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Science Proves Pickle Juice Remedy Works

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Q. I would like to tell you about a remedy for leg cramps or spasms. One evening we were playing cards with some friends, and suddenly my husband bent over with a severe leg cramp.

Our host went to the refrigerator, got the jar of pickles and poured 1/4 glass of pickle juice. He told my husband to drink it, and the leg cramps eased almost immediately. Have you ever heard of such a remedy?

A. We have heard from many other readers that pickle juice can ease leg cramps. Scientists at Brigham Young University recently tested this remedy on 10 college students. A mild electrical current was applied after exercise to induce a muscle cramp. The volunteers were given water or pickle juice. Water did nothing but pickle juice relieved the cramps about 40 percent faster (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, May, 2010). Pure vinegar may work just as well, if not better.

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My husband sometimes will have leg cramps during his sleep at night. He gets up and gets a spoon of vinegar and it relieves the cramp almost immediately.

Magnesium citrate makes cramps resolve as you drink it. What's the electro/chemistry connection that makes pickle justice and Mg Citrate remedies work so fast? They are both acidic....

The neurophysiological studies of cramping focus on nerves and muscles at the site of the cramp but doesn't there seem to be another mechanism that is either central or metabolic. What role do the tongue's papillae play? Do they signal neurons in the brain stem or other CNS location to relax the contracting muscle fibers? It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

My frequent leg cramps provide an opportunity for experiment: next time, I'll try horseradish, vinegar, other strong acidic stuff.

I ask friends who go to Burger King or McDonald's to get me little mustard packages. I keep them by my bed, and when a leg cramp hits, squeeze one of those packs into my mouth and follow it with a little water and the cramp is gone.

Howdy folks,
For several years I get on occasion a cramp in the back side of my right thigh. My instant cure is running cold water on a small hand towel and just squeezing some of the excess water out and then rapping wet towel around thigh, this may have to be repeated a couple times if cramp is severe. The cold water relaxes the muscle back to normal. This method works for me and the cramp is gone within a minute or less.

Richard G.

Just have to comment. Over the years my leg cramps have varied in intensity and length of minutes lasted. Hearing that pickle juice helped many folks is good information. But in this example it makes me wonder how long it was for the juice to get back from the fridge and drink it. I think that most of my cramps would have probably dissipated by what I think would be the few minutes that would take. So how about asking folks who give information of this sort to state more specifics? The Sports and Med article did just that by having a control. More facts might help all of us in the long run.

I too carry mustard packets in my glove compartment, my emergency kit for disaster preparedness and 2 places in my home. They work and they work for the kinds of muscle cramps that come over a period of hours. I have an very physical occupation that causes me to sweat a lot. I imagine the imbalance in electrolytes has something to do with the muscle cramps. ~

If folks take BP medicine, the salt and potassium levels can be depleted, even in the the "sparing" formulas. I now have blood tests every 6 months to monitor these mineral and when they are low, I need to add more salt to my diet. Pickle juice and mustard have acid and a lot of salt so best to keep an optimal blood level up since it takes a while for the chemicals to get into the blood stream.

I also started taking three 2 mg. potassium tablets a day and my cramps lessened by 85%. Each person is different, though, but I am willing to try what helps someone else as a test. Also, exercise, even mild or moderate, helps, too.

Well, I had a chance to try the mustard remedy last evening, and it worked pretty fair, not the instant relief of Mg citrate, but pretty fair.

Had a truly horrible and persistent leg cramp yesterday. I swallowed a whole spoon of yellow mustard, no help. Went back to tried-and-true CALM (Mg Citrate, available cheaper on line than at your health food store) and such relief. Fast relief. It is still the only thing that works for me.

Two things that enabled me to eliminate restless leg syndrome and severe leg cramps at night are: 1) eliminate caffeine, and 2) eliminate artificial sweeteners. I found out the hard way that the artificial sweetener sorbitol has an immediate laxative effect, and this might have been related to the restless leg syndrome as well.

Also, I used to drink quantities of diet Shasta cola -- really loved the stuff -- but when I quit drinking it, my severe leg cramps were eliminated. (I don't know what kind of sweetener is in the diet Shasta.) The restless legs and the severe cramps are a thing of the past -- unless I indulge in too much caffeine. A little caffeine doesn't seem to bother.

I (no scientist) have been wondering about the chemistry of leg cramps and the various remedies. Why do mustard and pickle juice work? Why does soap under the sheet work? ksw mentioned salt and potassium levels in connection with leg cramps.

