woman grabbing back of calm due to muscle cramp
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
June 1, 2024 ·  8 min read

13 of The Best Natural Muscle Relaxers to Help With Cramps

Muscle cramps or spasms can be a painful and uncomfortable experience. These involuntary contractions can happen to any muscle in the body, but are most commonly experienced in the legs, feet, and abdomen. While there are various medications available to alleviate muscle cramps, there are also natural muscle relaxers that can provide relief without any unwanted side effects. These are some of the best natural muscle relaxers to help with cramps.

The Different Types of Muscle

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Before diving into the natural muscle relaxers, let’s understand the different types of muscles in our body. There are three main types of muscle: heart muscle, skeletal muscle, and smooth muscle. (1)

  1. Heart Muscle: The heart is made up of cardiac muscle. This type of muscle is involuntary, meaning it contracts and relaxes without your conscious control. It functions to pump blood throughout the body and maintain a regular heartbeat.
  2. Skeletal Muscle: Skeletal muscles are the muscles that attach to our bones and provide movement. They are responsible for voluntary movements such as walking, running, and lifting weights. Skeletal muscles work in pairs; when one muscle contracts, the other relaxes, allowing for coordinated movements.
  3. Smooth Muscle: Smooth muscles are found in the walls of hollow organs, such as the stomach, intestines, blood vessels, and airways. Unlike skeletal muscles, smooth muscles are not under voluntary control. They contract and relax to help with organ functions like digestion, blood flow regulation, and breathing.

Read More: Fluoroquinolones Come With Loss of Muscles and Other Side Effects

What is a Muscle Cramp?

A young woman got severe cramps in her calf at night while sleeping.
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A muscle cramp, also known as a spasm, is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more muscles. These contractions can cause severe pain and discomfort. Muscle cramps can occur for various reasons, including muscle fatigue, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, inadequate stretching, and even certain medical conditions. Regardless of their cause, they are not fun – especially when they wake you up suddenly in the middle of the night. 

13 Natural Muscle Cramp Relievers

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As mentioned, there are various conventional approaches to treating muscle cramps. Rather than waiting to have a cramp before doing anything about it, however, there are plenty of natural approaches to prevent these from happening in the first place. Let’s explore 13 natural muscle relaxers that can help alleviate muscle cramps and spasms:

1. Blueberries

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Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies suggest that blueberry supplementation may improve exercise performance and decrease inflammatory markers. Although it may not directly relieve muscle soreness, reducing inflammation can help the muscles relax and recover after exercise. Of course, you don’t need to supplement, necessarily. You can also just include more blueberries in your diet. While fresh blueberries are delicious, buying the fruit frozen will save money (and are a fantastic smoothie ingredient!). (2)

2. Cherries and Tart Cherry Juice

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Cherries and tart cherry juice contain compounds that can reduce inflammation. Long has it been known that tart cherry can help with Arthritis pain, but now we are learning that it is good for your muscles, too. Studies have shown that cherry concentrate can help reduce muscle damage and inflammation after intense exercise, potentially relieving muscle cramps. (3)

3. Pomegranate

	
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Pomegranates are rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, which have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. One study on weightlifters found that pomegranate juice may help speed up muscle recovery. In the case of pomegranate, drinking the juice is actually a more efficient way to get to the goods (the powerful antioxidants) than eating the whole fruit. Of course, actually eating the seeds provides fiber and other benefits, so it will depend on you and your needs. (4)

4. Protein

Diet meal replacement for weight loss, asian young woman in sportswear, hand in holding scoop making protein into bottle to shake, drink supplement for muscle after workout at home. Healthy body care.
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Protein is required to repair muscle, especially after exercise. Adequate protein intake after exercise can help reduce muscle inflammation and damage. Whey and casein protein, in particular, have been shown to reduce muscle damage and soreness. (5)

Read More: The Painkilling Cayenne Cream Recipe That Anyone With Stiff Joints or Sore Muscles Needs to Try

5. Magnesium

An assortment of food high in magnesium with the element symbol MG.
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Magnesium is essential for proper muscle contractions. Foods high in magnesium such as almonds, cashews, spinach, and black beans can help relax muscles. Magnesium supplements may also be beneficial in certain cases, but it is important to consult with a doctor before taking them. There isn’t much evidence to support magnesium supplementation for prevention of muscle spasms. You are better off including magnesium-rich foods in your daily diet, such as spinach, almonds, cashews, black beans, and edamame. (6

6. CBD

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Some people use CBD oil to treat chronic pain, including muscle pain. Research suggests that CBD may work as a muscle relaxer and provide pain relief. However, it is important to consult with a doctor before trying CBD, as it may interact with other medications. It is important to note that while CBD comes from the marijuana plant, it will not make you “high”. CBD oil does not contain the active ingredient THC which is what gives marijuana its psychoactive effects. (7)

7. Curcumin

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Curcumin, found in turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger, has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that curcumin may decrease inflammatory markers after exercise, which can help relax the muscles. However, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid consuming excessive amounts of curcumin. (8)

8. Capsaicin

Structural chemical formula of capsaicin molecule with chili peppers, chili powder, and peppercorns. Capsaicin is the compound found in chili peppers that gives them their hot and spicy kick.
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Capsaicin, found in chili peppers, may provide effective pain relief for muscle pain. Applying capsaicin topically can have a positive effect on muscle soreness. It is believed to reduce the density of nerve fibers underneath the skin. However, capsaicin may be more suitable for nerve pain rather than inflammatory muscle pain. (9)

9. Arnica

 the color of the arnica petals
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Arnica is commonly used topically in creams and oils to reduce bruising. While some people use arnica as a muscle relaxer, its effectiveness is still under research. Some studies on marathon runners have suggested that arnica might reduce muscle soreness, but further research is needed. (10)

