a glass of tonic water with a slice of lemon

Q. Since quinine sulfate is no longer available for leg cramps, I wonder if there is any danger in drinking “tonic water” just for the flavor. Quinine is an ingredient, I believe.

A. Although the FDA has banned the use of prescription quinine pills to treat leg cramps, the agency has not proposed eliminating tonic water from the market. If it did, a lot of people who enjoy gin and tonic might revolt.

Readers aware of the quinine in tonic water have put it to use:

“I have been drinking tonic water with quinine for about two months now, and my leg and foot cramps have disappeared completely.”

FDA banned quinine from use against leg cramps because sensitive people may develop a potentially deadly blood disorder in reaction to quinine. Although this complication is rare, it is extremely serious. One reader reported being hospitalized after drinking a 5-ounce glass of tonic water. She developed a terrible skin reaction and her blood platelets plummeted. She was told that in her case even a drop could be lethal.

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  1. Gerry

    I had a total knee replacement about 5 months ago. Everything went great for the first 5 weeks. I could walk up and down the stairs again quite easily wishing I had had the replacement 2 years earlier. Then suddenly the cramping started, probably brought on by the sudden drop in night temperatures to -15C. The pain was very painful especially first thing in the morning when I could not stand on my right leg and needed to do stretching exercises first that brought tears to my eyes. The same also occurred after sitting down for a few minutes.

    I spent all my time doing stretching exercises just to be able to stand on my leg. I also needed a walking stick and walker again for going about the house or short walks, etc. Then I read somewhere that tonic water could relieve the cramping so I tried it and it WORKED! OK, the cramps and stiffness have not totally disappeared but after two weeks I can walk up and down the stairs again and feel on the mend.

  2. Loretta

    Is Tonic Water dehydrating? I now drink 150ml can with a dash of gin & a slice of lemon. Trying at age 85 to do damage to my liver which my GP tells me is in good health.
    When I was a “boozing teenager” we used to drink it to stave off a developing cold & it worked.

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