Having a muscle suddenly and violently contract, and refuse to relax, is a painful experience. It is bad enough when it happens during the day (often after exercise). But when a muscle cramps up at night, it can wake you from a sound sleep. Doctors once prescribed quinine, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration no longer permits quinine prescriptions for any condition other than malaria because of the dangerous effects of this drug. Those who know they do fine with tonic water may be able to get quinine that way. Others may benefit from some of these home remedies.
Years ago, I heard that a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses would alleviate leg cramps. I used to rely on it but haven’t found it recently.
Ask your grocer or check a health food store. Blackstrap molasses is rich in potassium and iron and has some calcium and magnesium.
For about 20 years, I had chronic pain from a muscle knotted up in my back, like a constant cramp. I tried unsuccessfully to address it with chiropractic adjustments. A massage therapist recommended applying castor oil, covering the area with felt, and then putting a heating pad on the sore spot. It has taken three treatments, but the results are dramatic.
Castor oil applied topically has been reported to ease bruising. We’re impressed that it relieved your muscle pain.
I cramp easily even when I have not done anything strenuous, but more so after playing tennis. Drinking Gatorade before and after tennis helps some. What am I lacking?
If Gatorade helps somewhat, you may be low in some electrolytes. We have heard from another tennis player that drinking Pedialyte after a match can help prevent cramps. This liquid formulation is designed to help replenish lost fluids and minerals for babies who become dehydrated from diarrhea or vomiting.
AVOIDING EARL GREY TEA
You briefly mentioned Earl Grey tea causing leg cramps and suggested that the oil of bergamot used for flavoring might interfere with potassium absorption. Eliminating the tea was an instant cure for me.
Earl Grey tea gets its distinctive flavor from the citrus fruit bergamot. The oil contains a natural compound called bergapten, which can interfere with the flow of potassium into and out of cells. According to one study, this is presumed to be the reason that too much Earl Grey tea can cause muscle cramps in susceptible people.1 We’re glad you were able to conquer your muscle cramps by giving up the tea.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic