Subscriptions
  • Join our People's Pharmacy Page on Facebook
  • Follow JoeGraedon on Twitter
  • Follow Us
  • Free email newsletter

Print This Page

FDA Bans Quinine For Leg Cramps

  • Currently 3.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Not Helpful ..... Very Helpful
Was this information helpful? Average rating: 3.5/5 (312 votes)
What do you think? Click the stars to vote!
If you have more to say, post a comment below!

Quinine is one of the oldest drugs in the pharmacy. Even before the Spanish discovered the New World, native healers in Peru were using the bark of the cinchona tree to treat fever, malaria and indigestion. An Augustinian monk wrote about the uses of the “fever tree” back in 1633.

In Europe, this bark proved useful for treating the fever and chills of malaria. Chemists later determined that the active ingredient in this healing bark was quinine, and it was used around the world wherever mosquitoes carried the disease. The British even incorporated it into their “tonic water.”

No one in the United States has worried about malaria for decades. But quinine was popular as a treatment for nighttime leg cramps. For years, people bought this drug in over-the-counter products such as Legatrin, Q-vel and Quinamm to relieve muscle cramps.

In 1994 the FDA banned quinine from over-the-counter sale. The agency decided that quinine was too dangerous for people to take without medical supervision.

Quinine can cause serious side effects, including life-threatening anemia and irregular heartbeats. Other hazards include severe headache, visual disturbances, rash, itching, ringing in the ears, nausea, diarrhea and liver damage. If a pregnant woman took quinine, her baby could be born with a defect.

The FDA maintains that leg cramps are not a serious health problem, while quinine can be lethal. Over the years, more than 90 people have died of quinine complications. Despite this, nearly two million Americans took quinine to relieve their leg cramps.

Doctors continued to prescribe quinine sulfate for restless legs as well as leg cramps. Now, however, the FDA is cracking down. Only one brand of quinine will be allowed on the market. Qualaquin is approved only for treating certain types of malaria, and it costs more than $4 per pill.

The more rigorous ban may pose problems for millions. One reader wrote, “It was refreshing that our doctor prescribed quinine sulfate for my husband’s restless leg syndrome. He takes one pill each night before bedtime and gets wonderful results.”

Even people who have used quinine successfully for years won’t have access to it now. The trouble is that there aren’t very many other medications that can relieve leg cramps.

We discuss a number of home remedies and other approaches to this common problem in our Guide to Leg Pain. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (63 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. RLS-5, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from the Website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

One reader had good results from an inexpensive remedy: “After suffering with leg cramps for over 30 years, I heard about putting a bar of soap under the bottom sheet of the bed. Nothing kept me from having to get up and massage my feet and legs until I tried the soap. What a relief to be able to finally get a good night’s sleep!”

Other approaches to leg cramps include drinking low-sodium V-8 juice, consuming extra calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. Some even report that a little yellow mustard can relieve nighttime leg cramps.

  • Currently 3.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Not Helpful ..... Very Helpful
Was this information helpful? Average rating: 3.5/5 (312 votes)
What do you think? Click the stars to vote!
If you have more to say, post a comment below!

85 Comments

| Leave a comment

I found taking 1 over the counter potassium pill before bed, prevents me from waking up with leg cramps caused by taking a water pill in addition to my Quinapril b.p. med. Also, when younger, avoiding salt & taking potassium stopped me from being so grouchy & weepy with p.m.s.

I have had feet and leg cramps for 30 to 32 years. Even though I am taking Quinine on a daily basis, I am still having leg and feet cramps. The Quinine does help to a point because the cramps don't keep me up all night they way they would if I didn't have Quinine. Muscle relaxers do not work for me. Anyone have any thing that might help, please!

What a shock I got when I went to pick up my refill for quinine sulfate (30 for $20 at Costco) and instead was handed a bottle of pills that cost $124. I remember when a pharmacist told me about generic quinine tablets for leg cramps when one could get it OTC, $10 for 100 tablets, far less than a bottle of Legatrin.

I think the drug companies again want to cash in on a sure thing--millions of people who take quinine sulfate for leg cramps now paying $124+ for a months' supply instead of $20. I didn't accept Rx so I'm going to put a bar of soap under the bed covers! By the way, are they going to take tonic water off the market?

Be careful taking over the counter Potassium!!!! It can build up in your body and eventually stop your heart. Consult your doctor about dosage before continuing. I nearly killed myself taking potassium on my own a few years ago.

When the FDA banned Quinine Sulfate for night leg cramps, my doctor prescibed the generic in the form of Qinarsol-300mg tabs by Cipla Ltd. through BetterLife Pharmacy.com, in India. It's very effective in relieving night time leg cramps. I had been taking quinine sulfate for 7 years and Qinarsol for 2 months now with similar results.

Tonic water, sold in grocery stores, contains quinine. I mix half a glass of tonic water with cola, or any juice you like, and drink it before bedtime. I have not had a leg cramp since about 3 nights after I started this. I find it very effective and inexpensive.

Something that helps me is to get in a cold running car and just go for a ride as passenger if possible. I don't know what it is about sitting up in a cold running car that helps, but it does give a considerable amount of releif.

My mother's doctor was still prescribing Qualaquin for her leg cramps until I read that it was only approved by the FDA to treat malaria. My mother has suffered severe side effects, including thrombocytopenia, anemia, kidney failure, confusion, irregular heart beat and vertigo. She was needing blood transfusions every two weeks. None of her doctors seemed to know what was causing her bone marrow not to produce enough platelets. It's very disturbing that doctors are not more responsible when prescibing medication, especially to the elderly.

Whenever I have problems with nighttime leg cramps, I start drinking tonic water daily for a few days until it clears up. Works every time.

I read your article in this column, for leg cramps, and realize my dilemma is still unsolved. I have had leg cramps for years, and always took the OTC med called Legatrin. Since it's no longer available, I'm at a loss as to what to try.

