Research why leg cramps happen and the medical profession will tell you dehydration, excessive alcohol, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, excessive physical activity…and the list goes on. In ayureda, muscle cramps are caused by an excess of vata. Vata’s cold, dry, mobile and rough qualities make the muscles hard and stiff, unable to relax, and then go into spasm.
I have suffered from leg cramps my entire life. I’d wake up yelling with terrible cramps in my calves and my mom would run into the room and push my toes back toward my shin to stop them. As an adult, I mostly have them during the night, sometimes every 90 minutes or so. They still wake me up with a start and I have to hop out of bed to step solidly on the ground and stretch them out. I also have them in certain yoga poses when I point my toes. I also just so happen to have a vata constitution and Raynaud’s Syndrome, which causes circulatory isuues, most likely adding to my leg cramp problems.
I have tried just about everything ever recommended over the years to stop the crramps, including (but not limited to):
- Increasing calcium, magnesium, and/or potassium
- Increasing water intake
- Drinking tonic water and/or quinine tablets
- Taking apple cider vinegar as a supplement
- Sleeping with a bar of Irish Spring under my sheet (yes, crazy, I know)
I began with the latest recommendation, which I’d never heard before, last week. First night, no cramps. Second night, no cramps. Third night, no cramps. Called mom, “This could be a thing, but maybe a fluke. Give it more days.” It has now been nine (9! 9! 9! 9! 9! 9! 9! 9! 9!) full nights without a single cramp. I’m a believer! What is this miracle method?
Rosemary. Yes, that with which you cook and landscape your yard. It was recommended that I put a few drops of rosemary essential oil into a carrier oil and rub it into my calves and shins. I had some arnica oil that I’d made with organic olive oil, so I used that as my carrier.
I did a “body check,” asking if the rosemary would help get rid of my cramps and got a definite “yes.” Then I asked for how many drops and got an “eight.” So that’s what I’ve done, eight drops of rosemary essential oil into enough arnica oil to massage one calve, shin and foot right before I go to bed. (I did start taking a valerian tincture about the same time, so this really can’t be considered valid scientific research, but I never said that it was.)
What is scientific is that rosemary helps in improving blood circulation in the arteries and improves nervous system function. An important ingredient in rosemary is rosmarinic acid, which is a polyphenol that displays anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It also helps muscles retain water. My thought is that the combination of increased circulation (smacking down that Raynaud’s), the increased hydration in the muscles, and the anti-oxidant properties to help relax the muscles did their job. Rosemary was my leg cramp “positive perfect storm” waiting to happen.
I have had several of my yoga students comment that they get leg cramps too, especially a few who have been pregnant. I hope this information helps. I recommend a good quality organic carrier oil and good quality essential oil, like Young Living. Let me know if this works for you!
About the Author
Rochelle Barcellona is an animal-loving, family-and-friends-embracing, yoga-meditation-and-ayurveda-teaching, happy red-headed yogi who owns Nourish Mind Body & Spirit in Northern California. You may learn more about Rochelle here. Rochelle may be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and 916-353-5200.
(Photo of Rochelle courtesy of Bella Barcellona Photography.)