The People's Perspective on Medicine

Pickle Relish Will Do in a Pinch Against Leg Cramps

Pickle juice is a classic home remedy for painful leg cramps, but pickle relish is an acceptable substitute and may be more readily available.

Over the years, we have collected quite a number of home remedies for sudden painful muscle cramps. Often these are leg cramps, but occasionally muscles in the hands or arms cramp as well. One favorite remedy that coaches love is pickle juice. A few sips of pickle juice can chase a cramp away. But what about pickle relish? Does it work as well?

Pickle Relish for Sudden Leg Cramps:

Q. I appreciate the suggestion to use pickle juice for leg cramps. I don’t usually keep pickles around but I always have dill relish in the fridge. When I feel a cramp coming on, I just take two tablespoons of pickle relish and it goes away in seconds!

Why Does Relish Work?

A. Pickle relish should work just as well as pickle juice for stopping a nighttime muscle cramp. Presumably, the sharp taste of the vinegar in the relish is largely responsible for triggering TRP (transient receptor potential) channels in nerves to reverse the muscle contraction.

You can learn more about how TRP channel activation eases muscle cramps from this interview with Bruce Bean, PhD. He is a neurobiologist who suffered debilitating arm muscle cramps while paddling a kayak in the Atlantic. After that experience, he spent many years investigating the physiology of muscle cramps. His explanation of TRP channels and their role is fascinating.

Learn More:

You can find out about other popular home remedies in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. We write about reader favorites for many common problems, from allergies and nail fungus to heartburn and high cholesterol.

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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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Horseradish? as above? how about wasabi peas?

I wonder if sauerkraut or kim-chi would work as well?

I still like quinine – Qualquin or tonic water with quinine. Leg, toe, ankle cramps subside within two or three minutes after walking around.

I carry little mustard packets with me in my car, purse, overnight bag. I have been getting muscle cramps about 1 per 2 weeks and they move to different parts of my legs…calves, thighs, hamstrings, feet. Almost immobilizes me. I squirt a little pack of mustard into my mouth and the cramp releases in 30 seconds. It’s like a miracle and I still am amazed that it works so well!

My husband has been suffering with muscle aches in his arms and hands also weak legs ,he was on Crestor ever since his bypass surgery, I went on the net and it said being on Cretor to long could cause this,he has been off Crestor for about four weeks is somewhat better,
He is nothing like he was pain wise but a far cry from being painless.
The doctors have no solution??

Since vinegar seems to be the magic ingredient, why not just take some apple cider vinegar instead?

After a long day of hiking recently I got in bed and almost immediately both my legs started cramping up. I remembered reading your posts about TRP channel activation and stumbled to the refrigerator. I did could not find any mustard or pickle juice but I did have a fresh horseradish root which I grated into a bowl and took a big sniff. After a minute or two (when my sinuses stopped burning) I was able drift off into a relaxing cramp-free sleep.

The vinegar in pickle relish juice is the active ingredient.
I’d trust ACV to work in almost any condition!

Does anyone have a home remedy for numbness and tingling in the arms and hands especially during times of inactivity at night or just sitting?

I have had troubles with cramps – mostly in my hands, feet a lower leg. I discovered that taking a pill of Magnesium daily, ends the cramps. And I would much rather take a small pill than drink pickle juice!

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