Joe and Terry,

This past weekend, I heard you read a comment from a listener who was critical of the reports you do on ‘unproven’ remedies. Included in the listener’s criticism was the use of soap under a mattress for restless legs.

I get the criticism, and have 2 observations. First, in this case, a lack of double-blind, double-dummy research into THIS treatment for restless legs is a reflection of funding to do the research. It also reflects the pattern of traditional funding sources to ignore ‘home remedies’ in favor of ‘new’ money-making drugs and procedures.

Second, I work as a dance host and dance instructors on cruise ships (yea, I know a tough job, but hey, someone has to do it). On several floats, I had the same cabin mate who had a severe case of restless legs. So severe were his cramps that previous cabin mates requested not be be reassigned to his cabin. It was so bad that it would wake me up at night, and I was across the aisle.

I repeatedly told him about soap, but his response was, “If you can’t tell me how it works, I don’t want to hear about it.” As hard as I tried, I could not get him to just try it for a night. On one float it was particularly bad due to the amount of hiking we were doing during shore excursions. So, I decided to put some soap under his mattress without his knowledge.

The next night, I removed it, and repeated this process for several nights. And each night the soap was there, he did not wake me up and reported no or SIGNIFICANTLY reduced problems from restless legs during the night and during the following day. When I asked him to comment on why he had so many ‘good’ nights on the float, he was at a loss to explain it. Eventually I revealed the truth, and he was flabbergasted. He now uses soap, and we joke about it every time we end up on the same schedule.

The lesson here is that we have been brainwashed to believe that SCIENCE, SCIENTIFIC REASON, and SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY is the only valid approach to problems. Intuition and ‘old fashioned’ reasoning and remedies are out like the baby with the bath water. In my opinion, this devotion to the scientific reasoning way of thinking comes out of a materialistic and marketing ‘snow job’ and was pitched by companies to get our money, minds and hearts.

Do you remember the slogan, “better living through chemistry”? Easy to believe, hard to prove!

I also want to suggest that if the ‘industry’ did do research into why soap works for restless legs, a new, innovative and as yet undiscovered class of drugs and delivery system would be uncovered. Think about it. This research could lead to a Nobel Prize, don’t you think? And, in my opinion, the same holds true for other ‘home remedies’.

We need to embrace the unconventional, and apply scientific inquiry to determine the effectiveness of the unconventional.

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  1. tutucarter1934

    I just heard about the soap under the sheets about a month ago, and could not believe it would work. We sleep in a king sized bed so I put 3 bars of Dove green soap in a sock and secured the end. I put the sock next to my foot. The first night, I felt the pain/cramp begin in my foot, but it never materialized. ( I might add that this has been the most excruciating pain one can imagine.) The pain would start and just stop suddenly.
    Same thing happened the second night. For the past two weeks, there has been no pain in my feet or legs. I will never go to bed again without my “sock of soap”. If I go on vacation, that sock will go with me.
    All I can say is, don’t knock it till you try it.

  2. PDK

    I can attest to/confirm milk of magnesia’s ability to calm burns. I suffered the worst sunburn of my life while serving in the Peace Corps in Peru many years ago. So severe, in fact, I remember it actually hurt to pass within about 10 feet of a rotisserie grill when we went out to dinner that night … and Peruvians actually stopped and stared … never having seen a bright pink “Gringa” before!!!
    My Peruvian friends offered me three choices: ketchup, vinegar or Phillips. The only one that sounded bearable was the milk of magnesia. So my dedicated friend, Aida, went out and bought a huge box of cotton batting and several bottles of Phillips and sat by my bed in the hotel, gently applying the stuff to every burned inch of my body. Every time it dried out and started to hurt again, she would apply more. Didn’t wash any off, just kept adding more.
    I was bed-bound for the next two days … it hurt to wear clothing, let alone walk!
    And yet, I survived the incident WITH HARDLY A BLISTER!!!! The only place that blistered was a small area at the top back of my left shoulder, which she was unable to reach leaning over the bed.

  3. bill howard

    does anyone have info on using soap for lower back pain??

  4. EMH

    Science has proven that placebos work great. So stop telling people that their home remedies don’t work. Fantasy rules, reality sucks!

  5. EDL

    I have used the Ivory soap under the bottom sheet on numerous occasions as a result of reading articles from this site and it has been a big help at reducing frequency of my RLS. We drive from MI to CO in two days every spring and I used to be unable to sleep due to my legs, but this remedy totally eradicated those feelings.

  6. Jeanie V.

    Just wanted to tell of my home remedy, for canker sores in the mouth, after finding my pharmacy wanted 85.00 for a small tube of medicine. I read about this, and used a small drop or two of honey and put on the sore a couple times a day, viola, it was gone. It really works.

  7. Kenny

    Hi, my brother and I both have restless legs… I heard the show about the soap under the mattress… is this any kind of soap or is there a particular soap that works better than others? I also have a very thick mattress. Do you anticipate I will get the same kind of results?

