Owing to their mechanical properties, metallic materials present a promising solution in the field of resorbable implants. The magnesium metabolism in humans differs depending on its introduction. The natural, oral administration of magnesium via, for example, food, essentially leads to an intracellular enrichment of Mg2+. In contrast, introducing magnesium-rich substances or implants into the tissue results in a different decomposition behavior. Here, exposing magnesium to artificial body electrolytes resulted in the formation of the following products: magnesium hydroxide, magnesium oxide, and magnesium chloride, as well as calcium and magnesium apatites. Moreover, it can be assumed that Mg2+, OH− ions, and gaseous hydrogen are also present and result from the reaction for magnesium in an aqueous environment. With the aid of physiological metabolic processes, the organism succeeds in either excreting the above mentioned products or integrating them into the natural metabolic process. Only a burst release of these products is to be considered a problem. A multitude of general tissue effects and responses from the Mg's degradation products is considered within this review, which is not targeting specific implant classes. Furthermore, common alloying elements of magnesium and their hazardous potential in vivo are taken into account. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 102A: 3744–3753, 2014.