I will try more calcium, magnesium, and of course potassium, but I really miss quinine. My leg cramps wake me up 2 or 3 times every night, with, usually, but not always, lower leg muscle spasms that make me jump up and walk around the house until they subside.

Sometimes they're very severe, and I feel like I'm having a heart attack, like they're going all the way up to my groin. Please help!

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY ANSWER:
You may want to read some of the home remedies listed on our Web site. Just put leg cramps into the search engine. You will be amazed to learn about soap under the bottom sheet, yellow mustard and pickle juice! www.peoplespharmacy.com

I have suffered with leg, knee, and foot cramps for years. Its usually after I have been doing heavy aerobic workouts. But sometimes it occurred for no reason I could discover.

Then I discovered a direct link between consuming orange juice and leg cramps. My most severe cramps occurred suddenly and felt like a knife was stuck in my upper legs, after I drank orange juice in the evening. And if I drank orange juice on stops while driving, I would experiece cramps in the muscles behind my right knee (the one that was applyng pressure to the gas pedal after about 45 minutes.

These cramps started out gradually but would keep getting worse until I had to stop and find my quinine. Quinine miraculously would relieve even my worst cramps within 2 or 3 minutes even though my doctor scoffed, saying it would take at least 20 minutes to reach the affected muscles.

It was quite a blow when I found out I could no longer get quinine at the pharmacy. But my overall suffering has lessened by learning not to drink even a little orange juice. - eoh

I found that eating a more protein rich diet, less sugar and carbs, and using an electric blanket along with one of those microwavable foot warming bags of rice has offered quite a bit of relief most nights. I start early in the evening with my foot-leg warmer and then take it to bed with me. Sometimes I have to reheat it during the night, but it always seems to help keep cramps under control and less painful.

I have experienced body cramps since I was in high school and I just turned 69. My cramps are not just leg cramps, but can come at any time, regardless of exercise (or lack thereof). Quinine helped, but then I couldn't get it from my prescription service.

Sometimes my leg cramps are so severe I don't know what to do, but walking barefoot on an extremely cold surface helps. My concern is how will I handle these cramps as I age?

Doctors are only people and a lot of their diagnoses are guess work. Now my wife is experiencing foot and leg cramps, as well. Massage is out of the question. Leg cramps can be so severe, they wake me and straightening my leg to start walking to work out the cramps is painful, and even starts cramps in my chest or other body parts. Any suggestions?

A friend recommended tonic water, which has quinine, for my restless legs. It works great. Would a glass of tonic water each night be dangerous? And does it interact with any medicine? I take Synthroid for my hypothyroidism and Glucophage for my diabetes.

Putting a pair of thick wool socks on my feet helps me relieve leg cramps almost immediately.

I suffered from painful nighttime leg cramps for years while doing gymnastics in my teens. I got relief using a quinine prescription until reading an article a family friend had clipped from the newspaper. The article suggested stretching exercises before bed. Would you believe doing a simple stretch on my calf muscles for less than a minute before bed worked just as effectively as the pills?

A word of warning, though. If I ever forgot to stretch before bed, even once, I would wake up with a painful cramp. 20 years later, I rarely have leg cramps and do the stretches only occasionally if my muscles feel tight. You just stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall for support and take one (straight) leg at a time back away from the wall. Place your heel down until you feel a good calf stretch. Then I usually bend the same knee forward to stretch my Achilles area.

For a few years now I've been taking 800 mg of gabapentin (Neurontin) at bedtime for what used to be nightly severe lag cramps. It was recommended to me by a pharmacist cousin. It's VERY effective. I now almost never have major cramps. Try Googling "gabapentin leg cramps" for more information.

Quinine was effective for my leg cramps--then the FDA under Bush banned it. The FDA reasons quoted on their web site are bogus and not a true scientific or medical study. They quote anecdotal evidence only!

The FDA does what the drug industry says and promotes their agenda (sale of expensive drugs). Would the FDA lie to me? Yes, they would. Or at least mislead me so the drug companies can sell more expensive drugs with their own serious side effects.

I used to buy my quinine in Mexico but it was getting hard to find. But it was capsules only at 325 mg and could not be split. I can find in Russia 200mg tablets that I can split to take only the minimum dosage that I need. I pay about $5 for 20 at just about any pharmacy in Moscow. I split them in half. Tonic water at about 82 mg/quart is effective, if not expensive. I drink a half quart a day on average to prevent leg cramps when I don't have an emergency supply of pills available.

I have spent a lot of time on the internet searching for true, valid studies linking quinine to medical problems such as heart attacks and cannot find any. For as many years that quinine has been used and as many people who have taken it then there should have been numerous valid medical studies done documenting the side effects and risks. None of these studies have been quoted by the FDA--strange, but you cannot quote what that which does not exist or is contrary to your agenda. It is estimated 300 million people currently take quinine--certainly a large enough sample for any medical study. Let's compare those with the same number who do not take quinine--then what are the risk numbers for side effects? Then reduce the numbers to reflect the lower and less frequent doses used by leg cramp suffers. Assume 1 million people take quinine infrequently--how many extra will suffer a heart attack compared to those who do not take quinine? Risk like that I can understand and can use to influence my decision to use quinine or not. I don't trust the FDA to make that decision for me due to their financial and political ties.

If I have a one in a million increased chance of a heart attack by taking quinine then I will accept that risk because leg cramps hurt like hell--ask my wife about my screams of agony in the middle of the night. Whatever the risk it is certainly less than that of smoking which I do not do.

I went to a dollar store to buy small packages of small soap bars to put one each in my socks before going to bed to stop my leg cramps as advised by a friend. IT WORKS!. Thanks.

As for leg cramps, my doctor put me on .5 ml Lorazepam nightly years ago. It is such a low dose, you don't get addicted and it works very good. My family doctor prescribed Mirapex for RLS and it works but I don't like to be locked into a prescription (I only had RLS occasionally before I took it and now I have RLS every night I don't take it.)