  8. Sean F.

    The soap under the mattress story is interesting. I personally believe in these kinds of remedies. Actually, if we have nothing to lose or risk in trying these kinds of home remedies, why don’t we try it? Alternative medicines do work but of course we should not ignore the scientific medicine especially for worse conditions.

  9. A.L.

    I have used 2 bars of Irish Spring under my contour sheet for a couple of years. These can be purchased at the Dollar Store. This is very effective. I place them just below my feet and they do not bother in any way. Try it. Good luck.

  10. Mary L.

    I know that many intelligent folks have no common sense as my sis belongs to Mensa (top 10% in intelligence). I had the last laugh on my foot Dr. who won’t tell is patients that soap works for legs & foot pain. He’s afraid of them laughing at him. My foot pain has almost entirely gone away by putting chopped up soap in my socks at night (Dove). The pain was only at night which he said is atypical. Plus cherries & cherry juice & sugar free cherry cough drops have also helped. I am after a co. to come out with sugar free cherry juice as I am diabetic. My condition rarely flares up now.

  11. Beulah

    I read with interest the comment re soap “under the mattress” for restless leg syndrome. I use it for severe leg cramps which I attribute to use of statins. However, I just put it at my feet under the top sheet. It seems to work for a while and then not work. I am amazed that it would work “under the mattress.” Am I putting it in the wrong place? How do others use it?

  12. Chris W.

    I have used “Dove”, simply because that is the soap we use, for years between my sheets, my husband has a bar on his side of the bed as do I for leg cramps….. I have a bar under my pillow and when my neck is hurting I turn on my side, lay the soap on the area of the neck which is hurting and in a few minutes the pain is better or gone, I also use it on the temples where I get sinus headaches, it fits perfectly because of the shape…. I am serious this works, my headache goes away in a few minutes…. my bridge friends whom I have shared this with do the same thing and we are all amazed at why it works…. the only thing I can come up with is the bit of pressure it puts on your skin.
    When I feel a cramp coming on in my leg, I just move it to the soap which I keep near where my calves are in the bed, if I catch it in time it is gone. A few times it (the cramp) has gotten too far and I just take the soap and massage it where the cramp is and soon it is gone. My son “the doctor” says “use it” it certainly cannot hurt you and you are not putting a med in you body that might hurt you”. So my husband and I sleep with 4 bars of soap and the dog!

  13. Tom

    Over half the drugs the FDA has approved have been recalled. Drug companies are driven to product profits. No company would do a billion dollar study on parsley. Ok, I get it. But – natural medicine/home remedies have too. Trial and error is a part of the price to knowledge.
    The scientific method doesn’t take a billion dollars to apply as noted by the dancer comments. So I think it should and can be applied by all of us trying new treatments- whether approved by the FDA or not.
    My goal is better health. Trying pharmaceuticals or natural – I am skeptical of both. We should never put stuff in our body without really questioning what it is and what it will do – as well as how is working or not on me. My body is different from most – so what I experience is different too.
    I don’t take sides on only one approach works – but I do take sides when it comes to using reasonable and safe approach’s to trying out whatever you do to work on better health.

  14. CJ Jones

    I heard about the “RLS soap cure” many years ago before I began having leg spasms.
    I read your column way back (in the Spokesman Review in Spokane, WA), and knew in my heart you must have had stock in all of the soap companies. I figured anyone who was gullible enough to try it were totally nuts!
    Several years later, I began having leg-spasms, diagnosed as RLS. The doctor said there’s nothing you can do about it. I asked him about “the soap trick” and he said, “Yeah, right,” prescribing vitamin B and sent me on my unhappy way.
    A few years later, I remembered the “Soap trick” and quietly decided to try it. I liked the smell of “Irish Spring” soap and figured I had nothing to lose If nothing else, at least my bed would smell pretty!
    Of course, the skeptic in me knew it wouldn’t work…I wasn’t going to tell my husband about this “test” I was about to take part of, but changed my mind and told him. He said, “What’ve you got to lose?” so I went ahead and tried it.
    The funny thing is, in my heart I wanted it to work so badly, but I was also AFRAID it WOULD work, proving I was a “nut-case. And if didn’t work, people would KNOW I was a “nut-case” just for TRYING it out.
    Amazingly, I had the first night of sound, uninterrupted sleep I’d had in years, waking up because my body said it was time, not because my legs were twitching and kicking! I was so worried I wouldn’t get any sleep…yet I slept through the night just like when I was a child!
    The next night, I couldn’t find the soap! Because we have a waterbed, I knew it had probably gotten stuck between the water-filled mattress and the frame, but of course it wasn’t to be found.
    I was amazed when I woke up the next morning, perfectly rested! But knowing I had slept without the soap and had no problems with the RLS, I got a little confused. None of this “soap trick” made any sense to me…either I WAS or I WASN’T NUTS!
    So, as I changed the sheets the next morning (looking for the stupid bar of soap), I was amazed to find it crammed waaaaay down between the soft rubber-lining and the bottom of the frame!
    Ive had no problem falling asleep since then and the only signs of the RLS is when I totally relax, for example, watching the tv!
    “Totally & Certifiably Nuts”

