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Reader Dismisses Mustard for Leg Cramps as Junk Science

Reader is convinced that mustard for leg cramps is bogus at best and junk science at worst. Do we always need an explanation for why something works?

Q. I am disappointed in your response to the person who claimed that swallowing a teaspoonful of mustard cured severe leg cramps in two minutes. You agreed with the writer that it was most likely the turmeric in mustard, or perhaps the vinegar, that eased the leg cramps.

Explain please how anything that is swallowed could go through the digestive system, enter the blood stream, reach the writer’s legs and ease cramps-all in less than two minutes.

This sounds like junk science and should be relegated to the trash bin, along with putting a bar of soap at the foot of the bed, under the sheets, to cure leg cramps. That’s another magic cure with no evidence.

A. You are certainly correct that we don’t have a good reason so many people find mustard for leg cramps so helpful. Despite your skepticism, we have heard from hundreds of people who have done their own experiments.

Here is one example:

“I suffer from frequent, very painful leg cramps. When you recommended a spoonful of mustard for leg cramps, I thought it was just some form of folk snake oil. But what did I have to lose in trying it?

“It works remarkably well and has never failed me. It usually takes two to three minutes before relief is noted.”

Dorothy shared this experience with soap:

“My husband has recently been troubled with hand cramps. They seemed to follow steroid treatment.

“I looked on your website and read about soap being recommended. He laughed but I insisted he try.

“He couldn’t believe it. It worked right away. As he didn’t believe holding soap in his hand would work I don’t think the placebo effect was responsible.”

IM offered this:

“I have started holding soap when I get hand cramps. The pain and cramps stop within a few seconds.”

No Proof for Mustard for Leg Cramps or Soap for Hand Cramps

Even though we can’t explain why mustard or soap can be helpful against cramps in such a short amount of time does not mean these remedies are bogus. The mechanism of action of many prescription drugs is also unknown.

Compared to OTC and prescription drugs that are often expensive and come with a long list of side effects we think mustard and soap are cheap and safe. You may call the stories “junk science” but if these remedies bring relief we are delighted. By the way, there are no FDA-approved drugs for either leg cramps or hand cramps.

People who like simple solutions for common complaints may find our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies, of value.

Share your own experience with soap or mustard below in the comment section and please vote on this article at the top of the page.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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