What’s MgSO4?

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Magnesium sulfate has medical uses and is a fertilizer. It is important for enzymatic reactions, nerve signals, muscle excitability, and DNA/RNA synthesis. It comes in anhydrous and hydrated forms, with Epsom salts being a common bath additive. The heptahydrate form is stable and used for medical purposes, including treating eclampsia, seizures, and hypomagnesia. It is also used as a laxative and plant fertilizer, and to treat water in marine aquariums.

Magnesium sulfate is a sulfur salt of magnesium that has many medical uses and is often used as a fertilizer. It occurs both in anhydrous form – which means “lack of water” – and in different forms in which it is combined with water molecules. One such form is the commonly used bath additive known as Epsom salts.
Magnesium is an important cofactor for over 300 enzymatic reactions in humans. It is particularly important for the transmission of signals in the nerves and the excitability of the muscles. It is also required for the biochemical reactions leading to the synthesis of DNA and RNA.

The formula of magnesium sulfate is MgSO4, so it also contains oxygen in addition to magnesium and sulfur. The anhydrous form has a molecular weight of 120.4 grams per molecule (g/mol). It absorbs water a lot, easily getting it from the air. This tendency makes it a useful drying agent and is used in organic chemistry to remove water from organic solutions.

The most commonly used forms are hydrated magnesium sulfate, which are molecules that combine with water. For example, the formula for Epsom salts is MgSO4.7H20. This is known as a heptahydrate, because it has seven water molecules associated with it. This form of magnesium sulfate is very stable and is often used for medical purposes. It has a pH of 5.5-6.5, a molecular weight of 246.5 and is soluble in water.

One of the most popular uses of the heptahydrate form is intravenously (IV) to treat severe eclampsia in pregnant women. There is debate over the value of using this to treat pre-eclampsia. Recent studies have found that giving this treatment to women at high risk of delivering prematurely significantly reduces the chances of the babies suffering from cerebral palsy.

Intravenously administered magnesium sulfate heptahydrate is also used to treat seizures caused by epilepsy and other forms of seizures. In children, its use should be limited to life-threatening seizures. There can be complications with kidney function when using magnesium sulfate, so doctors should monitor kidney function.

Hypomagnesia is a condition in which the blood has atypical levels of magnesium. This only refers to blood levels. One can have this condition without having an overall magnesium deficiency in the body. Treatment with the IV heptahydrate form is also used for this condition.

Water-based solutions of magnesium sulfate are used as a laxative and Epsom salts are highly favored as bath salts. They are used to rejuvenate sore muscles, treat back pain, and to recover from the pain of childbirth. Bathing in them can also help relieve pain from herpes viruses, such as shingles and genital herpes.

Magnesium sulfate is also often used as a plant fertilizer. Plants use chlorophyll to carry out photosynthesis and chlorophyll has magnesium at its core. The heptahydrate form is more soluble than other types of magnesium, making it a more desirable fertilizer.

Another use of this compound is to treat water in marine aquariums that have many hard corals. This is beneficial because as corals calcify, they deplete the magnesium levels in the water. The heptahydrate form maintains needed magnesium levels.

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