesium Citrate

When the compound is dissolved in water, it separates into its constituent ions. The citrate ion, with its negative charges, repels water molecules, creating a concentration gradient that draws water from the surrounding tissue into the intestine. This influx of water softens stool and stimulates bowel movements, hence its laxative effect.

Relationship Between Magnesium and Magnesium Citrate

  • Magnesium citrate is a compound that provides magnesium, an essential mineral important for various bodily functions.
  • Magnesium citrate is a well-absorbed form of magnesium, making it a popular supplement choice for increasing magnesium intake.
  • Furthermore, magnesium citrate is formed by combining positively charged magnesium ions with negatively charged citrate ions.

Difference Between Magnesium and Magnesium Citrate


  • Magnesium itself is a pure element (Mg) on the periodic table. Magnesium citrate, however, is a compound formed when magnesium (Mg²⁺) combines with citrate (C₆H₅O₇³⁻), an ion derived from citric acid.


  • Magnesium citrate is generally more bioavailable than pure magnesium.


  • Magnesium supplements aim to address magnesium deficiencies and support overall health. Magnesium citrate, on the other hand, is primarily used as a laxative due to its water-attracting properties that stimulate bowel movements.


  • Pure magnesium has a metallic taste and is not typically encountered in its elemental form as a supplement. Magnesium citrate comes in various forms like tablets, powders, and liquids, and may have a slightly sour taste due to the citric acid component.


In conclusion, magnesium and magnesium citrate both provide essential magnesium to the body, supporting various functions such as muscle and nerve function, immune system support, and bone health. While magnesium is a pure element, magnesium citrate is a compound that offers higher bioavailability and works as a laxative due to its water-attracting properties.

FAQ: Magnesium and Magnesium Citrate

1. Which is better, magnesium citrate or magnesium?

Magnesium citrate is generally considered more bioavailable than pure magnesium. This means the body can absorb and use it more effectively. Therefore, magnesium citrate may be a better choice than pure magnesium for those looking to boost their magnesium levels.

2. Is it okay to take magnesium citrate daily?

No, it is not advised to take magnesium citrate supplements regularly. Frequent use of magnesium citrate, particularly as a laxative, can lead to dependency and disrupt the natural function of your digestive system.

3. What is magnesium citrate used for?

Magnesium citrate is in a class of medications called saline laxatives. It works by causing water to be retained with the stool, which helps to soften it. Therefore, it is used to treat occasional constipation on a short-term basis.

4. Is magnesium citrate good for sleep?

Magnesium citrate can potentially promote sleep because it supports relaxation and helps regulate neurotransmitters that are involved in sleep. In fact, the best magnesium for sleep is magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate at 200 milligrams.

5. Why take magnesium citrate at night?

Magnesium supplementation may promote better sleep by calming the nervous system, relaxing muscles, reducing anxiety, alleviating restless leg syndrome, and helping regulate your circadian rhythm. This is why people take  magnesium citrate at night.


1. “Magnesium – Supplement Guide.” WebMD.
2. “Magnesium Citrate – Uses, Side Effects, and More.” WebMD.

Image Courtesy:

1. “FoodSourcesOfMagnesium” By Peggy Greb – Released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID K11083-1 (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Magnesiumhydrogencitrat_V1” By Nossy123 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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