Magnesium citrate is a commonly used laxative that is available over-the-counter. It works by drawing water into the intestines, which softens the stool and stimulates a bowel movement. Magnesium citrate is generally considered safe when used as directed, but some people wonder if it expires and when it should be discarded.
Does magnesium citrate have an expiration date?
Yes, magnesium citrate does have an expiration date printed on the bottle or package. The expiration date indicates the last day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the product when stored correctly.
Magnesium citrate expires because chemical compositions can degrade over time with exposure to heat, humidity, or oxygen. Over time, the magnesium citrate can lose potency, become less effective, or develop harmful byproducts.
How long does magnesium citrate last?
The shelf life depends on the form of magnesium citrate:
- Liquid magnesium citrate typically expires 1 to 2 years after the manufacturing date.
- Magnesium citrate powder or tablets may expire 2 to 3 years after manufacturing.
However, manufacturers determine the expiration dates by conducting stability testing under controlled conditions. Actual shelf life may vary depending on storage conditions. Improper storage, especially exposure to heat and humidity, can shorten the shelf life.
Does expired magnesium citrate go bad?
Yes, expired magnesium citrate can go bad, lose potency, and become less effective. The expiration date is an estimate of when noticeable degradation occurs. However, expires magnesium citrate does not necessarily become unsafe or dangerous on the expiration date.
Expired magnesium citrate may lose potency gradually. An expired product may still have most of its strength within months past the expiration date. But at some point, the drug degrades to the point of being inactive.
Using expired magnesium citrate also increases the risk of contamination and harmful byproducts. Chemical changes over time can produce impurities that cause side effects.
Is it safe to use magnesium citrate past the expiration date?
No, it is generally not recommended to use magnesium citrate past the printed expiration date. While an expired product may retain some effectiveness in the short-term, there are risks to using an expired laxative:
- Reduced effectiveness – Expired magnesium citrate may not provide the desired laxative effect or can take longer to work.
- Increased side effects – Degraded products can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal distress.
- Toxic byproducts – Chemical changes over time can produce potentially harmful impurities.
- Bacterial contamination – Improper storage could allow bacteria growth in liquids.
Additionally, taking an expired medication is illegal under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Using expired over-the-counter products also voids the manufacturer guarantees of safety and potency.
How can you tell if magnesium citrate is expired?
Check the expiration date printed on the magnesium citrate packaging. Do not use if this date has passed.
Also inspect magnesium citrate for signs of degradation:
- Liquid magnesium citrate – Discoloration, precipitation, cloudiness, or foul odor can indicate contamination or chemical breakdown. Throw it away if you notice any changes.
- Magnesium citrate powder – Clumping, discoloration, or wetness may mean improper storage. Discard if the powder exhibits and visual changes.
- Magnesium citrate tablets – Crumbling, disintegrating, or powdery tablets have degraded. Toss them.
How long does liquid magnesium citrate last after opening?
Once opened, liquid magnesium citrate typically lasts:
- 6 months past the expiration date if refrigerated
- 3-4 weeks past the expiration date if stored at room temperature
Label directions indicate refrigeration after opening, as cold temperatures help prevent bacterial growth and deterioration. Discard any bottles kept at room temperature for over a month after the printed expiration date.
How to store magnesium citrate properly?
Proper storage helps magnesium citrate last until its expiration date:
- Store at controlled room temperature around 68-77°F (20-25°C).
- Keep away from excess heat, humidity, and direct light.
- Keep magnesium citrate tablets or powder in tight, original containers.
- Refrigerate opened bottles of liquid and discard within 6 months.
Avoid storing magnesium citrate in warm, humid places like the bathroom or kitchen. Do not transfer to other containers that may introduce contamination.
Can you freeze magnesium citrate?
Freezing is not recommended for storing magnesium citrate. The freezing process can damage the chemical stability of the active ingredients. Magnesium citrate should always be stored according to the label directions.
Can expired magnesium citrate make you sick?
Consuming degraded magnesium citrate increases the risk of side effects or toxicity. But the most common reaction is that the expired magnesium simply does not work or provides a diminished laxative effect.
Rarely, contaminated or degraded magnesium citrate could cause:
- Nausea, vomiting, cramping, bloating, diarrhea
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Kidney problems
See a doctor if you experience severe side effects after taking expired magnesium citrate or if the desired laxative effect does not occur.
How to dispose of magnesium citrate?
Dispose of magnesium citrate properly when it expires or is no longer needed:
- Do not flush down the toilet, as magnesium citrate may damage plumbing and septic systems.
- Mix with an undesirable, inedible substance like dirt, cat litter, or coffee grounds to discourage consumption.
- Throw the mixed magnesium citrate in the regular trash in a sealed container or bag.
- Take to a medication disposal or hazardous waste collection program if available.
- Dissolve in water and mix with salt to dissolve tablets, then discard in trash.
Be sure to scratch out any personal information on the label first to protect privacy.
Can you recover degraded magnesium citrate?
No, there is no way to recover or restore magnesium citrate that has expired and degraded. The chemical changes are irreversible, so expired magnesium citrate should always be properly disposed of and replaced with a fresh, unused product.
How to tell if magnesium citrate went bad?
Here are signs that magnesium citrate has expired and may have gone bad:
- Passed expiration date
- Discoloration or precipitates in liquid form
- Tablets are crumbling, powdery, or disintegrating
- Powder is clumping or exhibits color change
- Foul odor from opened bottle
- Bottle or package is damaged
Magnesium citrate that shows any signs of degradation, even if unopened, should be discarded. Do not consume expired or damaged magnesium citrate.
What are the risks of taking expired magnesium citrate?
Potential risks of using expired magnesium citrate include:
- Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, cramping, bloating
- Diarrhea or no bowel movement
- Dehydration or electrolyte imbalance from severe diarrhea
- Allergic reaction due to contaminants or byproducts
- Ineffective laxative effect
Severe diarrhea from expired magnesium citrate may lead to dehydration or electrolyte problems, especially in older adults, children, and those with kidney issues. Seek medical care if diarrhea persists more than 2 days.
Can pharmacies sell or use expired magnesium citrate?
No, it is illegal for pharmacies to dispense expired over-the-counter products like magnesium citrate. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, it is prohibited from any sale or distribution of an expired drug.
Pharmacies and retailers are required to remove expired magnesium citrate from shelves. Most have inventory systems to flag expiring stock for return and credit from manufacturers.
If you receive expired magnesium citrate, report it to the pharmacy. Never purchase or accept expired over-the-counter medication from a pharmacy.
Can hospitals or clinics use expired magnesium citrate?
No, hospitals and health clinics should never administer or use expired magnesium citrate. Any practice found using expired medication risks citations for violating federal and state laws.
Healthcare accreditation organizations like The Joint Commission require regular expiration date audits to ensure no expired products remain in inventory or dispensing systems.
Report any suspected use of expired medications to hospital administration immediately. Expired magnesium citrate puts patients at risk and represents a serious violation of medication safety standards.
Magnesium citrate does expire and can degrade in quality and effectiveness over time. Use caution with any magnesium citrate past its printed expiration date, even if sealed. Discard opened bottles within 4 weeks to avoid contamination and potency issues.
Store magnesium citrate properly to help maximize shelf life, and inspect regularly for any signs of discoloration, odor, or damage. Never use magnesium citrate that shows degradation or passed expiration. Seek medical help if you experience any severe side effects after taking this laxative medication.