A friend told me she eats dill pickles for RLS and leg cramps and it works for her. My daughter told me that they have quinine in them. I don't like them so she suggested the tonic water. Now I don't know if I should drink the tonic water, but I really need a remedy for restless legs. Pickles aren't dangerous and they have quinine, so what's the difference?

Back around 1994-96, while living in Wichita Ks, I was given Quinine for severe leg cramps and restless legs. I was also being given Paxil, and around this time developed low blood sugar problems and started getting circulation problems in my legs with rashes and dis-coloration. Two years ago I found out that the walls of the blood vessels in my legs are lined with scar tissue from an unknown trauma.

In 2004, while preparing for a sinus surgery, it was discovered hat my platelet counts were down ( then 133,000 and later from 64,000 and up). I have been seeing a cancer doctor who did a bone marrow biopsy and feels I suffered some kind of contamination putting me in the early stages of Myleodysplastic Syndrome (sp?) or MDS and the very early stages o AML Acute Myleod Leukimia.

Could having taken quinine have caused this? 28May08 I had knee replacement, and since have been plagued with inflammation and swelling problems compounded by the circulatory problems I have. I am now in my 5th - 6th month of therapy to rehab my leg, but can't get past the swelling problems. Any advise you can provide will help steer me in the right directions. Thank you...

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: FRENCH RESEARCHERS HAVE FOUND EVIDENCE THAT QUININE CAN IMPROVE THE RESULTS OF CHEMOTHERAPY FOR CERTAIN MYELODYSPLASTIC SYNDROMES. IF IT WERE KNOWN TO CAUSE MDS, THEY PROBABLY WOULD NOT HAVE GIVEN IT TO PATIENTS WITH THIS CONDITION.

In 1994 I, along with other members of my family was diagnosed with Myotonia Congenita plus Cramp Syndrome, one of the diseases covered by the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I started on Quinine Sulfate around that time and found that I greatly helped with the cramping and the pain associated with the Myotonia. Since the FDA won't allow me to take it anymore I suffer greatly. It is a shame that the FDA does not recognize that the medication is a great help to many people.

Had severe night time calf cramps that would wake me out of a deep sleep in extremely bad pain. They abated after taking Quinine Sulfate tablets, and I haven't had any for awhile. Then I developed bad pain that went from my right hip to my foot from a herniated disk at the L4 and L5 lumbar area of the back. After cortizone injections to the spine the night time leg (calf) cramps are back, and just as painful.

well, I JUST purchased a bottle of hyland's leg cramp pills for $5.99.
It said "contains quinine" on the bottle, so I thought, whats that? and found this site........so I just took 2 of them, we'll see how they work, and as far as being banned.......well......I just gave you all a good clue where to get it, or opened up a can of worms for some lawyer.......but hey, if it gets rid of my sciatica pain, I'll go back and buy them all out!!! I did see a chiropractor today, and after no relief, I went looking for something! I also tried valarian root, turmeric, and vit B. something better work, on top of the ice packs, and aspercreme. oh yeah, and the stretches.

My father-in-law had horrific leg cramps and I did too. He would get in the tub/shower and with hand held sprayer, hit the leg cramp area with hot/cold/hot/cold water and the cramps STOP almost immediately. I've done this and it works. I now travel in motor home and don't always have hot water available on a moments notice.

My Dr. recommend the tonic water--worsk every time very quickly, less than 5 mins. and I get relief, and can get back to sleep. NO pains if I drink 4-5 OZ. before I go to bed. It also comes in a diet form for diabetics; Shasta, Canada Dry, Schwepps, Even Wal-mart has it. 50-60 cents a bottle.

I and many of my family memebers have lots of trouble with leg cramps. We've found that you can still get over the counter "LEG CRAMPS WITH QUININE" made by Hylands. I get them at any CVS drug store. Other family members get them at walmart or even online.

To all of you out there thinking that quinine is the greatest thing alive. I'm here to tell you of its dangers. I was taking quinine for leg cramping and now have problems with my platelets.

You are suppose to have 150,00 to 400,000 platelets per micro liter of blood. Because of the quinine my first hospital trip was when my platelets fell to 5,000 and I started bleeding out both my anal and vagina area. The second time it got worse. My platelets dropped to 4,000 and I bled out my anal, vagina, nose, teeth, got blood blisters in my mouth and down my throat.

If it goes down more you start to bleed out all your mucus membranes and the most dangerous your brain. Thank God someone cares to protect us from this drug.

Cal Mag works great for leg cramps. Cramps stop within about 10 minutes and don't come back. My husband swears by it.

Hi all! I was glad to find this site and to read all your comments! My mom has been trying to get me to try pickle juice, but I hate dill pickles. I may try it tomorrow if needed at work, then see if I have any side effects.

About potassium... remember that a banana contains natural potassium that is very healthful. I usually eat one small one a day.

One elderly lady I knew was told by a doctor she needed more potassium, and
to eat more bananas. I will look forward to more helpful comments. Thanks all for your advice and for reporting your experiences.

I have occasional RLS. I took Legatrin (OTC) for quite a while. A few years ago, when I couldn't find it, I asked the pharmacist about it. I was very surprised when he told me that now it needed a prescription.

This week I asked my physician for a new prescription for it. The last one was 3 years ago. I only take 1/4 of a 260 MG tablet and only when the RLS keeps me awake, to the bottle of 90 tablets lasted me 3 years.

For a while after I couldn't find Legatrin, I used tonic water. It worked well enough, but it would wake me up a bit later for a bathroom call. That's why I went the prescription quinine route.

The doctor's office sent the prescription to my local Walmart pharmacy. They called me soon after, saying they couldn't get it. It seemed to be a problem getting the strength of tablet the doctor prescribed, the same problem I'd had when I first got the prescription.

I called back to the doctor's office and asked what tablet sizes were currently available. The answer was that the quinine had been taken off the market. This page gave me the rest of the story.

