Cramps occur when a muscle contracts on its own. The resulting sensation is usually not serious, although it can be quite painful (1, 2). 

While the cause of cramps — and leg cramps in particular — is not well understood, dehydration, low levels of electrolytes, and muscle fatigue are common theories, especially when cramps occur during or after physical activity (1, 3). 

To help prevent or treat leg cramps, many individuals turn to sports drinks, pickle juice, or massage therapy, but one remedy you may not be as familiar with is mustard (3). 

Usually used as a condiment for burgers and sandwiches, many people claim that mustard can help relieve cramps. However, the science behind it isn’t fully understood.

This article reviews the current research on the role of mustard as a remedy for leg cramps.

Does mustard help with cramps?

Currently, no evidence supports mustard’s ability to reduce or prevent leg cramps (3). 

Still, there are several theories as to why some individuals report experiencing relief after ingesting it.

Some have theorized that the electrolytes in mustard, specifically sodium and potassium, can prevent leg cramps after exercise. 

However, a study in nine healthy adults found that consuming mustard after a 2-hour bout of exercise did not fully replenish electrolyte losses due to sweating and dehydration (4). 

Another theory is that the turmeric in mustard may help relax muscles and relieve leg cramps due to the spice’s anti-inflammatory properties. However, no research currently exists to support this theory.

Recently, researchers have suggested that mustard may help with leg cramps by activating sensors in the back of your throat. Specifically, molecules called isothiocyanates in mustard are thought to cause this activation (5, 6, 7, 8). 

As a result, a signal is sent out in your body that prevents the nerves in your muscles from becoming overly excited and causing muscles to cramp (6, 7, 8). 

Still, more research is needed to prove that mustard is effective for this purpose and that it works by this mechanism. 

summary

No evidence supports the notion that mustard is an effective remedy for leg cramps. However, recent findings suggest that certain molecules in mustard may trigger various effects that could prevent muscles from cramping.

What you should know about using mustard for cramps

Currently, there’s a lack of scientific evidence on the effectiveness of using mustard to help treat or prevent muscle cramps. 

Still, some individuals swear that this popular condiment really works.

While some health professionals may warn that mustard may worsen dehydration, this hasn’t been proven. Overall, mustard is considered safe for most individuals to consume (4). 

Given that there aren’t studies to prove an effective dose, it’s unclear how much mustard is needed to help prevent or treat cramps. However, most anecdotal reports claim that 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) are sufficient to see results. 

Summary

Mustard is considered safe for most individuals. Yet, due to a lack of research, it’s unclear how much mustard you would need to take to prevent or treat leg cramps.

The bottom line

While many people claim that ingesting mustard can help ward off or treat leg cramps, evidence supporting its use for these purposes is currently lacking. 

Still, recent studies have suggested a mechanism that may indicate that this popular condiment has the potential to help ward off leg cramps.

Despite a lack of scientific proof of its effectiveness for this purpose, for those who are curious to try it, the occasional use of mustard to prevent or get rid of post-exercise muscle cramps is likely safe for most individuals.