  15. Brent B.

    It seems to me that a lot of modern pharmaceutical remedies seem to hide behind this quasi-mystical shield of “science” — i.e., since the drugs have been tested a lot (by the folks making them), that somehow confirms their efficacy. However, it’s actually more like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obviously they are going to rate their own drugs highly, so why would they even bother rating the competition (herbs / supplements)?
    In most of the world — and for most of our history, natural substances have been successfully used to enhance health and cure disease. And this wisdom gets passed along through the ages. There is nothing wrong with applying the scientific method to these substances — it’s more a question of “who will do it?” So let’s endeavor to bring a greater balance so that patients have a wide range of curative solutions. Consumers should drive health care instead of all the institutions that would curb our choices. Maybe People’s Pharmacy should brand its own leg cramp soap like you’ve done with the milk of magnesia deodorant?!

  16. PG

    To me, it doesn’t matter which type of soap I use, Lavender, rose or any of the natural soaps work for me. I quit using the commercial soaps like Zest, Ivory, etc, years ago. I try to use all natural soap, shampoo and lotions. The lump in bed does not bother me, it’s kind of comforting to feel it with my feet. I use any size natural soap I have on hand. Ir really does work.

  17. LRE

    I would also like to know more of the details about the placement of the bar of soap in the bed. The article above seemed to indicate that the bar of soap would be placed under the mattress. I had heard that it also matters which kind of soap is used, so which is the best? I thought that Joe & Terry said to put the bar of soap under the sheet on the side where the person is sleeping. Please give us the specifics!

  18. KAT

    thank you……it works–ha!ha! to the big pharma people…this ones’ for free…..

  19. CAB

    And yet it seems the writer did conduct a sort of scientific inquiry, in effect running a small clinical trial. One with only one subject, and not double-blind (since the writer knew she administered the treatment). But it was at least single-blind (is there such a term?), since the subject himself did not know he was in the “test group.” Double blind is the gold standard, but this unofficial “single-blind trial” was enough to convince the skeptical subject.
    I agree with the writer’s idea to urge “the industry” to conduct trials like this. Heck, the soap companies could clean up!

  20. HJL

    The author’s attack on science is not warranted. Science says nothing about whether one should or shouldn’t try soap for leg cramps. In fact, the author used science to “prove” that soap worked for his room-mate. Science is neutral; the role of science is to use the scientific method to prove or disprove a reasoned hypothesis. Just because science has not proved something is true gives no inference whatsoever that it is untrue. Sometimes science isn’t sophisticated enough yet to prove or disprove an hypothesis. Again, no inference should be drawn.
    The real issue is to assess the risk of any proposed action which has not been rigorously tested. With soap the risk appears minimal at best, so it becomes obvious that the afflicted should try it. I have and it worked for me.

  21. Mary Ann

    Ok, just what are the specifics on the “soap under the sheet” usage? Questions: What size cake of soap? Just where is it placed? Wouldn’t the lump that it makes be a nuisance to feel each time the foot (feet) go(es) over it?
    Does the “type of soap” make a difference ie – dial or safeguard or Dove?
    I have never seen any answer to the above questions for guidelines….

  22. Wanda

    Oh Yeah! If BIG PHARMA discovered what causes a 98 cent bar of Ivory to do its miracle work they would surely make up a pill that would not only hurt your liver but cost $150 a month!!!!!!! Thank you J&T for the wonderful work you do.

  23. Mel C.

    I have tried a # of remedies, the soap works, gin and raisins, and the most
    remarkable is soy sauce for burns, have used this many times, I cook a lot and have even had a red hot ember from a grill fall on the top of my foot, it was red hot, part even went down between my toes as I was hopping around. Cold water, went on first to wash area of ash, then the soy sauce, 1/2 hour later no pain or hurting, very little redness.
    Oh one other thing I use caster oil to promote healing of every thing from
    stys, sits, cuts, scratches, most anything on and under the skin.

  24. BT

    I don’t care how it works but I know it does. I was having terrible foot and leg cramps for months and decided to try Ivory soap. It does work!

  25. STTH

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. Nelson

    Western medicine has always used the argument that, unless something is scientifically proven it, as one physician once told me, “Doesn’t exist.” Which is obviously silly! Still, the scientific method is a useful tool to separate reality from superstition and shouldn’t be ignored.
    At least two effective medical modalities – Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic have many effective treatments and neither had the benefit of the scientific method to develop them. Both modalities relied on trial and error which works given enough time and, sadly, enough failures. Both modalities also seem to suffer from a much higher “BS to reality” ratio because of this lack.
    But even in Western Medicine, there have been many things that should have been ignored under that physician’s criteria. Simple aspirin is a good example – physicians used it for decades before they had much of an idea as to how and why it works. What we need to do is to think carefully and seek to understand any “non-medical” remedy we try before we try it. Which isn’t a bad idea for all remedies we try, even medical ones, come to think of it.

  27. M.E.N.

    What can I say? Dancers are very smart and know about bodies!

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