This article might shed a little light on the subject:
"... Soaps for cleansing consist of sodium and potassium salts of fatty acids and are obtained by the reaction of vegetable or animal oils and fats with a strong alkaline solution..."

Sodium and potassium!

I have tried soap under my sheet without success, mustard with limited success, and recently pickle juice when mustard failed. The pickle juice worked immediately. My problem is, my bedroom is in the (daylight) basement. My leg cramps are debilitating - my muscle cramps up so severely that my entire leg and foot is twisted - I cannot walk or even stand on my foot. The night I tried pickle juice, I somehow managed to drag myself up the stairs screaming.

I absolutely cannot physically force my leg and foot into a neutral position, as suggested by one writer, in a different article on a similar topic. I have started keeping small packets of mustard beside my bed, but how can I keep pickle juice handy? Comments/suggestions welcome.

Not only do I have leg cramps but severe spasms. I have them in my hands fingers chest neck legs stomach and back you name it. I have them they quiver, draw, not only muscles, but tendons to the point you cannot even muster up a tear. It is so bad every one says I'm dehydrated. It's not that I drink gallons of water. Also I tried to cut salt, I sweat like a hog sleeping and I have not been able to stretch in a very long time. I'm on 3 different bp meds. Help someone quick I'm at the end of my rope.

David, maybe you should ask your physician to rule out multiple sclerosis.

It sounds like you are really suffering. I hope you can get some help.

Recently I was sitting in a chair for a long period of time and I got a "Charlie Horse". I was in agony for several minutes. My husband went and got a bar of soap and I held it to my cramp.

Voila! It was immediately gone. My guests were amazed.

My husbands chronic leg cramps were almost entirely eliminated when his doctor put him on Potassium supplements for something else. I notice that my cramps occur when my Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium are out of balance. It can happen when I get too much or too little of any one of these. I have long standing trouble with recurring cramps in multiple areas.

Once I have had a bad cramp in a muscle, that area will cramp over and over again for decades. I even get cramps over my lower rib cage (not internal), that began when I was pregnant with my son, now 24 yrs old. I just have to exam my diet for the previous week or two to see where my problem begins (too much milk, not enough potassium, etc,) then I try to correct the imbalance. I will try the Magnesium citrate, I always have some of that on hand, in the bottled liquid form. Catherine R, how much do you take? I don't want to take enough to give me a laxative effect!

Hi, Elisa. I've never had a laxative effect, wish I did. When I take Mg Citrate, it's a rounded teaspoon; that is all it takes. Maybe 3-4 x a week if having a lot of leg cramps. My leg cramps, by the way, are usually related to a bulging/herniated disk. Before disk surgery in April, they were so severe I took Oxycodone, but I wonder if there would have been less pain, had I thought of Mg Citrate. Esophageal spasms run in my family, and I've encouraged my 2nd son to try Mg Citrate before the stretching operation under general anesthetic, but my kids don't follow my suggestions; they OD'd on my suggestions early on. So he's going the surgical route.

I heard there are packaged pickle juice in little pouches to keep by your bedside when cramps occur in the middle of the night. Has anyone seen them?

I have been drinking 1 tb of apple cider vinegar, Heinz, and 1 tb of honey in a glass of water twice a day since 1987 and don't have any more problems with tendenitis, charlie horses or arthritis. It also helps slow down my appetite.

Steve W. I get leg cramps and chest cramps, and have been NEAR the fridge when it happens. IMMEDIATE response from the pickle juice is not out the question. I find it absolutely amazing, and use it regularly (upon event.

It had never failed me. Never heard about mustard, though.

DJ - I too find Immediate response with the pickle juice. I tried mustard with limited success, then pickle juice. Pickle juice has given the most dependable relief.

I have also found that manipulating my balance of certain minerals, especially calcium and magnesium, seems to help prevent the cramps. I suspect too much calcium in the balance may have been a big part of the problem all along.

Unlike Steve W, my leg cramps do not dissipate on their own. Plus, when in the throes of a bad cramp, my leg and foot are twisted and torqued such that I cannot even put my foot on the floor. I was lucky to be able to drag myself upstairs to the fridge. Now I keep a small jar of pickle juice on my night stand, replenishing it periodically.

Oh, and Carmen – I too am interested in little pouches of pickle juice and hope to hear more about that. Although I might need several – I take a good-sized swig of the stuff to get quick relief.

Leg and foot twisted and torqued? One leg only? I had that. Check for herniated disk; you never know.

Really? Herniated disk? The twist/torque thing happened only a few times, some months ago. But yes, it was one leg only - almost all my leg cramps are one leg only, though not always the same leg. Maybe I will mention this to my doctor. Couldn't hurt. Thanks, Catherine!