10. Lemongrass

Cup of hot lemongrass tea with sliced and green leaf on brown wooden background. Lemongrass for healthy herbal drink concept
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Lemongrass oil or tea is used by some to treat arthritic joint pain and inflammation. It has shown potential in treating inflammation and nerve pain. More studies are needed to fully understand its effectiveness and how it works. (11)

11. Peppermint Oil

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Peppermint oil is a popular home remedy for muscle pain. It can be taken orally or applied topically. It may relieve pain through its cooling effect and help relax muscles. However, it is important to note that peppermint oil is not suitable for individuals with certain conditions affecting the bile duct, liver, or gallbladder. (12)

Read More: 20-Second Workouts for Anyone Who’s Losing Muscle Due to Aging

12. Massage

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A deep tissue massage from a qualified massage therapist can work wonders in relieving tense muscles. The massage should be firm but not painful. In cases of muscle spasms, it is advisable to seek the help of a physiotherapist to determine the underlying problem. (13)

13. Rest

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Rest is one of the most overlooked and underrated ways to relax and heal muscles. If you experience muscle cramps, give your body time to rest and recover. Avoid overexertion and allow your muscles to heal naturally.

When to See a Doctor about Muscle Cramps

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While most muscle cramps can be managed with natural relaxers and self-care, it is essential to know when to seek medical attention. If you experience severe and persistent muscle cramps, sudden and sharp pain, reduced range of motion, or if your cramps are interfering with your daily activities, it is recommended to consult a doctor or a physiotherapist. They can help identify the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

The Bottom Line

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Muscle cramps can be debilitating, but there are natural muscle relaxers that can provide relief. Blueberries, cherries, pomegranate, protein, magnesium, CBD, curcumin, capsaicin, arnica, lemongrass, peppermint oil, massage, and rest are all excellent options to help relax and relieve muscle cramps. However, it is important to remember that everyone’s body is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. If you are experiencing persistent or severe muscle cramps, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Read More: 11 Superfoods You Want to Help Build Muscle and Lose Fat – and They’re Not Just Protein

Sources

  1. Muscle Spasms.Medicine Net. Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM.
  2. Blueberry intake elevates post-exercise anti-inflammatory oxylipins: a randomized trial.” NCBI. David C. Nieman, Camila A. Sakaguchi, Ashraf M. Omar, Kierstin L. Davis, Cameron E. Shaffner, Renee C. Strauch, Mary Ann Lila, and Qibin Zhang. July 2023.
  3. A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries.” NCBI. Darshan S. Kelley, Yuriko Adkins and Kevin D. Laugero. March 2018.
  4. Pomegranate Supplementation Accelerates Recovery of Muscle Damage and Soreness and Inflammatory Markers after a Weightlifting Training Session.” NCBI. Achraf Ammar, Mouna Turki, Hamdi Chtourou, Omar Hammouda, Khaled Trabelsi, Choumous Kallel, Osama Abdelkarim, Anita Hoekelmann, Mohamed Bouaziz, Fatma Ayadi, Tarak Driss, and Nizar Souissi. Ocotber 20, 2016.
  5. Supplementation Strategies to Reduce Muscle Damage and Improve Recovery Following Exercise in Females: A Systematic Review.” NCBI. Jessica L. Köhne, Michael J. Ormsbee,and Andrew J. McKune. November 2016.
  6. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study assessing the efficacy of magnesium oxide monohydrate in the treatment of nocturnal leg cramps.” Biomed Central. Olha Barna, Pavlo Lohoida, Yurii Holovchenko, Andrii Bazylevych, Valentyna Velychko, Iryna Hovbakh, Larysa Bula and Michael Shechter. October 2021.
  7. Patterns of medicinal cannabis use, strain analysis, and substitution effect among patients with migraine, headache, arthritis, and chronic pain in a medicinal cannabis cohort.” NCBI. Eric P. Baron, Philippe Lucas, Joshua Eades, and Olivia Hogue. May 2018.
  8. Herbal medicine for sports: a review.” NCBI. Maha Sellami, Olfa Slimeni, Andrzej Pokrywka, Goran Kuvačić, Lawrence D Hayes, Mirjana Milic, and Johnny Padulo. March 2018.
  9. Skin Matters: A Review of Topical Treatments for Chronic Pain. Part Two: Treatments and Applications.” NCBI. John F. Peppin, Phillip J. Albrecht, Charles Argoff, Burkhard Gustorff, Marco Pappagallo, Frank L. Rice and Mark S. Wallace. January 29, 2015.
  10. Herbal medicine for sports: a review.” NCBI. Maha Sellami, Olfa Slimeni, Andrzej Pokrywka, Goran Kuvačić,1 Lawrence D Hayes, Mirjana Milic and Johnny Padulo. March 15, 2018.
  11. Analgesic-Like Activity of Essential Oil Constituents: An Update.” NCBI. Rita de Cássia da Silveira e Sá, Tamires Cardoso Lima, Flávio Rogério da Nóbrega, Anna Emmanuela Medeiros de Brito and Damião Pergentino de Sousa. December 2017.
  12. Medicinal Plants of the Family Lamiaceae in Pain Therapy: A Review.” NCBI. Cristina M. Uritu, Cosmin T. Mihai, Gabriela-Dumitrita Stanciu, Gianina Dodi, Teodora Alexa-Stratulat, Andrei Luca, Maria-Magdalena Leon-Constantin, Raluca Stefanescu, Veronica Bild, Silvia Melnic, and Bogdan I. Tamba. May 2018.
  13. Reduced Muscle Spasm.” Physio