I take one other prescription for an antidepressant which doesn't have a generic version available (in the US). I get it from a Canadian pharmacy instead. Many, many Canadian pharmacies have generic quinine sulfate in 200 and 300 mg. doses. I found it in versions made in Canada, in the UK, and in New Zealand, and all sold by the Canadian pharmacies. I get my prescription through the 'American Drug Club' which appears to be part of www.canadameds.com, based in Winnipeg. They have been very reliable and helpful for me.

I hope some of my experiences can help others with RLS.

Doug

I take 300mg quinine sulfate dly, but still get horrific leg cramps. From groin to ankle is the way it started. After a number of years advanced to ankle and feet then fingers and hands. When onset occurs I will take another 300mg cap. Then hylands sublinguil (under tongue) up to half a bottle. It takes a minimum of 40-60 minutes to let up. Recently have added another natural sublinguil and a 2nd hylands product.

A nutritionist told me to try calcium, magnesium, and potassium. I've been winging it, but does anyone know the maximum doses of these supplements?

I saw on Fox News, (the Dr. they have on there), to try tonic water, the same tonic used to make the drink "gin and tonic", the tonic water actually has quinine in it. He said to drink tonic water mixed with cranberry juice. Sure enough I went to buy the tonic water, it says right on the bottle, contains quinine, and it works. You would have to drink a lot to get a bad dose of it. Worth a try.

I've been using quinine tabs purchased thru mail order from a Canadian pharmacy by fax (with a Dr.'s prescription) taking 300 mg (1 tablet each night) before bed time. The quinine stopped my leg cramps and pain immediately but I have noticed that I am uptight and extremely tense since I started taking it. I feel like my heart is coming thru my chest and beating irregularly and now the muscles in my thighs are so tense it is difficult to move my legs in walking.

The pain is gone but all these other symptoms are just as bad but not quite as bad as the leg pains which wake me from a deep sleep and I have to jump out of bed to relieve the pain and rub my legs or walk thru the house half the night. Does anyone else suffer these side effects?
Thank you.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: PLEASE CHECK IN WITH THE PRESCRIBING DOCTOR REGARDING YOUR SYMPTOMS. QUININE MAY AFFECT HEART RHYTHM.

I have had trouble sleeping for years and also have RLS when going to sleep. When I heard that RLS may interfere with sleep, I tried 8 oz. Tonic Water [diet] an hour before bed [after hearing about it on The People's Pharmacy last week]. For three nights I have slept through the night and experienced no RLS.

Since there is a problem with quinine and even though Tonic Water must surely have a very low %, I plan to alternate with other suggestions read here.

I have suffered with leg cramps since my teenage years (now 51). Recently I mentioned it to my chiropractor & he told me to take magnesium. I had already added potassium to my regimen, but still got some cramps. Now the combination of magnesium & potassium works great! Magnesium is important for muscles. Since I take a multi-vitamin in the morning that has some, I take the additional pills in the evening.

I have taken quinine for ten years because my entire body cramps it is really pitiful, I get my quinine thru Canada. It cost 51.00 for three months supply, I had to sign a release from my doctor that I would not sue him, for giving me a prescription.

When quinine was taken off the market I didn't know what to do re RLS. A manager at a health food store told me that his wife used Butchers Broom herb so I tried it and have been using it ever since. When RLS starts I take 100 mg of the herb and usually condition is gone within an hour. Sometimes 2 capsules are needed but only occasionally. I've searched and can't find any info on using this herb but it works for me and maybe it can help others with this annoying condition.

I get occasional leg and foot cramps. I take Hyland Leg Cramps. The tablets that you dissolve in the mouth have 0.005 mg of Quinine. That is 4000 times less then 8oz of tonic water. I wonder why tonic water was not banned, to many gin and tonic drinkers I guess.

Hylands works fast and it is homeopathic. It says not to take more then 3 tablets every 4 hours if needed. I take 2 tablets when I get a cramp I cannot get rid of by walking. Also stretching the foot and calf muscles does work also. So taking Hylands has so little quinine in it I am not worried about it. Taking a prescription of 300mg or more I am not sure about that sounds extreme since so little of Hylands does work.

I do not like taking medication and avoid it as much as possible. Also I do not trust the FDA. So saying the FDA has approved it or not does not mean much to me.

Remember the HRT drugs women took for years then were warned to get off them because of the cancer and heart side effects. My sister-in-law took them for 15 years. Women taking Osteo drugs should get off them now as they cause fractures not prevent them go to www.saveourbones.com to read more about building bones naturally. And if you are on statins try a life style change. Eat better, lose weight and exercise.

My adult son did that he lost 45 pounds and he is off all the medications he was talked into taking. I only believe in medications for extreme cases when even extreme lifestyle changes do not work, but that is not the majority of us. Doctors push pills for a quick fix as opposed to getting to the cause and cure. Remember the Big Drug Companies want you on their medicine for the rest of your life that's how they make their Billions and many of them have money set aside for major law suits in the future. What does that tell you. So look for the natural cures and even if you take natural homeopathics take the lowest dose as possible to get the relief you need. Later VS

How much did you take? The amounts in Hylands evidently are not banned, and are minuscule.

When you get's a cramp in your leg turn your toes up toward your face and that will rid the pain. Also way back I guess it was restless legs, they hurt so I put my vibrating back thing, don't know what to call it but put it on low and it vibrated my legs and I could sleep. For some reason I don't get that restless leg problem but I do get leg cramps all the time and force my toes back and that worked. If not for that the pain would kill me.

90 people have died "over the years" from complications, and the FDA says quinine is too dangerous to sell over the counter... BUT anyone can buy as many bottles of aspirin or ibuprofen or tylenol as they can carry out of the drug store. Yet 10's of thousands of people die every year from complications of these O-T-C drugs!! What's wrong with this picture?

Luckily mine are only occasional. I take a multivitamin, but that doesn't seem to help much. Potassium is contraindicated in so many cases, you have to be very careful. Magnesium cannot be used by anyone with any previous kidney problems, some diuretics, and antibiotics. These can lead to dangerous retention/overdose of magnesium.