Is the pickle juice packets from dill pickles? I know sweet pickle relish comes in packets, but I've never seen dill pickle juice. My brother's coach had the players drink dill pickle juice a few hours after a heavy work out to prevent cramps. That was 40 years ago!

Elisa, where do you find magnesium citrate in bottled liquid form? I have only found it in powdered form, which requires mixing it with water. This is very inconvenient for me. I need something I can keep on my nightstand and take immediately when I get a cramp. The reports here on magnesium citrate sound very promising.

Also, did anyone ever find a source of pickle juice without the pickles? I can't believe the way I'm going through pickles lately.

Oh, and that reminds me, here's an interesting development. Recently I had a bad cramp one night and all I had left in the fridge were jars of pickles with no juice left. Well, in desperation I chomped down half a dill pickle - and it worked! I've done this several times in recent weeks, with pretty reliable success. This was nice to find out, but I still would prefer taking a liquid in the middle of the night - where pickle juice or liquid magnesium citrate.

I like Batampte pickles that do have vinegar. Do you think juice from these pickles (which are great!) will work, too? Did anyone get relief from using packets of sweet pickle relish?

It is interesting to hear others describing the same severe muscle cramps I have had for years. I was reading in order to learn more about mustard, pickle juice, and vinegar as treatments. However I was surprised that no one mentioned hot baths to relieve severe twisting cramps.

Very hot water dilates blood vessels improving blood circulation and bringing electrolytes to cramping muscles. When a bad cramp hits I immediately soak in a very hot bath. The cramps resolve as soon as my legs turn red as vessels dilate. I also take potassium tablets and drink water. However these take time to work, and the pain requires something faster. I assumed everyone knew about the hot bath approach, but reading some of the sad stories suggests that it may not be widely used. It is inconvenient, but highly effective, and very fast.

Are sweet and dill pickle juice equally effective or does one work better than the other? Also, couldn't a small bottle or jar of the juice be kept by one's bedside for a few days. Would it spoil or get rancid? Thanks.

You can now purchase a product called "Pickle Juice Sport". Academy sports carries it and it does not need refrigeration. Works great!

You need to replenish your electrolytes. I am on BP meds also and recently had a partial seizure due to dehydration from the meds. I had this sports drink called Pickle Juice Sports Drink - it supposedly has 10 times the electrolytes of others. Whatever it has, it stopped the seizing very quickly - and this is very painful cramping that is so severe I cannot move the affected areas whatsoever and it spreads if I don't get it stopped.

Water has worked in the past with something salty but I just put together that it is my electrolytes that are depleted. A lot of BP meds can do this I guess. Look for drinks with electrolytes and keep them handy at all times, especially when it is hot!

I have had horrific leg, foot, rectal and vaginal muscle cramps for 32 years since an injury lifting that produced L3/4 and L4/5 herniations. I also have a drop foot due to the injuries affect on my leg. Surgery in Dec. 79 did nothing to eliminate the muscle spasms that make my foot twist out of normal shape, toes splayed, and I can not even step on it. My WC insurance company now refuses to fill my Qualaquin as it states that it is for the treatment of Malaria. The pharmaceutical companies have taken quinine sulphate off the market, which was an inexpensive product that worked and have replaced it with the Qualaquin for $200 for 30 capsules.

I can not afford to purchase this RX as I live on SS and a small disability check each month. What is the best option you can think of to give me the relief I desperately need.

Jean, the product "Pickle Juice Sport," mentioned in the post just above yours, looked interesting so I tried it. And it worked! I too got cramps that twist my foot such that I cannot even step on it. Now I just keep a bottle of "Pickle Juice Sport" next to my bed. It helps immediately!

For severe persistent spasms, whether leg or esophagus, the fastest acting remedy I've found is CALM, which is a rapid-acting Magnesium Citrate preparation, much cheaper on line than in organic food stores. It's sour and not great-tasting but works in a half-minute. Shop around.

When I get muscle cramps in my legs/feet I've found that mustard helps me more than pickle juice. I can't stand the taste of yellow mustard so use about 3/4 tsp of the spicy brown and it usually relieves the cramp(s) within a minute.

I am allergic to dairy products and stopped using them for about 8 years before I got pregnant. I was not good at remembering to take calcium supplements at all. I used to get terrible calf cramps when I was pregnant and near term. On the way to the delivery room, my calf cramps hurt more than my labor pains. The same thing happened within a minute of starting to nurse my son. A nurse mentioned it might be due to low calcium levels. I bought liquid calcium and when the cramp started I would take a dose of the liquid calcium and within a half minute the cramp would go away.

