The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can You Prevent Leg Cramps With Hot Soup?

Enjoying a bowl of spicy hot soup might be just the ticket to prevent bothersome nighttime leg cramps. The pungent flavors could be responsible.
Thick vegetable soup with pasta in a ceramic bowl on a wooden background. Selective focus.

Preventing nighttime leg cramps can be challenging. A long time ago, doctors would prescribe quinine to people with cramps that wake them at night. That has not been standard medical practice for decades now. The dangers of quinine are too great to risk using it for a condition that is not life-threatening. However, spicy hot soup has no side effects that we are aware of. Would it help prevent muscle cramps?

Hot Soup With Cabbage and Chile Peppers:

Q. Could leg cramps be reduced or eliminated by eating homemade hot soup? It has cabbage, crushed tomatoes, chiles, carrots, onions, celery and spices. My wife made two series of such soups and I have not had leg cramps while we were eating them.

I take a potassium pill daily. I’ve tried a commercial pill that is supposed to stop leg cramps, to no avail.

A. The vegetables in your wife’s soup are rich in potassium, and that may help. Possibly, however, the magic lies in the spices, especially the chile peppers. Scientific evidence supports the idea that certain strong flavors such as hot peppers and other spices can relieve muscle cramps quickly (Muscle & Nerve, Sept. 2017).  They activate ion channels associated with nerves and can override the misfiring that causes muscle cramps. 

The Science Behind Home Remedies:

You can learn more about the science behind this and other home remedies in our eGuide to Favorite Home Remedies. We suspect that the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels that explain how mustard reverses muscle cramps also explain why spicy hot soup can help.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Craighead DH et al, "Ingestion of transient receptor potential channel agonists attenuates exercise-induced muscle cramps." Muscle & Nerve, Sept. 2017. DOI: 10.1002/mus.25611
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Try Magnesium. I take a 250mg capsule at bedtime. Haven’t had leg or foot cramps since…. unless I’m off it for a week or so. It does help tremendously with constipation as well, sometimes a bit too much, hence the vacation from it from time to time.

I had leg cramps until I took a Turmeric capsule once or twice a day. Mustard (just the ordinary hot dog type) will also work. But I checked into WHY it worked, and it was the Turmeric in it that performed the miracle.

The best way I have found to relieve muscle cramps is magnesium oil. Three or four sprays, and the cramps is gone. This is like taking an Epsom salts bath without the mess. If you search “magnesium oil” online you will find many varieties and more than 4000 reviews, the majority of which are 4 stars or better. I have been using magnesium oil daily for years. It works even faster if you over spray it with a 70/30 mixture of DMSO and water.

What exact type of chiles are they recommending?

Pretty much any type of chile that tastes somewhat hot to you should do the trick.

Many of the fixes that have been named are difficult to follow on a regular basis. I wouldn’t mind an occasional spicy soup, but my wife can’t eat it, so I eat what she makes. The pork elimination, suggested by Chuck is interesting. I’ve heard that eliminating pork can solve many health issues, however unexpectedly.

Water is problematic, and mustard did not work for me.

My solution for leg cramps is both easy and rock solid.
I rub a drop of palmarosa essential oil on the troublesome areas before retiring. Works every time I remember to do it. If I wake up with a cramp, I can simply put it on and rub it in for relief.

Best use of essential oils, I’ve found so far.

My doctor had me on allupurinol for gout. I was getting excruciating leg craps. I would take homeopathic leg cramp pills, and the pain would disappear in under a minute. I had never had leg cramps before. I eliminated pork from my diet, the cramps went away, and I was able to quit the allupurinol.

Re: Leg Cramps. After 4 years of searching for a remedy for unbearable leg cramps, I discovered that a vitamin B12 pill eliminated them. In addition, I now take a multi-vitamin that has all the vitamin Bs in it.

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