Dosage is important. The more the better isn't a good idea. In defense of doctors, even seemingly harmless vitamins can be a problem depending on what other drugs you're taking. Always consult with him or a pharmacist. If you are going to self medicate, do your homework!

Personally, in the middle of the night I'll feel a dull ache in my thigh muscle that means a cramp is coming on. Also can happen in my feet and shins, but the inner and top of the thighs are the killers. At that point, stretching is the worst thing to do. If I can get to my feet w/o extending those muscles, getting a quick glass of milk works best to obviate it. Then S L O W L Y walking around and straightening up a little at a time.

No scientific evidence, but try not to get too dehydrated at night. If on a diuretic, take it in the morning. Whenever I get dry mouth, I keep a sports drink handy to hydrate and replace electrolytes. ESPECIALLY when sweating a lot in the summer. Since doing that, I've had far fewer incidences. I think stretching a bit before bed sounds worth a shot.

Sorry, 'homeopathic' by definition means it doesn't do anything. As for the bars of soap under the sheet/socks....From Dr. Richard Van Dyke: I find it just as effective to "take the bars of soap, put them in a paper bag, run out on your front lawn, wave them over your head, and scream like a chicken!" You might want to try that.


Hi everyone. I can relate to what everyone is saying. I had the most horrific leg cramps with one torturous twist... My cramps would start in the calf, with severe pulling... sometimes it would take a minute for me to be able to pull my toes up toward me... then the most awful thing would happen... the shin muscle on the front of the leg would cramp!! there was NOTHING I could do to relieve myself from either cramp!

I finally realized that if I use something like the footboard or the wall to push my foot against then it prevents the front muscle from cramping... I also rub an IcyHot roller and deeply massage the muscle... but what has helped hands down THE most has been taking Natural Calm. It's a readily absorbed magnesium supplement that comes in a powdered form. I also have noticed two other things... my cramping roughly coincides with certain times in my monthly cycle and if I drink too many carbonated beverages I am almost guaranteed a leg cramp.

If I feel any kind of twitching during the day I automatically take a dose of Natural Calm and if I still do have a leg cramp it is mild compared to the pulsating, gripping torture that they used to be!

Oh, and it's nice to talk to people who obviously understand how awful these cramps are! It's kind of like a support group lol. :)

I have Muscular Dystrophy (Myotonia) and have been using quinine sulfate for 30 years which gave me the ability to walk. Without which I have a great deal of trouble walking and the muscle spasms are unbearable. So when the FDA decided it was too dangerous to take it, in effect was making my life a living hell.

Thank G-d I can still get it overseas. Much more expensive than I got it here. Which was -0- with my insurance. It is a very cheap drug to make.

When stretching in bed (I do this kind of automatically upon waking) brings on a foot cramp or calf muscle cramp. I walk to the fridge without delay, take a couple of swigs of tonic water, keep walking around, and the spasm is gone in a few minutes and doesn't come back. I have found that before bedtime, mixing 1/3 glass of tonic water with or without an optional mixer like ice tea or cranberry juice prevents cramps from occurring when one stretches in bed upon waking.

I am in UK and have recently been put on quinine sulphate and the tablet is 300mg. Surely that is much more than tonic water would be? I also have restless legs and the quinine does nothing for that so I am on naftidrofuryl oxalate for that. I think it was the statin that gives me the cramps so I am basically on three things to lower cholesterol. This cannot be right.

I am drinking a lot of orange juice and now I am have leg cramps. Is the juice causing this problem?

Keeping yourself hydrated may be half the battle with cramping of any kind. Tonic water works for me because I don't usually get the proper amount of daily water intake. The normal amount of fluids per day is eight-8oz glasses and can be a combination of anything you drink, except of course, alcoholic drinks. The best is good ole H2O.

I was a sprinter in high school and college and have always stayed in shape throughout my life. However, cramps, not in my legs but in my stomach, put an early end to hopes of participating in world-wide competition. As I aged and developed medical problems the cramps intensified. Not just in my legs but my stomach, rib cage and just about everywhere. After a CABGX4 and a battle with rhybdomyolosis (by the way caused by the statin drug Zocor which is still on the market), I was prescribed quinine for my cramps.

It worked and for 5-6 years I was almost cramp free without any of the negative symptoms supposedly caused by quinine. I know because I have a lipid and liver profile every 6 months and have a cardiovascular examination every 6-12 months.

Now that I am unable to buy quinine the severe cramping has returned. I have tried everything I have heard about - tonic water, calcium, potassium supplements, drinking plenty of liquids etc. (& I don't count the 1 to 2 alcoholic beverages I have each week!). Hylands sublingual tablets gives some temporary relief but do not help for the real serious cramps.

I was in Panama last year and bought a 100 count bottle of 260mg capsules for $25.00 and had relief for about 3-4 months. If someone has any other ideas, please let me know. I do not like to order through the mail from an unknown source but will if I have to. Of course I could move to Panama but I am still working and plan to continue for a few more years until I am in my mid 70s if I can get control of the cramps!!!!

PLEASE watch out for Neurontin. I took it for pain a few years ago, but I was also taking Morphine. The Neurontin dried my mouth out to the point I had to have four good teeth pulled. I am now having transplants put in ($2,000 per tooth).

I guess I would be the world's worst patient to take quinine because I have atrial fibrillation, I am surviving a very rare cancer called Ovarian tetroma carcinoid, I was a living related kidney donor to a family member and I have left leg and knee pain. I also am a registered nurse, a massage therapist and I played competitive in door and out door co-ed soccer until I was 58.

I started having some muscle cramps before my cancer surgery and I have come to believe they are in part due to the elevated seratonin level created ty the carcinoid which is a neuro-endocrine tumor. I also believe the atrial Fib might have been related to the neuro-endocrine tumor.

