tonic water is safe, a glass of gin and tonic with ice and a lime slice

Q. Do you know any doctors who will write prescriptions for quinine sulfate to prevent leg cramps? I am desperate to find one. I have taken quinine for this for 20 years with miraculous results and no problems. Now with only a two-week supply left, I’ve been told the FDA has banned it for leg cramps and my doctor will not write me a script.

Before I started taking quinine, my leg cramps were so terrible I had to call the paramedics or scream for my husband to knead them out. The next day I could not walk. That was 20 years ago. I know I could not withstand it today. It would kill me.

A. The FDA banned quinine for preventing leg cramps because the drug can cause potentially lethal reactions. It may result in heart rhythm disturbances, serious allergic reactions or a dangerous blood disorder.

We can’t steer you to a doctor who would be willing to prescribe quinine sulfate for your leg cramps, but we can make some other suggestions. Tonic water still contains quinine and some people find it is helpful for preventing leg cramps.

We have many other suggestions in our Guide to Leg Pain, including magnesium supplements, low sodium V-8 juice, pickle juice or B vitamin complex.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Marg
    Perth WA

    When people say have a teaspoon of yellow mustard… do they mean mustard powder or for example, Dijon mustard???? I have terrible leg & foot cramps almost every night. I take Magnesium before going to bed & it hardly helps at all. The ONLY thing that helps is Quinine. Im 59 years old & have been taking Quinine since I was 16…with no side effects at all but now no doctor will prescribe it for me & I’m getting really desperate.

  2. Wilma.

    My legs, my fingers, my calves, my back and believe or not my tongue miss deeply the wonderful Quinine.
    Now and taking cucumbers and olives brine and it helps. I will keep invading my kitchen and try mustard.
    Thanks for the tip.

  3. P J

    I have been able to get quinine from the uk. I get the leg cramps mostly now when cycling long distances, over 80km, and calves will go like rocks and take days to recover to 100%, I have found most other things just don’t work as well.

  4. CAN

    Leg cramps are a family curse. My mother had them; I have them, both of my brothers and now my daughter. Mom and I had them most of our lives with them becoming more severe as we aged. My brothers and daughter didn’t have the problem until they were in their late thirties or early forties.
    Quinine was my life saver. I can’t believe they just pulled it off the market and did not offer any replacement for it. I have tried it all. There are so many things that bring my cramps on and when I think I found a solution suddenly that no longer works. Sleeping with a light pair of tennis shoes laced up keeps my big toe from pulling straight up in the air or my feet form turning in so even thou it feels like my toes are trying to turn under or separate they can’t and this keeps my calf from cramping. The minute I totally relax they start and sometime it goes on all night. It is not just the cramps it is the lack of a good night’s sleep and the exhaustion the next day which seems to lead to the same thing the next night.

  5. B

    When I heard that a bar of soap placed at the foot of your bed helps prevent leg cramps I thought it sounded crazy enough that it might just work. I tried it and for more than a year I haven’t had cramps and I know 2 other people who say the same.
    See if it works for you. If it doesn’t, try what I used to do. Many years ago Grammy said to wet your finger in your mouth, stick it in a small container of sugar you keep by your bed and transfer the sugar to your mouth. This also works!

  6. Jon

    I am 59. I have been getting severe leg cramps since I was a freshman in high school. The only period in my life I didn’t have them was surprisingly while I was in the Army. I get cramps in both legs at night and very early in the morning, while trying to sleep. I have had some so severe the muscle felt like it was beef jerky being ripped in pieces. Knots the size of golf balls in my hamstring. Debilitating cramps down deep along my thigh bones from my knee to groin.
    Excruciating pain that lasts sometimes 15 minutes or more. I eat tons of bananas, take multivitamins and calcium tablets, drink lots of water throughout the day (I am a mechanic on my feet all day on concrete). I wear good Red Wing boots and keep good posture. I walk quite a bit for work and exercise. I miss my quinine! I do take a statin prescription for cholesterol and wonder if that propagates the cramps even more. I am going to try some of the remedies listed in these earlier posts. Also looking into UC Davis Med school research for cramps, but they associate muscle problems with muscular diseases and ALS.
    I am not there yet. Other than that I am very healthy and active. Mustard? going to try it, too.

  7. Joe

    I am 67 years old and have had leg cramps for several years now, on & off, I could take quinine for 4-5 days and maybe not have a cramp for 3 weeks. They have gotten worse in the past 6 months. I got a script from my Dr. and order from Canada. Of course, insurance will not pay anything.

  8. Tammy

    I get severe cramps in my calves. Hyland’s definitely works. Haven’t tried mustard. I use rubbing alcohol a lot, too. Just rub it on with a cotton ball or pour it over your skin. It really works. Sometimes, though, I have to wrap my legs in ace bandages just tight enough to put pressure on the muscle. This is a last resort, but it works. Athletes do this with pulled muscles.

  9. BSS

    My advice — move to Canada! My doc. from S. Africa prescribed quinine because of dreadful cramps resulting from nerve damage from a spinal fusion. His comments were he had had patients on quinine for decades in SA (malaria) and at 60+ and if it works it is justified. I also use leg warmers at night and the two combined reduced the cramps dramatically to almost zero. If I forget to take the quinine without realising this fact I get 4/5 severe cramps in the night. No placebo effect obviously.

