Whoa! 7 Natural Charley Horse Cures

Those painful leg and foot cramps can ruin a good night's sleep. Here's a list of our best natural remedies for when one strikes, and what you can do to prevent them from "cramping" your style!

Ever wonder why a pain in your leg is called a  “Charley horse?” This term is all-American and no one seems to know exactly why we have such an interesting name for a leg cramp. Did you know you’re twice as likely to get a Charley horse in the summertime? So how do you get rid of them when they strike? 

Why Are They Called “Charley Horses”?

Some believe that the name came from a lame horse named Charley, who pulled the roller on the Chicago White Sox ballpark in the 1890s. Others say it has everything to do with baseball pitcher Charley Radbourn. His nickname was “Old Hoss” and stories say he got cramps during baseball games in the 1880s.

Wherever the name originated, these painful leg cramps are no fun. Try these 7 home remedies for Charley horses:

7 Charley Horse Home Remedies

  1. Put your bare foot on a cold floor. Some say it will make a leg cramp disappear.
  2. As soon as the leg cramp happens, pull your toes up toward your knee and it may disappear.
  3. Magnesium oil is a good natural remedy for muscle cramps. Massage the oil into the cramp and it will be relieved within minutes.
  4. Take a swig of dill pickle juice.
  5. Mix a tablespoon of vinegar with a teaspoon of honey and drink up.
  6. Elevate the area. Try to raise the affected area by putting pillows under it or propping it on an armrest.
  7. Ice it. Ice may help calm down the muscle spasm. Place an ice pack or cool compress wrapped in a towel on the area the Charley horse is affecting. Keep it on for 10-15 minutes.

To Prevent Future Charley Horses:

  • Stretch regularly, especially before and after working out, and before bed.
  • Wear good, comfortable, supportive shoes.
  • Don’t overextend yourself. Whether working out or doing household chores, listen to your body and don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities.
  • Drink plenty of water on a regular basis. During workouts, or on very hot days, switch to a sports drink to replace electrolytes that are lost through your sweat.
  • Drink alcohol and coffee in moderation, as they can contribute to dehydration.
  • Eat foods that are rich in potassium and magnesium, such as whole grains, bananas, dates, raisins, apricots, cabbage, broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and fish.
  • Eat the recommended daily allowance of dairy products, such as milk and cheese, and talk to your doctor about whether you would benefit from a calcium supplement.
  • Make sure your bed sheets are loose. Tight-fitting sheets can force the legs and feet into awkward positions.

For most people, Charley horses are a mild and occasional annoyance. If you experience leg cramps on a regular basis, visit to your doctor. Frequent muscle spasms can indicate a more serious underlying condition requiring medical attention.

Do you have any home remedies for when a charley horse strikes? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Timothy Crawley

My grandfather would tie a string around his big toe when he got leg cramps at nite. Never worked for me.

Farmers' Almanac

Hi Timothy! Thanks for sharing this memory about your grandfather. We hope some of these other remedies help you on your way.


tonic water with quinine. instant cure keep a bottle by your bed

Gina Perugini

When they say yellow mustard, and he just mean yellow mustard seed or mustard out of the store, bought jar


Drinking lots of water and a teaspoon of yellow mustard (the kind you may put on sandwiches) is supposed to be helpful!


I drink plain yellow mustard when I get a cramp.
Works like magic.

Treva mcmaster

Take a magnesium supplement each day. Talk to your dr.


I’ve kept two bars of soap under my sheets for decades for restlees leg syndrome helped for the longest, nobody can explain this that I’ve seen my boyfriend told me this in the 1970’s still using it , started getting cramps in thighs and lower legs on high does of LassixI take a spoon of mustard or pickle juice , my Mother gets them bad not a big water drinker she takes mustard .

Gina Perugini

My dad got some really bad to people told him mustard, but he’s not sure what kind of mustard and how much to take


We have heard yellow mustard, and about a teaspoon. Also be sure he is drinking lots of water!


Keep 6 -oz. bottles of tonic–as in gin and tonic– next to the bed. Works wonders!


i purchased the cloud foot massager and use it once a day and have never had another leg or foot cramp at night while sleeping and i used to jump out of bed at least two or three times a night with severe leg and foot cramps…works for me and thankful…

Sandy Thompson

Potassium capsules
Arch supports in shoes
As a teenage athlete they were crippling!

Dave Fuller

1/2 teaspoon salt in about 1-1/2 oz. warm water and toss it back. This works for me consistently.


I’m having terrible restless legs; nothing helps! Any other suggestions? I have chronic low back pain! I can’t sleep! Please help with ideas! Ready to choose surgery for my low back pain!

Susan Higgins

Hi Kathy, we have a story on restless legs that may help: You can find it here.


A bar of soap with “Limonene” high in the ingredients list secured under the fitted sheet or in a nylon stocking at the foot of your bed helps with restless leg syndrome. Rub your feet lightly against it nightly & it helps. Helps my hubby with his!


Tums, yep the antacid it’s the calcium, keep by your bed. Chew a couple. Works almost instantly.