Now, 20 years later, when I occasionally get the calf cramps again, it reminds me to take my calcium supplements. I always take calcium and magnesium together now in a 2:1 ratio. Calcium alone makes my heart arrhythmia act up and my heart starts racing. Also, there is a homeopathic leg cramp product from Hyland's called leg cramp that really helps my mother get rid of her leg cramps. I used it successfully once (when I remembered to use it), too.

I cannot believe how fast this remedy worked. I had the most severe muscle cramp of my life last night -- couldn't straightened out my foot or calf of my leg and it cramp just kept getting worse by the second' actually brought me to tears. My husband brought me a small amount of pickle juice and withing seconds, the spasm started subsiding. Thank goodness he is a reader. Today, all is well.

I had my second very painful esophageal spasm, drinking cold water would bring slight relief, then increasing pain. In desperation I went on this site and saw the pickle juice remedy. I took several swallows of dill pickle juice and it went away immediately.

I had muscle cramps in both thigh muscles during the night. My wife brought me some dill pickle juice. The muscle cramps were gone in less than a minute after drinking the juice. I'm a believer.

I am diabetic and prone to severe muscle spasms, in my legs, feet, hands and even my abdomen. I have tried all sorts of remedies to try to alleviate and/or prevent these cramps, but never had much success until I heard about drinking pickle juice. And this REALLY does work! I will go from being totally unable to use my hands to typing away on the computer keyboard in an average of 90 seconds! And if I am wakened in the night with leg or foot cramps, I am back in bed and sound asleep within minutes, and cramp free all night! I don't know why this works, but to be pain free is truly a miracle!

I am so grateful for all the advice and stories you share! Had a 40 minute foot cramp today that would not let up! I'm going to academy to get the pickle juice packs you mentioned... Thankyou!

At 70 y/o, I know that if I work hard in the hot sun for 3 or 4 hours, I'll probably have serious cramps. 7/2/13 I worked for 9 hours in 90+ degree (peak afternoon temp), scraping, sanding, caulking and painting fascia at my house.

Cramps later were pretty bad - in back muscles, feet, hands, and legs. I used all my usual remedies - hot mint tea, jacuzzi, and other heat applications. Took a walk, but the cramps returned as soon as I sat down, again.

A lady on facebook finally told me to drink pickle juice. The cramps ceased after a tablespoonful, and after perhaps a fourth of a cup, I was able to go to bed and get a good night's sleep.

Had a moderate hamstring cramp as i was climbing out of bed, the next day, but a swallow of pickle juice stopped that in its tracks.
I have NO IDEA how it works. But it does.

Tonic water which contains quinine has helped my foot and leg cramps in the past. So does the dill pickle juice. I've found that the pickle juice also helps intestinal spasms that bend me over with pain. Sometimes I can get relief from stretching, but the juice is much more effective. I have not tried straight vinegar, but will.

PICKLE JUICE! I occasionally lock up on my calves and upper leg. Last night I woke up to a new spasm for me. The lower front part of my leg just above and right of my ankle on my left foot/leg. This spasm actually raised my big toe straight up! I felt like my foot was curling up like an elves shoe. I tried relaxing and massaging, but nothing worked. I hobbled to my fridge and opened my pickle jar and drank a big swallow. The pain went away instantly. Pickle Juice works for me every time!

I heard from friends that pickle juice works, but didn't know if it was sweet or dill. My leg cramps go on nightly, several times a night and get me out of bed crying they hurt so badly. So, last night, I took a chance and poured about a quarter cup of dill pickle juice in a glass and drank it before I went to sleep. It was the first night I haven't had a cramp in a couple of weeks. I'm going to have to buy some more pickles now, and I'll never throw pickle juice away again!

When my legs & feet twist & cramp up during the night it happens like 6-7 times. So there's no way I could sit in hot bath each time. I need something that will immediately relieve my cramps so I get a good night sleep. I'm checking into pickle juice sport drink that I can keep by my bedside because it does not need refrigeration after opening and has an extended shelf life of up to 2 years. I know with the cramps I get I will use up the product way before 2 years. I just won't have to get up go to refrig to get relief during the night.

Pickle juice works!!!!!!I have had severe, almost debilitating inner thigh cramps at night in bed and remembered reading about pickle juice on Face Book site, Husband got me some pickle juice and I drank about 1/4 cup and immediately, it seemed, they stopped!!!!!!!

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