  10. JLP

    I’ve had extemely painful foot cramps my whole life. I used to swim competitively, and I would get them in the pool almost weekly. I could never find anything to stop them; I ate a ton of bananas for potassium and still got them like clockwork. A few weeks ago, a baseball coach I know suggested eating mustard. I thought it sounded ridiculous, but yesterday I had a foot cramp and tried it. The cramp went away as soon as the mustard touched my tongue. It was completely amazing! My cramps usually last 5-10 minutes and it was gone in less than 1. I definitely recommend mustard!

  11. ella hodgdon

    l can’t believe how l suffer with leg pain that wakes me up all hours of the night. And cry and loose my breath from all this. l will be calling my Dr. Since they’ve banned quinine from the market, I HAVE LIVED IN LIVING HELL WITH PAIN. It’s so bad at night. l’ve been in living hell now for 8 years. Tired of them telling people that the is product no good. WELL IT HELPED ME FOR SURE. I will tell my DR, BELIEVE ME, COME MONDAY AM. I can’t deal with the pain anymore. I CANNOT DO ANYTHING ALL DAY LONG. WHEN I DO, BELIEVE ME, I PAY DEARLY. SICK OF BEING SICK. My legs are so, so bad when l try to stand up . l cannot do so. THERE MUST BE SOMEONE OUT THERE WHO CAN HELP ME AND OTHERS.

  12. PLH

    My mother suffered for years with legs cramping until she was told to take MAGNESIUM. She has NO problem at all now!!!!

  13. Vincent H. Shults

    I too was plagued with leg cramps for quite a few years. But I had to stop taking quinine, because I had ringing in my ears so bad I could’t sleep at night. I started going to various drug stores and asking them about what I could do about the ringing in my ears. And I found out quinine causes ringing in the ears! I now take a Homeopathic med called “Hyland’s” and it has approx. 17% quinine in it.

  14. SH

    Magnesium did wonders for me. I used to have severe foot cramps. I take 250 mg twice a day, and calcium as well.

  15. mike

    I am 52 and work construction, and I do a lot of climbing and get leg cramps. I too suffered after the Quinine ban. I found a product called “LEG CRAMPS with Quinine” by Hylands at CVS. I don’t know how much it contains but when I get one I take 2 caplets and have relief in a couple of minutes. I found if I drink 2 liters of water instead of soda pop it helps too. It took 3 days of headache to kick caffeine but it was worth it!

  16. Angela M. Rosati

    I used to get very severe leg cramps. Someone told me that Tonic Water helps. Since I drink about 6 oz before bedtime (it tastes like poison!!) the cramps are gone. Hooray!!

  17. JMC

    I have had a problem with leg cramps at night, especially after vigorous exercise such as tennis. I try to eat at least one banna a day and drink a glass of tonic water mixed with orange juice after exeercise. It works for me.

  18. NJ

    I take an over-the-counter turmeric capsule once a day, and rarely have leg cramps since starting that about three months ago. I also keep a bar of soap under the sheet. It used to be an almost nightly occurence to have severe leg cramps; they were alleviated by touching the soap with my feet. But since starting the turmeric, I rarely have leg cramps.

  19. V

    Had leg cramps for many years. Test for potassium showed less than 3.5 (which was my lab’s standard for normal). Doctor prescribed 20 mg. potassium daily, which alleviated the problem. I also take calcium/magnesium as I believe it aids in the uptake of the potassium. Potassium is dangerous to take without follow-up blood tests, so be sure to have your doctor’s approval before trying this remedy!

  20. Bob Deneen

    Regarding leg cramps: Mustard stops my legs cramps within two minutes. A teaspoon of any prepared mustard works wonders. Eating a cracker reduces the strong aftertaste.

  21. Gary S

    I had been taking quinine for about 20 years also, before the ban! I am in my 60’s now. I still have severe leg cramps. The cause is nerve damage to my leg and has led some of my muscles in that leg to degenerate. I tried eating/drinking a diet high in potassium (including Tonic water). It helps if I remain inactive throughout the day. That leads to other problems though. The only thing so far that helped was quinine. Now it is unavailable in the USA! I don’t know what to do!
    Any ideas?
    God bless,

  22. Dr. Chris

    We have a physical rehab clinic and have many older patients with this problem. In addition to the tonic water and pickle juice, a tablespoon of yellow mustard provides almost instant relief for the majority of people.

  23. JB

    I used to suffer from debilitating calf cramps, and noticed that they were more frequent and painful after I ate licorice. I heard this can deplete your potassium, and when potassium is leached from the muscles, that’s when severe cramping occurs. Also make sure you are staying well hydrated.

  24. amy

    I too suffered with severe leg cramps and was on quinine. My relief was so simple – I drink at least 40 ounces of water or more a day, which seems like a lot, but really isn’t. The result – no leg cramps.
    If I skip a day and forget to consume enough water, the leg cramps attack, so I try not to forget!

  25. HBM

    I use Ice packs to relieve muscle cramps almost immediately.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.