Magnesium is a mineral, one of six alkaline earth metals - along with beryllium, calcium, strontium, barium and radium - that make up the second column of the periodic table. In nature, it can only be found as a salt, that is, in combination with other minerals such as magnesium carbonate, magnesium sulphate, magnesium citrate, to name but a few. Elemental or free magnesium that is not combined with another element is a highly flammable, lightweight, shiny gray solid that can only be produced artificially.
It is the ninth most abundant element in the universe, the fourth most in the earth and the eleventh most in the human body.1 As a commonly used structural metal, Magnesium is used in extremely strong light weight materials and alloys. Its presence is also critical for the cellular chemistry of every living organism. Hundreds of enzymes, including those that synthesize ATP - the energy molecules of the body - require it to function.
For many physiological functions such as the pumping of the heart, appropriate relaxation of blood vessels, proper bone formation, regulation of blood sugar and bowel function sufficient amounts of magnesium are critical. Yet, it is estimated that some 80% of Americans are deficient in it.2 This is due to a combination of factors including poor diet, impaired digestion or renal functions as well as the use of certain medications.
The most direct way to get adequate amounts of magnesium is through the food we consume. Spinach and chard, almonds, black beans, cocoa powder or dark chocolate, yogurt, avocados and pumpkin seeds are amongst the foods that provide high amounts. That said, perhaps the quickest and most effective way to supply the body with the magnesium it needs via supplementation with various magnesium taken orally or topically.
Magnesium is paired with calcium in many supplements as the two minerals have an interdependent, yin-yang type of relationship. While calcium provides strength, stimulates contraction and promotes neurological excitation, magnesium relaxes, loosens and calms. Calcium facilitates the clotting of blood and magnesium enhances blood flow. It is a wonderful agent to help with sleep, relieve constipation and to bring down high blood pressure, amongst other things. Of course, there needs to be an appropriate balance between the two and that is why many supplements have a combination of both.
Less well known amongst the general public is the use of magnesium as a homeopathic medicine. There are some twenty different magnesium salts that have been potentized homeopathically - and of these, only four are commonly used.
The following is a short case that illustrates the curative power of one of these, Magnesium carbonicum, or homeopathically prepared magnesium carbonate:
John was a retired schoolteacher who I saw at the Mafi Kumase clinic this past February while volunteering with the Ghana Homeopathy Project. Diabetic for five years, he had decided to stop his medication six months earlier. He was also on blood pressure medications for seven years, but stopped them two years ago.
His complaints were typical for a diabetic: frequent urination, especially at night, increased thirst and general weakness. At that appointment, his blood pressure was only slightly elevated at 137/88, but his A1C (a test for diabetes) was very extremely high at 20.4.
The selection of an effective homeopathic medication is almost always based on what are called characteristic signs and symptoms, that is, something that expresses the individual nature of the person and/or his(her) disease. While the symptoms of John's diabetes were quite common and revealed nothing that was characteristic at all, his constitutional state was more distinctive.
Soft spoken and reserved by nature, John was not particularly sociable. But he spoke excellent English, so I was able communicate with him in greater depth than most of the patients I saw during my stay. He said that he preferred to stay alone and attend to his farm, which was occupied him mostly since retirement. Socializing with a group of people, especially if it was mostly strangers, was particularly uncomfortable.
When I tried to draw out his feelings a bit more about his feeling in a group, John's reply was a bit unusual: "I avoid them because I may be offended. People might 'cast an innuendo', and I want to guard against that." Trying to understand that a bit better, I asked him what might happen if someone 'cast an innuendo' - to which he replied that it might lead to an argument and that was something he avoids at all cost. He even feels uncomfortable witnessing others having an argument.
I asked John to tell me a bit of his family background. It turned out that he was raised by his much older brother because his parents died when he 5 years old. Though his brother took him in, he never felt part of his family.
Amongst the many symptoms related to homeopathic magnesium, a great sensitivity and aversion to disagreement and a deep sense of not belonging are two outstanding features or 'keynotes'. Coupled with the main issue of the diabetes, for which it is one of several hundred remedies that are indicated, it was a rather straightforward prescription of Magnesium carbonicum.
Within a week, John reported that he was feeling much more energy. His A1C had reduced a bit to 18.6 and his blood pressure had dropped to 132/83. Though I had left Ghana by the time of his next visit 3 weeks later, it was reported that by that time his A1C was only slightly above normal at 8.1 and that he was feeling quite well.
While the full picture of the curative scope of Mag-carb is beyond the scope of this article, it may be of interest to relate the observations of the great 19th century American homeopath, James Tyler Kent who wrote of his experience treating infants at an orphanage. These babies, a high percentage of whom were 'clandestine' (illegitimate), often sank into a state of marasmus - a kind of malnutrition characterized by emaciation and depleted energy, and subsequently died. Kent struggled to find an effective treatment for them until he began to prescribe Magnesium carbonicum.
It was from his experience that it became known as the 'orphan's remedy'. Modern homeopaths have extrapolated that understanding to include children as well as adults who harbor a deep-seated feeling of not belonging, that is, of feeling like an orphan. Often these people will speak of their experiences with their family of origin as being the black sheep or having wondered whether they really a biological child. There is a tendency for Mag-carb patients to be reserved and well behaved because they fundamentally don't feel they have the right to assert themselves or speak up.
This tendency can develop to the extent that they don't even consciously recognize their own desires and dislikes. It can become a form of emotional self-suppression and one can understand the aversion to arguments as a way to avoid bringing up their own feelings.
There are, of course, many physical symptoms that are also associated with this remedy, including various forms of vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains and emaciation. It has the strongest affinity for the digestive tract - the stomach, bowels and liver. But often the distinctive mental/emotional profile will lead to its use in modern day practice.