a jar of pickles, pickle juice for muscle cramps

Muscle cramps are a vexing problem. They are understandably common during or after exercise, when muscles have become fatigued. Many people also suffer from painful leg or foot cramps at night. These may wake them from a sound sleep. Stretching the affected muscle often relieves the pain, at least temporarily, but it may take a while. We have heard from many readers who like to use mustard or pickle juice for muscle cramps.

Do You Take Pickle Juice for Muscle Cramps?

Q. I read in your column that pickle juice can ease cramps. However, you left out a lot of details.

  1. What is the recommended dosage?
  2. How many times a day should it be taken?
  3. When should it be taken? ie; Morning, evening, bedtime, before meal, with food or after meal.

Details on Pickle Juice for Muscle Cramps:

A. It is always tricky to pin down the details of a home remedy, but we will do our best. The first study we noticed that tested pickle juice for muscle cramps used electricity to cause a cramp in the big toe (Miller et al, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, May 2010).

The researchers found that giving the young men pickle juice as soon as the cramp started shortened it from about two and a half minutes to not quite two minutes. The volunteers drank about a third of a cup of pickle juice, approximately 75 ml.

HotShot Instead of Pickle Juice?

The makers of HotShot, a product designed to treat muscle cramps, now recommend drinking 1.7 ounces of their formulation half an hour before starting a strenuous workout as a cramp preventative. This product increased cramp threshold frequency (CTF) in a placebo controlled trial (Behringer et al, European Journal of Applied Physiology, Aug. 2017).  CTF is a measurement of cramp susceptibility, and a higher threshold means a person is less likely to cramp.

We hope that helps clarify some of the details on this home remedy. If you have used pickle juice or another remedy to quell muscle cramps, please describe the details of your approach in your comment below.

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  1. Sheila
    Chico, CA

    About 3 ozs of pickle juice worked for me but can be a problem with sodium increasing hypertension. I heard about a magnesium spray sold at the health food store but refused to pay the exorbitant price! Made my own by dissolving 1/8cup epsom salts to 1 cup hot, filtered water. Keep it in a spray bottle and spritz it on the cramped area as it’s happening, massaging gently. Works like a champ. Wash off later & moisturize as it is very drying. Sprayer will eventually clog but just soak it in warm water.

  2. Ginny
    Bellflower, California

    I’ve been using dill pickle slices and/or juice for night time leg cramps for more than two years. I put several slices with some pickle juice in sugar bowl size container with a lid. I keep it in the refridgerator during the day and remove it in the evening. Sometime during the hour before bedtime I take two slices and chew them up thoroughly. Occasionally I’ll take a couple gulps of the juice instead of eating the slices. Very rarely do I have a leg cramp during the night…if I do I’ll go to my pickle container and take a gulp. I leave the pickle container out on the counter over night in case I should have need to some pickle juice.

  3. tom

    I had severe cramps in my legs and feet a few nights ago. I could not get them to stop. I remembered that yellow mustard had been mentioned on your radio show so I tried a spoon full of Frenches yellow mustard and the cramping stopped within seconds. I did have heart burn after taking the mustard but it was worth it to stop the cramps.

  4. Leonorah
    Burlington, NC

    My husband used to have severe nighttime leg cramps. I would mix a small amount of baking soda (about 1/8 tsp.)in about 3 ounces of water for him to drink. It worked miracles.

  5. Mike
    Maple Valley, WA

    The best muscle cramp reliever I have found is magnesium oil. It’s not really oil but a liquid form of magnesium. which comes in a spray bottle. A few sporays where it hurts and rub it in. I have been using it daily for several years. I also follow the oil with a few sprays of DMSO in a 70% DMSO and 30% water mixture. This carries the magnesium oil deeper into the muscle. I suggest you search “magnesium oil” on Amazon. You will find dozens of brands and literally thousands of reviews. There are even some with added ingredients for sensitive skin. Magnesium oil will cause itching in some people. Try it! You may be amazed. If you mix DMSO and water the bottle will get quite warm for a few minutes. No problem and no harm.

  6. GeeCee
    central Florida

    For many years I have had leg cramps; sometimes along nerves from groin into foot instep. Usually one leg or foot, but sometimes both. It was beyond painful. I had heard from a football coach who suggested that his high school players take a dill pickle when they felt a cramp coming on. Since I had tried everything else w/o success, I tried this and was amazed that it works. I only take one pickle when I feel a cramp coming on so it’s not as if I eat pickles every night. I also do not get migraines either. Lately I have been using a magnesium supplement in an envelope called “Calm” (.12 oz in each envelope) because I have celiac disease and am prone to having my body refuse to process healthy foods normally. It has reduced my “pickle nights” !

  7. speakupif

    A spoonful of Plain yellow mustard gives me relief from cramps and restless leg syndrom. Pickle juice has worked as well.

  8. Blanche
    Greensboro, NC

    I drink a glass of tonic water about every other day to keep the leg cramps away. If I do get a cramp during the night, I keep a couple packets of mustard by my bed and just tear one open and squeeze the mustard in my mouth. Cramp goes away in about 1 minute.

