buy quinine

If you suffer from nighttime leg cramps, you may have spent some time looking for treatments to prevent them. If you are old enough, you may remember a time when you could buy quinine tablets to treat your leg cramps. That is no longer possible in the US, as one reader noted.

Why Can’t You Buy Quinine Pills Any More?

Q. I have read your warnings about quinine and I think you are totally off base. For years, I have taken quinine a few times a month for leg cramps. Nothing else my doctor recommended worked.

When the FDA banned quinine for leg cramps, I was really in a jam. The leg cramps were very disruptive.

There are some low-dose over-the-counter quinine pills in Canada. Why can I buy quinine pills there but not in the U.S.? The amount of quinine in tonic water is not nearly enough for me.

FDA Is Concerned About Quinine Side Effects:

A. The FDA banned the use of quinine for leg cramps more than a decade ago. That was because it can cause life-threatening blood disorders.

It is possible to buy quinine tablets in Canada, but we would advise you to discuss your plan with your physician. Quinine can also cause digestive upset, ringing in the ears, headache, blurry vision, skin rash and irregular heart rhythms.

You are not the only person who is upset by the FDA’s decision. Several years ago, we heard from another reader with a similar dilemma.

Lost Without Quinine:

Q. I am devastated that quinine is no longer available. I have taken it safely for decades to reduce leg cramping, especially at night. Since I ran out and cannot get more I have a terrible time sleeping. I spend most of the night pacing the floor to work out the cramps. Why would the FDA ban quinine when it is the only thing that works?

A. Many people do well with quinine but for some it is extremely dangerous.

One reader wrote:

“I took quinine for nighttime leg cramps. At that time, I was working for a physician who said quinine might help and wrote me a prescription.

“I took one pill and within a couple of hours, I was deathly ill, not knowing what was going on. My doctor sent me immediately for blood work. My liver function results were worse than my husband’s when he died from liver cancer. It took more than two weeks to get my body back on track. I would not recommend quinine to anyone.”

The FDA reasoned that leg cramps are not life threatening but some reactions to quinine are. Consequently, the agency decided this drug offers more risk than benefit. After making it impossible to buy quinine without a prescription, the agency ultimately banned doctors prescribing it for anything other than malaria. Apparently, HealthCanada came to a different conclusion and has left quinine on the market there.

Managing Your Leg Cramps When You Can’t Buy Quinine:

There are, unfortunately, no other approved medications for leg cramps. People with nighttime leg cramps may benefit from home remedies. Tonic water, which contains some quinine, is one option. Others include yellow mustard, HotShot, low-sodium V-8 juice or soap under the bottom sheet. More details on these and many other remedies are available in our Guide to Leg Pain.

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  1. Shirley Miller
    Huntsville TX
    Reply

    I have had leg cramps for years. what helps me the most is taking magnesium supplements especially in the evening and limiting all calcium intake to the morning. I don’t take any calcium supplements, but I do eat yogurt, greens, and kale All in the morning and at lunch. a recent blood test reveal that I have very good calcium levels.

  2. Lonee
    PASADENA, Ca.
    Reply

    I found that eating anything with SUGAR after 4pm I suffer from leg cramps all night.

  3. Phyllis
    Reply

    I’ve had leg cramps for several years and after researching, realized low magnesium was the main cause for the leg cramps.

  4. Roumiana
    CA
    Reply

    There is a bright red soft drink from San Pellegrino “Sanbitter” in tiny bottles. It tastes like Campari without the alcohol. It is pretty bitter and helps a lot. Unfortunately it’s difficult to find in LA county and it’s pricey.

  5. Pat
    Virginia
    Reply

    My mother, who was in her 80s, was taking quinine for leg cramps about 12 years ago. She had a fall, hit her head and within a short time was bruised from her forehead to her collar bone. At the hospital she was diagnosed with a clot on her brain. The surgery she needed had to be delayed until she could be given two units of platelets. We had no idea the quinine had such side effects. Her surgery went well, and she recovered in a matter of a couple of weeks. Best news of all, she is still doing well as she approaches her 98th birthday in March.

  6. keith
    New South Wales Australia.
    Reply

    I have found that bananas keep leg cramps at bay . 1/2 to 1 full one every day for 2 or 3 days then 1 every couple of days did the trick for me. Why, I don’t know or care they just work.
    Hope this helps, Keith.

  7. Linda
    Dallas, Texas
    Reply

    I am glad you are still warning people about quinine. Shortly after reading one of your articles, a coworker shared that her 10 year old granddaughter had been hospitalized with a life-threatening blood disorder with symptoms like the ones you said quinine could cause. I gave my coworker a copy of your article and also information I found on the internet that quinine is used to make “natural” lemon flavoring for food. I suggested my coworker ask her athletic granddaughter if she had drunk tonic water as a “sports” drink. Answer was no, but the girl had been regularly drinking commercial “lemonade” and other lemon flavored drinks

  8. Carmelita
    Champaign Illinois 61821
    Reply

    The FDA will discontinue use of quinine, because it is more detrimental to our health but they will at the same time OK other medication that is far worse, the side effects of most of these drugs are killing more people then they will admit,they forced us to watch hundreds of ads a day, an they are far worse then quinine,

  9. Greta
    Torrance
    Reply

    I have had very painful leg cramps and found that taking Magnesium was the answer for me. I take Magnesium everyday now, which usually prevents them. But, if I do have a leg cramp, I take an extra capsule or two and the pain quickly (sometimes immediately) goes away.

  10. Blanche
    greensboro, nc
    Reply

    I buy a six-pack of the little bottles of tonic water and drink one once a week and keep the cramps at bay. I also keep a few packets of mustard, the kind you get when you buy sandwiches in a grocery store, in case of an emergency when I forgot to drink some quinine. I reach for a packet, tear it open and squeeze it in my mouth, and the pain is gone usually within seconds. Tastes terrible at 3:00 in the morning, but it works.

  11. Janice
    Texas
    Reply

    This comment is about the quinine article. You said is has been taken off the market because of dangerous side effects. Other OTC products have bad side effects such as aspirin, nsaids, cigarettes, liquor, etc. but continue to be on the shelves. Can’t a warning be put on the quinine product and let people make their own decision? I too use the holistic quinine for leg cramps periodically and have done fine.

  12. Gail C.
    CA
    Reply

    I had leg cramps every night when I slept in my bed. So I’d get out of bed and sleep in a chair. I can sleep sitting up or in a recliner. Whichever I use, I don’t get the cramps, only in bed. I heard about magnesium, and now I take two capsules a day, one in the morning and one later in the evening. I’m now able to sleep in bed without cramps. What a joy!

    • lorenzo
      vancouver
      Reply

      Keep the quinine down or you will find out how it will affect your Immune system and blood disorders. You are using it sparingly but high doses WILL kill you. Heroine cut with quinine is killing people not heroine.

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