Last edited 2 years ago by Tammi

Charley horses best remedy is a shot of pickle juice and a heating pad they also have over the counter pills called Hylands leg cramps at Walmart they work wonders!!


I need to try these!


I had one this morning. I took some ultima electrolyte drink mix in water and started to drink that. The CH immediately stopped. Any electrolyte with magnesium will work.

Melinda Terrie Miller

Anytime you,have a charley horse eat one teaspoon of mustard and it will disappear instantly works everytime

Susan Higgins

Great, thank you Melinda, for the tip!


I found that when you are having a Charley horse attack, drinking about 6 or 8 ounces of tonic water stops the cramp in about 10 or 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter if it’s diet tonic, for those who are calorie conscious.

Lois O'Connor

Sprinkle paprika on your tongue and swallow. It works almost immediately. You can feel the cramp loosen and subside, even the worst leg or thigh cramps.

Sandi Duncan

Interesting! We hadn’t heard of that one Lois, thanks for sharing.


After having some of all the foods and supplements in ones diet, trying all the other remedies and tricks for “leg cramps” to no avail, you might try getting the really good stuff. I found some of this when searching online about back pain. Get it from Loosethebackpain.com.
My remedy protocol is to drink some pickle juice. Drink some water. Take three Heal-n-Soothe. Rub the whole limb with Rub On Relief. (These are from LivingWell Nutraceuticals.) If the cramps come again in the same evening, repeat the whole protocol again.
This cramping mostly happens to me because I overworked doing the yard work (usually 3 or more hours). If this occurs, I just immediately do all things listed as soon as I get in from working, because I know it is bound to happen and not having to go through that pain is worth every penny I spent on the good stuff.

Cynthia Harnack

Just stand up and rest your full weight on the effected leg. The charley horse goes away instantly. It really works good for me.


I always associate Charley Horses with dehydration, that’s why you get them more in the summer.


I take 500 mg of magnesium tablet. It works in a minute for me & others I know. But you might want to consult your doctor first, to make sure it’s a safe thing for you to do.


Eat a tablespoon of Yellow mustard.


Put your hands on the wall and walk backwards as far as possible to put pressure on that muscle

Barb Potter

I put a hot cloth on the cramp and it goes away instantly.

Mary Louise Jensen

That is the best for me also.

Denise S Harper

Pickle juice works wonders. I don’t eat pickles however I have plenty of pickles on hand just for the juice. I also take a jar of pickles when we travel.

Eileen Eger

I use a tablespoon of yellow mustard and if necessary another tablespoon if really bad. It’s like a miracle goes away right away


Someone told my late husband to eat a tablespoon of prepared mustard for charley horses and swore by it.

Carol Guthrie

Lavender oil always works for me.


Do u mix with a carrier oil or put on straight??


Tonic water with quinine was recommended by my GP and it works

Dixie Wilkins

Accupressure point is earlobe. When I awaken with a cramped leg muscle, I pinch the earlobe of the side cramping. Pinch it HARD, and do not release until you feel the cramp has left. Hal Linden taught me this when he hosted FYI in the 1980’s. I worked as a waitress and believe me it has really helped me throughout the years.


Hot water brings immediate relief. My friend gets into a hot shower to get rid of a Charlie horse. Eating bananas regularly also helps prevent them.


I use a blow dryer on high on the area and run it and it goes away. I get the really bad ones on the top of my ankle.


Watermelon! High in potassium and will help rehydrate

BETTY Shepherd

Put a bar of soap under your fitted sheet helps while in bed

Elizabeth Guinette

I’ve never heard of that. Do you know why/how it works? It sounds great. That’s when I get cramps, in bed late night..

Lisa Goodinson

My husband says he’d rather suffer the pain than drink the dill pickle juice. He despises pickles so much! lol

alice martinez

A simple white string works wonders and you wont get a charlie horse while you have it on. Put it on each of your ankles and leave it there..

Jessica Torres

I immediately looked at the last name of the person with the solution for using white string…I laughed because this is a Hispanic remedy passed thru generations..usually it is said for a baby with colic or fussy take a piece of white string wet it with saliva and put it on the babies forehead!! And…no more crying or fussy baby!! Gotta live the Hispanic home remedies.. they’ve worked my entire upbringing! Thanks to Gramdma!

Rebecca Norwood

I was told be a retired semi driver to put a piece of cotton string around my ankles as I had Charlie horses so severe that my legs get bruises from them I have them over my entire body even my face and most of the time I’m crying uncontrollably from the massive pain. So I tried it. I did it on my rt leg first for a week to see if it really worked. I had Charlie horse in my left leg almost every night that first week and NOT ONE in my rt leg at all. So I put the string around my left ankle as well and it’s been 3 weeks in my rt n 2 weeks in my left leg without a single Charlie horse. An Indian medicine man told him to try this over 40 yrs ago and he has done it ever since and has not had 1 nope not even 1 Charlie horse since. Not quite sure how this works but it does!!!

B Daniell

Drink a glass of orange juice, which has lots of potassium. If you’re diabetic, drink sugar-free Tonic water. Also, Hyland leg cramp disolvable pills. Leg cramps can be excruciatingly painful.