  9. flemflam man

    Hello, My leg muscle cramps come in early morning before I get out of bed with no exercise night before. I cannot move enough to get up and get anything to take. It leaves my leg muscle sore for hours. Help please

  10. Lynn
    Campbell, CA

    I have tried both pickle juice and mustard and sometimes I mix the two and keep it by my nightstand. Yes it works but for people with acid reflux you create another problem that’s not comfortable. I have tried all methods for chronic feet and leg cramps and non of them work for me except the mustard and juice combination. There is an over the counter “Hylandi’s Leg cramps” Which works pretty well.

    • rooster

      Lynn, take some of these suggestions to bed with you. You don’t have to get up!

  11. Sandra

    Just drink water with regular salt mixed with the water … works for me a 75 yr old woman

  12. Stephanie
    Philadelphia, PA

    I occasionally get RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) at night and have found that taking a small dose of magnesium stops it within minutes. Magnesium in pill form has a tendency to cause diarrhea, so using a caplet type that can be cut into a 50 mg. dose worked best.

    Mustard and pickle juice both have a high vinegar content, so I’m wondering if some organic apple cider vinegar in water taken before times when muscles cramps may happen would ward them off? So many people swear by this old fashioned remedy that there must be something to it! Sorry I don’t remember the “recipe” for this, but I’m sure it’s readily available on the Internet.

  13. Henry
    Patrick county, VA

    What do you do with all of the now-dry pickles?
    French’s yellow mustard 2 tablespoons when cramp occurs has worked well for me and better than other brands of yellow mustard. The beneficial effect lasts from one day to several days.
    I was a skeptic until I tried it!

  14. Maggie

    I take about a teaspoon of mustard after I get a night-time cramp. It’s usually gone in under a minute. (But sometimes I think the cure is almost as bad as the cramp!)

  15. B

    My wife has had leg cramps from time to time during her sleeping hours. Usually with some stretching or massaging and the cramp would subside. However, the last time she got an excruciating attack that went up and down her leg. It was so severe her foot even turned inward. Nothing seemed to help so I got a teaspoon of yellow mustard for her to take and it was like a miracle.

    Within a minute her foot went back to normal and the pain subsided significantly. After two minutes she was back to normal. Even today she can’t believe that this simple intake of yellow mustard had such significant affects on her leg cramp. We both are believers in taking yellow mustard for leg cramps and as well as using soy sauce for burns which also works amazingly well.

  16. Ken

    There is a lot of misunderstanding on how pickle juice works. Here is how it helps me. I take a sip (just a spoon full) and hold it in my mouth for a few seconds, then swallow . It work on the nerve channels that run throughout the body. You do not benefit from drinking more than it takes to wet the inside and roof of your mouth. The same method works with yellow mustard. Just take about a spoon full, roll it around in your mouth and then swallow. Don’t make it any more complicated than this.

    I must say, this is not much of a preventive as it is a method to stop leg cramps. I wish some one would come up with a means for them not to occur. Soap bars in the bed are good but require refreshing from time to time.

  17. ann

    One magnesium cap. at bedtime for muscle cramps in legs. After a few days cramps gone.

  18. Evelyn

    When a cramp occurs, I take a mouthful of dill pickle juice and swish it around in my mouth for about 2 minutes then spit it out but don’t rinse my mouth. Works every time without fail. After reading your info about TRP channels, I realized it shouldn’t be necessary to actually swallow the pickle juice. As a person with acid reflux, that’s best for me at 3 am.

  19. Bonnie

    I use pickle juice to relieve leg and foot cramps quite often. I just take about 3 big gulps of it straight from the jar and it relieves the cramp immediately, not even taking more than 2 or 3 seconds. I am particular about the brand, if that makes a difference. I only use Best-Maid Dill pickles.

  20. Diane

    After 5 back surgeries I have a lot of nerve pain in my legs. I find that pickle juice is the only thing that helps. I keep a couple of swallows in a cup by my bed so I can get to it quickly in the middle of the night.

  21. Joseph

    Plain old grocery-store bought pickle juice has been the ONLY remedy for my muscle cramps. I simply buy a jar of the kosher dill pickles in the grocery store. When I have a cramp I take about half a cup. It stops the cramp literally within seconds.

  22. Carolyn
    Spokane, Wa.

    After using real pickle juice ( right out of the jar) successfully for months, one night I woke up in excruciating muscle cramps. too tired to go downstairs I reached over grabbed 2 baby aspirins and in seconds the cramps were gone. P.S. Hot shots didn’t work for me.

  23. Aletta
    West Virginia

    I didn’t get to add my location in the previous message.

  24. Aletta

    I used to be awakened by muscle cramps in my legs and feet. I would get up and go to the kitchen to get some pickle juice. after a couple of swallows, my cramps would start to subside. Ever since I started drinking a little water with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in the evening, I have not had cramps.

  25. Bettie
    wilkes county, N C

    I have used a heaping teaspoon of yellow mustard for several years to ease night time and sometime day cramps in my thighs, calves and feet cramps. Usually by the time I take it and walk back to bed the cramp is easing and soon gone. I also use vicks vapo rub on my feet when I have a cough. It helps me sleep.

  26. Ken

    For those subject to migraines, you may be substituting muscle cramps for a migraine, since pickling solution is a known trigger.

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