Some remedies maintain their popularity for years and years. We received this letter back in 2004, when we were just getting used to the idea that swallowing a spoonful of yellow mustard alleviates a muscle cramp quickly.
Easing Nighttime Leg Cramps:
Q. I was surprised that in a recent column you seemed unfamiliar with using mustard for leg cramps. Last year you recommended that very same remedy.
My mother has leg cramps almost every night. Because of your earlier column on yellow mustard, I got a huge supply of individually wrapped mustard packets. She keeps them on her nightstand and in her purse. When a leg cramp starts, she takes the mustard and the cramps disappear immediately.
She got a cramp recently in a doctor’s office. Since she had used all her packets up, I asked the nurse to get some mustard from the break room. She’d never heard of the remedy but was impressed when the cramps went away. The turmeric in the mustard is the lifesaver.
Mustard Alleviates Sudden Muscle Cramps:
A. Thanks for reminding us of the earlier story:
“A friend of ours uses plain mustard for leg cramps. She swallows a teaspoonful of mustard to relieve the pain whenever she gets leg cramps. This home remedy works so well for her that she carries packets of mustard wherever she goes.”
Back is 2004, we said: “As far as we can tell, no one has done research to show that yellow mustard works against leg cramps. But your mother’s experience suggests that this home remedy has merit.”
TRP Channels Explain Why Mustard Alleviates Cramping:
Now we have research that explains how mustard may be working. It is all about TRP (transient receptor potential) channels. Activating these TRP channels in nerve cells sends a signal that interrupts the nerves creating muscle cell hyperactivity (Craighead et al, Muscle & Nerve, Sep. 2017). Mustard can trigger TRP channels, as can vinegar, cinnamon, ginger or hot pepper.
Scientists really began to study and understand TRP channels only at the beginning of the 21st century. As they describe their research, we will let you know more about it.