My tumor was a stage 2 of the 3 stages of carcinoid (neuro-endocrine) tumors and the best chance for a cure is surgical. I had a complete hysterectomy with ovaries and with uterus. I am five years since the surgery but that does not mean that I am out of danger because these cancers are very slow growing. I just met my first "other" patient with cardinoid and she was discovered to have metastasis after after 8 years from surgery.

I have recently started having muscle cramps and increased incidence of Atrial Fib. I am on Sotalol for my atrial fib and have tried the following: icy hot and BenGay with massage, capsacin, effervescent magnesium and potassium, increased fluids, massage, myofacial release techniques, acupuncture, changing shoes, stretching, constant motion at night, sleeping face down with my feet hanging out of the bed. Increase fluids, changing shoes, and acupuncture have helped a little. I also went to an orthopedic surgeon who injected my knee and was thinking of knee replacement. I actually thought about this seriously because I have to work. I decided to go to my oncologist to check on the status of my carcinoid and she suggested that I try Quinine water or tonic water.

I think she was not thinking about my atrial Fib and neither was I until I read this article; however, I am so happy because it is working. I will check with my cardiologist and may be get off of my sotalol if I must rather than stop taking a form of quinine. I will also check with my nephrologist and will stop taking it regularly if he tell me too.

I can lift my knee off the ground with out pain, I sleep better at night, and I almost feel I can play mild soccer again. To me, this is huge. Exercise was always important to me in dealing with stress.

In my case I could locate the muscle that was in spasm and was causing the pain and that muscle is getting much softer. In case taking quinine may come down to a quality verses quantity situation and I probably will never stop taking Quinine water or Tonic water completely, I am going to write to the carcinoid foundation patient group and see if any of them are experiencing muscle cramps and let them know of my results.

Thanks and I am looking forward to hearing from all of you.

I have three people in my family that get very bad leg cramps, and Quinine is the only thing that gives them relief. None of them have ever had any side effects. Why is it in this country every time there is a medication that is very cheap and works, they ban it or tell you not to take it. Thank God we can still get it from Mexico. . . . Oh! and why haven't they banned drinking "Gin/Vodka & Tonic" ??? isn't Tonic Quinine water ???

As I read the comments on leg cramps, it is apparent that to most it is a minor annoyance. I have had severe leg cramps since I was 8-9 years old. I use to take potassium pills until a blood test discovered dangerously high potassium levels. The doctor advised Quinine.

Quinine provide almost instant relief.... But as everyone knows, that option is no longer available. The number of people who died from Quinine is small. I suspect the real reason it was taken off the market is because drug dealers used it to cut cocaine. I bet more people died from aspirin during that time than from Quinine. I told my doctor that I had rather die from Quinine than from a leg cramp.

I am now using Hyland's "quinine" tablets. I don't think they are working because it is too small of an amount of quinine. Their leg cramp ointment seems to be more effective. I drink quinine water every night... again with doubtful results. Not enough quinine. I am currently have a kidney stone attack and taking Demerol. I don't know what is going on with the Demerol, but I immediately started cramps in my upper feet and toes... somewhere I never have cramp. I just got up off the sofa from a nap, and both thighs were hit hard by the cramp. The pain was so severe it was almost immobilizing.

The cramp is much more painful than the kidney stone. I also have a history of kidney stones, and except for one really bad stone that required surgery, the leg cramps have always been more painful.

I'm embarrassed to tell anyone I tried the bar of soap. Of course it didn't do a thing. If you think a bar of soap will prevent leg cramps, then you should be able to prevent cramps by just thinking them away. If a bar of soap prevents cramps, then you don't have a problem to start with.

My wife has restless legs at night. She finds the Hyland's ointment prevents that.

Interesting, helpful info and comments. Like others, I looked here looking for something to replace prescription quinine after getting sticker shock at my last planned purchase of same. Another suggestion that worked for me before I discovered quinine was eating a banana before bedtime, which seemed to help.

Cramps were usually worse after strenuous leg use. Once, after a mountain climb I was in no way prepared for, I expected terrible cramps. Fortunately, I obtained, and ate, 3 bananas before bedtime. No cramps that night.

Quine water looks like a good alternative. Since that is not always practical, I think I will also try to get quinine pills from a mail order pharmacy in Canada a friend told me about.

Thanks! Why are so many people suffering from nightly leg cramps and nobody has done a good study of cause and treatment. I have taken and am taking quinine 300mg nightly for the last twenty years and have been checked for any possible side effects and none have been found to date (I am now 84). People who say that this is a "minor" illness or discomfort are totally crazy and I only wish they had a good dose of it - that includes the FDA employees. I can get quinine because I am no longer in the USA. But when I was there last, I was told I could get Qualaquin...... at a price of over US$ 500 for something like 70 pills. Thanks Pharma and FDA!

People's Pharmacy response: Whoever said, just get Qualaquin was misinformed. Doctors are not supposed to prescribe it for anything but malaria.

I am totally shocked, I was told about quinine tonic water a few years ago by an older lady who said it was good for leg cramps, I never questioned, til I just wondered and looked what it was, and I believe what surprised me most, is it is available, cause I buy the water.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of quinine sulfate as a remedy for restless legs and leg cramps."

exactly what does banned mean, it still on shelfs, or is there an update to this article?

People's Pharmacy response: Quinine pills are not available either OTC (as they once were) or by prescription. There is a prescription quinine product on the US market, but its use is supposed to be restricted to treating malaria.

Obviously, tonic water is available in most supermarkets. If you read the label, you can find which ones contain quinine. That is helpful both for those who want to use quinine for leg cramps and for those who need to avoid quinine completely because they are so sensitive to it.

It's not the drug companies...it's the FDA. They only ALLOW one drug company to manufacture and sell the drug in the US and ONLY for Malaria...

I have just spent the night with nasty leg jerks. They aren't exactly cramps, although I have suffered for many years with my toes trying to stretch apart, or cross over each other. The cramps began moving up my shins, which is incredibly painful.

