jar of spicy dijon mustard, mustard relieve muscle cramps

If you get nighttime leg cramps, you know how painful they can be. Whether it is your calf, your thigh or even the arch of your foot, you might jump out of bed yelling. You could stretch the offending muscle, hoping that it will relax. Or instead, you might swallow a teaspoonful of yellow mustard for quick relief. How does mustard relieve muscle cramps?

Will Dijon Mustard Relieve Muscle Cramps?

Q. You frequently mention yellow mustard (as well as pickle juice) as a possible remedy for muscle cramps. Is there something about yellow mustard in particular that seems to make it work, or would brown or spicy or coarse ground or country Dijon or honey mustard work as well?

A. There have been no scientific studies of any type of mustard to relieve muscle cramps. Hence, there is no way to judge whether Dijon mustard is better or worse than cheap yellow mustard.

We suspect that mustard works through the same mechanism as pickle juice, olive juice, vinegar, cinnamon or cayenne pepper. Mustard oils contain isothiocyanates that activate transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in sensory nerves in the skin, mouth, throat and stomach (Jordt et al, Nature, Jan. 15, 2004).  Stimulating these nerves sends out a signal that overrides the inappropriate hyperactivity of nerves causing muscle cramps (Craighead et al, Muscle & Nerve, Sept. 2017).

Learn More:

How could hot sauce or mustard relieve muscle cramps? The explanation of TRP channels and how they work, along with more about the science behind other home remedies, is in our eGuide to Favorite Home Remedies. You might also want to listen to Dr. Bruce Bean explain why and how he and his friend Dr. Rod McKinnon studied up on muscle cramps and how to relieve them. It is Show 1054: The Scientific Explanation for a Weird Remedy.

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  1. Abigail
    NW
    Reply

    To avoid painful trips to the kitchen, I’ve found keeping a small ice chest in my bedroom works to keep yellow mustard cool all night

  2. Bryna
    Illinois
    Reply

    I have pickle juice by my bed, but found that a packet of yellow mustard works much faster. I pick em up at the deli dept of my grocery store. Thought it was a crazy idea but hurt so much, decided to try it. It WORKED. Love that yellow mustard!

  3. Harvey
    Studio City, California
    Reply

    Plain yellow mustard has quickly stopped night-time muscle cramps for both my wife and I, and it feels like a life-saver with those middle of the night “attacks. Whenever I’m in a sandwich shop or take-out restaurant, I get extra little mustard packets to keep at bedside, since a jar of mustard in the kitchen just seems too far away when a cramp comes! I tear open, or preferably, cut the end off, and run my finger along the length of the packet towards my mouth, which very quickly gets the mustard-magic to do it’s work — “through the lips and over the gums, lookout cramp, here it comes!”

  4. Joan
    Nyack, NY
    Reply

    I have found leg cramps are helped a great deal by taking magnesium. For some people cramps are a sign of being low in the mineral. Hot spicy food like mustard may indeed contain magnesium, plus the hot spice may be helpful also.

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