Q. I’ve read about people using yellow mustard to get rid of leg cramps, and my theory is that the cure is walking to the kitchen. Stretching the cramp out relieves it within a minute or two.

To test the yellow mustard, try it without getting out of bed. Keep a small jar at bedside and see if a spoonful taken lying down does the trick.

A. We understand your skepticism, since we do not know how yellow mustard might alleviate muscle cramps. Some have suggested it is the vinegar in the mustard, since people have also reported benefit from pickle juice. Others believe that the turmeric that makes mustard yellow is responsible, since it has anti-inflammatory activity.

One reader took up your challenge: “Although I do need to stand up when the worst cramps hit, walking to the kitchen to get the mustard is not what relieves the cramps for me. I keep little packets of mustard next to my bed. If I’m bothered in the middle of the night with a cramp in my calf, I open three packets of mustard and swallow them down. Within minutes, the cramps ease off.”

For other leg cramp remedies, including a description of calf stretches to be done before bed, we offer our Guide to Leg Pain.

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  1. Lola

    I get foot cramps frequently at night. The pain is horrible. I read somewhere about mustard helping. I now keep a plastic squirt jar of mustard on my night stand. It tastes horrible, but I discovered if you tilt your head backward and give a really good squirt way back in your throat, swallow, and drink water, the cramp is gone almost immediately. When I travel, the mustard travels with me. It works. That’s all I care about.

  2. Linda

    I suffered horribly from leg and foot cramps. I started the yellow mustard one TBSP before bed and NO cramps!! Not only that but I only get up to the bathroom once instead of 4 or 5 times.

  3. Sharon
    Cleveland OH

    I too am a believer in using mustard to relieve leg cramps. I learned about it 9 or 10 years ago, when your column was in our newspaper. I tend to get cramps in my hamstrings, calves and in the arches of my feet after hours of heavy physical labor in the yard involving lots of perspiration. It was agony when the cramps would strike in the middle of the night.

    I tried drinking more water throughout the day until my pee was as colorless as the water in my glass, I added extra salt to my food, drank a gallon of Gatorade… you name it, I tried it, but the cramps would have me in tears trying vainly to massage or walk them away.

    The mustard works so fast, I wonder if there’s a placebo effect at work here. Whatever it is I don’t care. It works first time, every time. I used to hobble down to the kitchen to retrieve mustard from the refrigerator and a tablespoon, but my clever husband suggested I use mustard packets. Now I keep a supply in the top drawer of my nightstand, within easy reach… 3 packets does the job for me. I’ve found that certain brands of mustard are more effective than others. You’ll have to experiment until you find the one that works best for you.

  4. Perpetua
    TX, USA

    I just tried mustard for severe inner thigh leg cramps. I was in such pain, I just squirted it right in my hand, and licked it off. I smooshed it around, trying to get plenty under my tongue before swallowing. Within seconds, the cramp was subsiding. I then squirted some more mustard, the total, probably being about 2 teaspoons.

    In less than a minute, the cramp was totally gone. I get these, usually after doing something involving ladders. I only read the mustard thing 3 nights ago. I don’t know how or why it works, but it does, and the relief is almost instant.

    • La
      Fay. Nc

      It definitely works for me I wish I would’ve known years ago


    I’ve toted meds for 25 years, and yes, yellow mustard is an awesome treatment for leg cramps (especially when diuretics cause them). I give my patients 1-4 small packs of yellow mustard, and it works! I take it a lot of times at night after working outside doing very strenuous activities. I put 4-5 large tablespoons in a cup of water and drink it. The cramps go away in 30 seconds to one minute. Am a believer in mustard and vinegar from experience.
    Peewee F.
    Nurse in South Georgia

  6. Santo

    I suffer from not only leg cramps but stomach cramps as well. While at a conference I experienced stomach cramps and my supervisor suggested that I try mustard to deal with the cramps. I thought this was her being funny but was really surprised, after downing a couple of packets, how fast the pain went away. One true believer!

  7. Dave
    New York

    Mustard does the trick for me. I have battled leg cramps for years. I also thought the walk to the fridge at 3 am. was the cure. After a very physical day doing a fair impression of a lumber jack, I went to sleep. 2:15 am and BOTH legs went into severe cramping. I could not get out of bed. My wife immediately brought the mustard in, and within 5 minutes all was back to semi normal..I never left the bed nor did I place my feet on the floor. There is another item to add, quinine water, taken right after three teaspoons of mustard, really cuts the wait time down for me.

  8. alexis

    Does it really help?
    I have tried it but the mustard tastes weird so I drink some water when I’m done I take a spoon any regular spoon.

  9. Valerie

    Three things consistently give me serious leg cramps: (1) supplements or foods high in magnesium, (2) supplements or foods high in potassium, (3) sweets & fruits.
    Salt, calcium supplements & avoiding sweets prevent &/or relieve leg cramps for me. Go figure. I must be a freak.

  10. Kay

    I have suffered from leg cramps intermittently throughout my career as a Chef…on my feet 14 hrs a day no time to actually eat right. I heard from a co-worker that mustard worked, was skeptical, but WOW!!!!! You can feel the tightness before you go to bed…& so I thought if it works during a cramp can it work pre-cramp? Totally did!!!! Sooooo happy! The tightness pre-cramp went away in less then mins!! I am a believer & will be keeping mustard in my nightstand from now on! Thank you home remedies!