5 years ago I was diagnosed with periodic limb movement disorder and put on Requip XR, used for RLS and Parkinsons. Many of my doctors would rather see me off of it, but after the night I just spent, I would much rather be taking it. I ran out and am waiting for the refill; I was hoping I could wean myself off Requip, but apparently not now. I wonder if the drug is causing the muscles jerks now, more than masking them. I'm not saying that anyone should try it, either, but when quinine became 'go get some tonic water', I was happy to have this med to fall back on.

Quinine worked great for my foot cramps for many years, but the Hylands Foot Cramps pills aren't doing much of anything for me. I believe I was taking 325mg of quinine before I stopped, but just when I needed it. Requip XR I have to take every day without fail.

I used to get cramps so agonizing that 12 hours later my calves would still be hurting. I get foot cramps, leg cramps in both calves and shins. Quinine definitely works but I'm aware of the danger so I rarely take them - I do carry a few for absolute emergencies. Hylands does bring some relief usually but it's hard to find - and not cheap. However Gatorade and its competitors have solved the really agonizing attacks. I still get an occasional foot cramp but nothing like I used to. I drink it every day and it's cheap.

Don't forget - as I mentioned elsewhere - if you have a cooperative MD you can still buy quinine - but it certainly isn't cheap.

I have tried all OF THE ABOVE mentioned tactics. None helped. Even the Hyland products were of little use to me & they didn't last thru the night. I am back with the bags of ice --or frozen veggies! They help the cramps & I don't have such painful charlie horses the next day or morning. I use them like this--Wrap the ice paks up in a napkin or dish-towel put them on your calves (or shins) & hold them NOT Too tightly in place with a ladies cloth head-band. Or a wide big rubber band just not too Tight! I hope it helps! Good Luck too all the sufferers out there & this hot line. Now I know I am not alone with this!!

Did you try prescription quinine?

Quinine sulphate IS available online from countries overseas. I still buy mine from India and/or Canada without a prescription. Quinine is the ONLY thing that prevents leg cramps for me. If I do get the cramps, an ice pack on the cramp for 4 or five minutes is the only thing that will provide quick relief. Ask your dr. to check your blood every so often if you must take it and are worried about safety. Good luck to all of you!

The problem is that you can't be sure what you get by mail is really what they say it is. The website may have a Canadian address but the pills could be made anywhere.

Remember you can still get it in the US. Now if you can get it OTC in Canada that is probably OK.

So far my source has been perfectly reliable, and inexpensive -- thank goodness!

I've had restless leg syndrome since I was a teenager but mostly only when sitting for long periods of time like in a concert. It was not painful, only annoying. Recently, I started to get very painful leg cramps at night. My doctor suggested Tonic water. For me it relieves the pain almost instantly. I sometimes keep a can or bottle beside the bed just in case.

Don't knock the people that get relief from bars of soap, the brain is our most powerful organ and believing in a cure is half the battle. If we could all get such great placebo effects, it would be wonderful.

The warm socks sounded like a great idea too.
Good luck to everyone in your quests for relief.

Pickles, pickle juice and mustard do not contain quinine. What they share in common is that they contain apple cider vinegar! You can also take a spoonful of apple cider vinegar (diluted in juice, water, tea, etc.) right before bed. I find that it usually works.

Neither pickle juice, nor apple cider vinegar, nor muscle relaxants have ever relieved or prevented my leg cramps. For me, only quinine sulphate works.

I've been taking Hyland's Leg Cramps pills for about a year, and they did a great job of suppressing my nightly leg cramps. However, I also take prescription meds for hypertension and high cholesterol. This past Wednesday Oct 10 2012, I blacked out while driving home from work, crossed 4 lanes of traffic, knocked over a transformer and ended up facing opposite direction I had been traveling, while gallons and gallons of oil poured out from the transformer, flooding the parking lot where my car had come to rest. I did not come to until after firemen, ambulance, and police had arrived.

Car was totaled; they had to break back window and haul me out through that. While in trauma center, I had another blackout; this time while hooked up to EKG. It showed that my heart flat-lined periodically. While in hospital, they kept defibrillator patches on me, and made sure crash cart was nearby - pretty disconcerting! The doctor attributed the flatlining directly to interaction of the leg cramp pills and hypertension meds, and told me (a) FDA had banned sale of quinine several years ago, and (b) the two meds combined were what was causing my heart to periodically flat-line -- and no doubt caused me to pass out while driving. Doctor told me to immediately cease taking the quinine, which I am doing. It was sheer luck (or the grace of God) that I did not cause serious injury or death to other drivers -- and that I, myself, was not killed or seriously injured.

Car is totaled, people are amazed when they see photos of it that I escaped with only bruises (some of them pretty spectacular). Per California state law, if a person faints while driving, they are automatically banned from driving for the next six months, which is going to cause incredible hardship for me. I understand that other states have similar laws. If you're taking prescription hypertension meds AND quinine, you might want to reconsider. It's not worth the risk.

I don't have RLS or cramps. Rather I have "restless foot," sometimes in the right foot, sometimes in the left. I can actually feel the energy building up in my foot when it comes on. Takes about a minute until the energy is built up enough to where I MUST move the affected foot. I started to drink tonic water and it helped me to be able to get to sleep! I've never told my doctor about all this... he'd probably prescribe a high-cost med! I'm on a host of other meds for high blood pressure (Metropopol Tartrate and ExForge, diabetes (Glimeperide), a blood thinner (Aggrenox),a cholesterol med (Tricor) and amyltriptiline for diabetic nerve pain.

So far, no reaction from any of these as far the quinine in the tonic water goes! I don't have to drink it every night and now am starting to write down what I've eaten or drank that may cause my restless feet.

I had severe leg cramps a couple of years ago. Have any of you had your thyroid checked? Leg cramps are a symptom of a low thyroid. Just asking?

