I read in your column about putting soap under the sheet to stop leg cramps. My husband tried it, and it worked. Before, his legs had sometimes hurt so bad he would almost cry. Once he tried the soap, his legs hurt only after he got out of bed. Now he keeps a motel-size bar of soap with him at all times and has no more leg pain during the day either. Our friends think we have lost our marbles, but who cares? No leg pain!
Many doctors think we have lost our marbles for recommending this strange remedy. Nevertheless, we have heard from many readers that it helps, and we can’t see how it would hurt.
I read your column about using soap in the bed for leg cramps. It really works. My husband had leg cramps for years, since he is a fisherman and on his feet 18 hours a day. They brought tears to his eyes, although he is very stoic. He’s had no more leg cramps since we started putting soap under the bottom sheet. We were playing cards the other night, and he got cramps in his hands, holding the cards, as he sometimes does. I got a bar of soap and put it in his hand. Within a minute the pain subsided. He held the bar for about ten minutes, and the cramp never came back. Now we keep a bar of soap near where we play cards.
Though many people have told us of their success using soap under the bottom sheet to ward off nighttime leg cramps, this is the first we have heard of using soap to keep away hand cramps.
While I was recovering from surgery, I had to wear a cast on my leg, and I got leg cramps. A friend recommended tonic water. BINGO! It worked like a charm.
Thanks for sharing your success with tonic water. Many brands of tonic water contain quinine, and other readers have also reported finding it helpful against leg cramps. Quinine has been used medicinally to ward off malaria since the 17th century. A glass of tonic has roughly 20 milligrams of quinine, which is a relatively small dose. Nevertheless, some people are so susceptible to serious side effects from quinine that they must avoid even this small amount. For them, quinine may cause life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances, severe skin reactions, and several blood-related complications. That is why the FDA banned quinine for treating leg cramps.
We tried a treatment from your column for nighttime leg cramps. My husband used to get them frequently and would have to walk them off while in pain. He read that taking mustard would alleviate them, so he tried it. Now when he gets leg cramps at night, he takes his mustard and they go away quickly. He keeps a few individual packets of mustard in the bedroom. He thought it was just an old wives’ tale, but now he’s a believer.
We are delighted to learn that yellow mustard has helped relieve your husband’s leg cramps. A retired pharmacist told us about this remedy nearly six years ago: “A friend of ours uses plain mustard for leg cramps. She swallows a teaspoonful of mustard to relieve the pain. This home remedy works so well for her that she carries packets of mustard wherever she goes.” Since then we have heard from many folks who use yellow mustard to relieve leg cramps. Although there is no scientific proof, we suspect that turmeric, which gives mustard its yellow color, may have a beneficial effect.
I suffer from leg cramps. Recently, while attending a basketball game, I had to leave my seat and try to walk off a severe inner thigh cramp. A security guard, seeing that I was grimacing in pain, approached me to see if I needed first aid. When I said it was only leg cramps, he took me to the concession stand and suggested I try yellow mustard. I asked if I was supposed to eat it or apply it. He said it was an old-time remedy his grandmother used. I ate the mustard. By the time I walked to the end of the concession stand, my leg cramp was gone! I have since used this remedy repeatedly, especially in the middle of the night when my cramps seem to occur most often. It works. I don’t know why, but I sure am glad it does.
You are not the first to share the secret of yellow mustard. Some readers keep little packets of this condiment on their nightstand to ease leg cramps, although others have complained that mustard can give them indigestion.
THE PEOPLE’S PHARMACY
Favorite Food #21: Mustard
Mustard dates to the Romans, who apparently combined unfermented grape juice (must, or “new wine,” in Latin) with ground mustard seed. At first people prized mustard more for its medicinal properties than for its tingle to the taste buds. Hippocrates used mustard in poultices and various medicines. By the 1500s, Europeans frequently used mustard plasters to ease chest congestion. Up until the early 20th century, physicians in the United States routinely recommended mustard plasters on the chest for treating lung congestion and a cough.
We enjoy all sorts of mustards, from old-fashioned French’s yellow hot dog mustard to German mustard with the seeds, dark deli-style brown mustard, and Dijon mustard. Mustard’s basic ingredients include mustard powder, vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and various spices. In the United States, mustard is usually made with white mustard seeds. To make mustard the yellow color we expect at the ball park, the herb turmeric is added.
We weren’t particularly aware of any health benefits linked to this spice until our readers started sharing some amazing stories with us. One long-distance bicyclist related his story of using mustard to relieve leg cramps.
On a ride of over 100 miles, his legs started to cramp around mile 75. He had heard that plain yellow mustard could help calm leg cramps, and he had brought a couple mustard packets (the kind you get at a fast-food joint) with him. He “sucked them down,” and, to his amazement, the cramps disappeared almost immediately. He was able to finish the ride without more problems.
Having heard from so many people about the unique benefits of mustard, we did some research. We learned that mustard seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids (the good fat in fish oil), as well as magnesium, iron, calcium, selenium, and several other important minerals. One study revealed that mustard oil was more effective than fish oil in preventing colon cancer.1
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic