By Karen Appold
Leg cramps occur when muscles in your calves, hamstrings, or quadriceps involuntarily contract–resulting in pain and tightness. Also called a “charley horse,” these cramps can have a variety of causes, such as dehydration; repeatedly using a muscle; sitting in an uncomfortable position; doing extensive exercise; having an electrolyte, hormonal, or fluid imbalance; straining due to a mineral deficiency or inadequate stretching; having a nerve or muscle disease; being obese; having an insufficient amount of magnesium or calcium in your bloodstream; or having bad circulation in your legs.
Leg cramps can occur at any age and last one to several minutes. One person may feel sore spots or tenderness while someone else might have intense pain and be unable to move the cramped leg.
You can typically avoid cramps with good bodily care. However, it may be good to consider trying the following herbs for leg cramps. Here’s a partial list of herbs that can be consumed directly or added as nutritional supplements.
- Black cohosh is an herb with antispasmodic properties that can relax your muscles.
- Bromelain, a digestive enzyme in pineapple, is used by your body to stop inflammation. It appears to reduce swelling and expedite healing.
- Butcher’s broom, also called box holly, is a natural anti-inflammatory herb. This herb is believed to increase the flow of lymphatic fluid.
- Chamomile, available as a tea, can also reduce leg cramp pain. It increases glycine (amino acid) in your system, which relaxes muscles.
- Ginger, which stimulates circulation, is the most common herb for leg cramps. You can consume it raw as well as in cooked foods, in teas, or as a supplement. Candied ginger is another option.
- Peruvian bark, a bitter herb, has anti-inflammatory properties that aid with circulation. Cramp bark, an antispasmodic herb, relaxes muscles as well as your nervous system. Both of these barks can be purchased as teas or supplements.
- Turmeric, an herb used in Indian dishes and curries, has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in antioxidants.
In addition to herbs, you can also take magnesium supplements to relieve leg cramps. This mineral has natural analgesic effects. Alfalfa, an herb, contains high amounts of magnesium, as does black molasses, avocadoes, and apricots.
Another way to relieve leg cramps is by taking a warm shower or bath, which eases tense muscles and relieves muscle cramps. Try adding herbed oils– lavender, rosemary, or eucalyptus oil–to increase soaking benefits. You can also massage these oils into your muscles to relieve cramps.
Karen Appold is a medical writer in Lehigh Valley, PA.