Two words. Tonic Water. Tastes awful but within 30 seconds it’s gone. I have terrible thigh Charlie Horses and the Quinine in the tonic water does the trick

Linda K Ladman

Put sodium free flavoring in your tonic water per my heart doctor and by my kidney doctor only drink 1 cup before bedtime.


I found that by lifting the affected leg benefits best when I lift upward toward ceiling and use both hands to almost simultaneusly stroke down toward the heart in constant combination place a good grip around the middle arch. and pinch all toes at once while focusing pressure on the ball of the foot in rotation is a home run.


Happy to see the last comment was made in Jan 2019.
I get “charley horse” cramps in both my calves but never at the same time. I wake up at night in excruciating pain, where I am unable to even get up. I have prescription magnesium, and eat healthily. The cramp often brings tears as there is nothing I can do. I drink a gallon or 2 of water every day & have tried all of the above. Bar 1. Ivory soap. I can’t wrap my head around a bar of soap helping. Can any one explain how this could work?
Personally I have noticed when I drink alkaline water instead of bottled water, they don’t occur as often. Cramps usually indicate a lack of sodium & I have only used Himalayan Salt for the past 10 yrs.
The reason I’m commenting on this is because my calf muscle still hurts for up to 48 hours after the charley. It feels similar to over excercising & you wake up the next day unable to negotiate even the smallest flight of stairs. I can’t be the only one who has pain after the onslaught of such disabilitating muscle spasms? They never happen anywhere else in my body or while I’m awake.
Suggestions or clarity anyone?

Susan Higgins

Hi Nina, we get many comments from our readers that they suffer from leg cramps like you describe, which is why we try to post this story on Facebook often. People find it helpful. Think of a back spasm, or a pulled muscle, the pain of which can last for days. The muscles in your legs suffer the same consequences and can be very painful until they heal. Try to stay off them and massage helps. We hope you’re getting some relief.


Nina I’m trying to find something also. They say it’s the limonene in the soap. I’m gonna try it, and keep the mustard and pickle juice close by. I’ll try anything that’s may work quickly !


I agree with #15, my husband gets leg cramps and grabs the mustard. Works every time! Mustard works for other things too.


While checking remedys for leg cramps, It looked to me like not having enough potassium was the reason. I buy potassium pills and if I get a leg cramp at night, I take a couple and within minutes the cramp completely disappears.

Diane Briscoe

As soon as the cramp begins, stand up and put weight on that foot, making sure full foot is in contact with the floor. Good-bye Charley Horse.


For me it is a calcium thing. I noticed the connection that if/when I ran out of milk, the next day I could expect a horrendous leg cramp. Thus, I make sure not to run out of milk, and I have one large glassful (at least) every day. Even though I have yogurt and cheese almost daily, if I miss the milk the cramps happen, and they are very painful. With the milk I have not had any issues of cramping.

Debra H.

Pinch the center of your upper lip as hard as you can take it and take deep slow breathes. Concentrate on the muscle and make your mind relax it.


In Anatomy and Physiology I learned that a charlie horse is a brain thing. Your brain gets the message to contract but not to relax. While I am trying every other thing possible I try to relax and I think “relax muscles”. What you said makes sense scientifically and I believe it helps


I am a nurse; I stand and walk miles a day. I would get horrible leg cramps. I now sleep with a bar of soap by my feet. Any brand works, just changed the soap every so often for a new bar when it stops working. It works for me.


Why the bar of soap…

Susan Higgins

Hi Ronnie, it’s been a remedy passed down for generations. Scientifically, the jury is still out on it. Some chock it up to the placebo effect. Others think there might be an as-of-yet-to-be-identified molecule the soap is emitting.


My liver doctors told me to drink Gator Adie. The G2 when possible. It replaces the potassium and magnesium we lose daily. I drink one every day or at least 3 to 4 a week. I haven’t had a leg cramp since the doctor said this will work


I get cramps in muscles all over the body from neck to toes, sometimes more than one muscle at a time. Seen many doctors, even had nerve conduction tests done (more painful than the cramps, if you can imagine that!), was told by that specialist I had “severe muscle cramps.” Wow, brilliant diagnosis! I want to know how to prevent them. There are dozens of remedies for when they happen. I’ve tried every one of these remedies except the string around the ankle. Even if it’s psychological, which it most likely is, I’m about ready to try it. Why can’t science figure this out? My PC says, “oh I get them too, walk it off.” I’m so sleep deprived from “walking it off.” I want a preventative that works.


I use CoQ10 to combat the muscle spasms induced by the use of statins to lower my cholesterol. WORKS like a charm. I also cannot do extra calcium as I get kidney stones but the CoQ10 absolutely does the trick. I used to get muscle cramps in the middle of the night that woke me from a sound sleep and kept me awake for literally hours. Now I may get a mild one once in 2 or 3 months and it goes away in less than 5 minutes.


The hardest part of dealing with “Charlie Horses” is breaking the cramp. I have had them so bad in my calves that I didn’t think I would be able to get off the ball of my foot with my entire weight on it. It gets scary sometimes!

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