Thank God I found this site… I have fibromyalgia & silicone disease. I have to take many meds... Have leg cramps... Now I have them every night since I went to get a shot of cortisone in my hip so I could walk… wondering if that has made them worse. No sleep few minutes at a time... pain is out of this world like you all have said. Have tried quinine tonic, rubbing ben gay (now they are thinking about banning this menthol stuff because a young girl died from it)... I have used this stuff icy hot, pain patches, horse liniment, etc all my life. I helps some… I have pain all over my body but leg cramps take the cake for pain... I have read all your comments & can relate... I will call tomorrow & see if I can get quinine... I don't know what else to do... by the way I have every vitamin except Butchers broom... will try that also. Thanks for all the help.

I have restless legs syndrome for which I take high dose ginko biloba before bed. I also get leg cramps on occasion. I find they are caused in my case by statins. I need the statins I am told but my doctor cooperated with trying to get around the problem, also giving me quinine (uk). Lower dose statin worked for a while then cramps came back. Eventually I realised that the effect was cumulative. I can take the low dose statin for 3 or 4 days before the cramps come back so I now take them for about 4 days then stop for 2 to 3 days. If I get cramps I take the quinine. Taking the statins like that is apparently better than not taking them at all.

I have had severe leg cramps since I was about 17 and had used OTC Legatrin off and on, but it didn't always help. I have found out a few years ago I have a pinched nerve in the small of my back which has been causing the muscle spasms. You may want to talk to your doctor about this being a possibility as well. Rule out everything you can when you can.

Pinched nerve -- YES!!! -- you are the second person who has mentioned this, and my excruciating leg cramps started 9 years ago after I had a bad case of sciatica. The cramps are always only in my left leg (where I had the sciatica and they are definitely associated with exertion/exercise of legs and back). My neurologist suggested I get a CT scan of my lower back, as XRay and MRI have shown nothing. I have wondered about pinched nerve for a long time and have tried every treatment except surgery. Only quinine works. Maybe surgery is next (with laser?).

my father-in-law use to use Q-vel for leg cramps they worked very well for him. I referred these pills to a patient of mine and found out they had taken them off the otc. drugs.

As far as the soap under the sheet approach, What brand soap? What aroma? What size? Where under the sheet? Inquiring mind want to know!

I have been getting leg cramps since I was pregnant with my son in 1979. I have heard all kind of remedies for this problem, I took this medication for years n years... I do suffer from Anemia (severe) but I can live with that, I cannot live with leg cramps that I get! Sometimes they become so severe I can't even walk the next day !! I've flipped my shoes upside down at the bottom of my bed, I've tried just about everything, and the only thing that helps is "QUININE" I feel it should be my decision as to weather or not I choose to use this medication !!

I took Quinine Sulfate when I was 17 for leg cramps and it almost killed me. I immediately developed ITP or Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura. My platelets went from well over a count of 300,000 to 40,000 in a short time span. I woke up bleeding from my face, tongue and anywhere I bumped developed large bruises.

After I went to the ER I was admitted and had to receive a week of treatment. I have not had the ITP return since then. I am now 30 and I have found that for leg cramps, the proper nutrition, stretching and the occasional vallum keeps them at bay.

The downside is now I have third stage neurological lyme disease and quinine is recommended in the treatment, but I will never take that again.

have taken quinine for many years off & on went for pre opp assessment to be told couldn't give me anesthetic, platelets were too low 80 had been since 2011 have had regular blood-tests as I am diabetic went to hematology it's the quinine can't take it any more absolutely in agony with cramp legs ankles you name I get it. please folks don't take quinine.

This posting is not clear to me. Are you saying that the quinine has caused your leg cramps or made them worse, or are you saying it has lowered your platelet count???

When are we the people going to take charge of our own bodies? Government intervention into what is and what isn't good for your body? It is still my body, or does the FDA own that as well? Oh you can get leg cramp meds. at ten times the cost. We are the greediest country on earth. As far as I am concerned, enough is enough. FDA ******* dumb asses.

Joy A,
Did your cramp return?

Brenda W. | March 10, 2013 8:27 AM | Reply

I have been getting leg cramps since I was pregnant with my son in 1979. I have heard all kind of remedies for this problem, I took this medication for years n years... I do suffer from Anemia (severe) but I can live with that, I cannot live with leg cramps that I get! Sometimes they become so severe I can't even walk the next day !! I've flipped my shoes upside down at the bottom of my bed, I've tried just about everything, and the only thing that helps is "QUININE" I feel it should be my decision as to weather or not I choose to use this medication !!

Brenda,
I am in the same position. My night cramps are agonizing and the only sure remedy is quinine. It is now about $7 a pill but it is the only thing that works. If I get a calf-cramp and bend my foot, toes toward me, I get a shin splint which is even more painful. I get foot cramps where my big toe is at right angle to my other toes and nothing relieves it. I only use quinine as a last resort - less than once a month on average.

I think that sports drinks (Gatorade etc.) may reduce the incidence. I drink 8 oz. a day.

Brenda W. | March 10, 2013 8:27 AM | Reply

I have been getting leg cramps since I was pregnant with my son in 1979. I have heard all kind of remedies for this problem, I took this medication for years n years... I do suffer from Anemia (severe) but I can live with that, I cannot live with leg cramps that I get! Sometimes they become so severe I can't even walk the next day !! I've flipped my shoes upside down at the bottom of my bed, I've tried just about everything, and the only thing that helps is "QUININE" I feel it should be my decision as to weather or not I choose to use this medication !!

I, too, get terribly painful cramps. I still take quinine but rarely, and as a last resort.
I drink 8oz of sports' drink every day (Gatorade or similar).
I lie on the bed and raise my legs vertically (to reverse the blood flow)and hold it for a few minutes before going to sleep.
Quinine is now $7 a pill which is a deterrent in itself.
When I get an attack it can be calf cramp, shin splint or foot cramp where my big toe bends back at right angles to my foot - sometimes all three.

Leave a comment

Share your comments or questions with the People's Pharmacy online community. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from other visitors to this web site should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical attention. Concerns about medications should be discussed with a health professional. Do not stop any medication without first checking with your physician.

Check this box to be notified by email when follow-up comments are posted.