  11. monique

    A friend of mine who is on dialysis, turned me on to this trick a few months ago. They use mustard for the patients who get cramps while on dialysis. Of course, they can’t get up and walk while hooked up to those machines. I have been using mustard for my leg cramps ever since. And yes it works!!!

  12. Steve A.

    My cardiac specialist suggested I try mustard for some all-too-frequent and severe cramps and along with a self-adjusted reduction in the simvastatin dosage from 80mg/day to a regimen of a 1/2 caplet ever other day, they no longer cause me to vault from bed to dance at 3AM.
    The lowered simvastatin dosage was tried first after reading way too many reports of folks suffering from cramps from statins and that reduced the frequency of the cramps by ~3/4 and the mustard takes care of those which still occur.
    Two friends who tried it also have had good results with mustard.

  13. Nic

    I use Dial soap loose in the bed so I can move it around with my foot as needed. When that doesn’t work at times, I try the yellow mustard on pretzels, because I don’t like swallowing it alone. Lately, neither have worked all that well, so I bought some turmeric capsules at the drugstore. I take 4-5 a day and no more leg/foot cramps. I often need to alternate what I use when one thing doesn’t work for whatever reason. The cider vinegar never worked at all for me.

  14. rh

    I’m 64. this started for me over a year ago. Stretching is bs. I get them in my hands too. I am very active. Carpentry- art, music, hiking. Playing the guitar can bring them on in my hands. Just from holding a pick for a long time- anything like that. I think it comes from activity- even like cutting vegetables. I also think its a side effect of arthritis- or a complication thereof. Of course when it starts – I get up and walk. That stretches the muscle back from its contracted position- but that is a crap shoot & can be devastating when the cramp is EXTREME.
    Don’t make fun of people trying to find relief. YOU just haven’t had it bad enough yet. It depends on the severity. But about 6- months ago I got 1 in my upper leg. Very severe. Damage was done -perhaps to the muscle. I feel like something was torn – not badly but now its chronic & not the way it was previously. I took a ton of magnesium & potassium, tried gallons of water, but it is what it is. I will try the mustard but the body wears out -we are what we are. I will try mustard but it just seems like this is a weaker form of other things & stronger drugs like say aleve which really don’t help the way they do so well for an aching back after a day of backbreaking labor. I do use aspercreme & gold bond -afterwards- this seems to provide a little comfort.

    • Judy
      Moose Jaw

      I get cramps up along my shin bones, anckles, in my feet, hands, thumbs, rib cage and neck. I have had them in my inner thigh also, it is more of a strong pinching sensation, it is so intense I actually passed out one night from it, my husband found me lying on the floor. The ones in my legs usually strike at night. My husband gets up with me now ( he’s scared I’ll pass out again) and tries to massage them out. It’s hard to do because they are never in the large muscles. I tried mustard last night when I had to get up the second time. It did not instantly give relief, so not sure it even helped as I went through my usual methods of getting rid of it. Anyway I woke up this morning with a burning, upset stomach. I am curious if the turmeric pills are as upsetting to the stomach as the mustard is.

  15. EB

    Heard about mustard for leg cramps 2 weeks ago — and since then have taken a teaspoonful of mustard while cramping — it took only a few seconds for the cramps to subside…..I could literally feel my muscles relaxing right after swallowing the mustard!! Amazing!!
    The last incident happened tonite — I could not straighten up without excrutiating pain until I swallowed the mustard. I still can hardly believe it!

  16. Jim

    I can attest that Mustard truly works in relieving severe cramping. I happened to find out in an article on the internet just over a year ago. I was being treated at the time for Cancer and following treatments, I would have severe cramping in the legs, thighs, and hands to the point I would be screaming. Nothing else seemed to work so after reading about the benefits of using Yellow Mustard, I tried it during one of my severe episodes. After a little over a tablespoon, within 30 seconds the cramping had subsided. I am a believer because each and every time I used used the Mustard, the cramping stopped.

  17. sandy

    I have suffered from terrible leg cramps for years, usually after strenuous outdoor activity including heavy perspiration. My tennis playing teenager daughter once witnessed me in an inconsolable pain, and ran to the fridge for the bottle of yellow mustard. It’s like a miracle, because all other attempts to subside the pain failed. I might add that I suffered both front and back cramps in my thighs. That left me in tears for hours. Thank god she had heard about this home remedy from a school coach, I will pass this simple cure to anyone who also suffers from this awful pain. My best guess is that I’m sweating out a vital chemical that bananas and Gatorade cannot replace quickly enough.
    If you are skeptical of this, please give it a try. A spoon or two might change your mind. After all, it’s just mustard what have you got to lose.

  18. Brian

    I don’t know the science behind the use of yellow mustard to relieve leg cramps but I do know that it works.
    I recently had a a “charlie horse” or upper leg cramp that was so bad that I was in tears. Usually by putting some weight on the leg will help but in this situation I could not even straighten my leg.
    I had heard of the mustard treatment from a friend so I asked my wife to get me a teaspoon full. Within second of taking the mustard the cramp had gone.

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