Mustard Jun15


Related Posts

Share This



(It’s not just for hotdogs anymore)

Hot Dogs! Remember your first one?  Probably not.  You may have been finishing a few loose Cheerio O’s on your high chair tray when the first bit of a Hot dog appeared.  At a much later date you discovered that the big people ate theirs loaded down with juicy stuff that made it taste even better.

I know I liked mine on a bun slightly smaller than the tasty frankfurter inside and dripping with yellow mustard and green relish.  Of course I tried all of the other stuff, but I always came back to those favorites… all the bun could hold and a little more.  A couple of those and I felt great for hours.

Well, it turns out that that was not just an accident.  If I had known then what I’ve learned recently, at age 81, I could have saved years of personal discomfort and often down-right agony.  I would have written this at age eight, if only I had known… and if computers had been invented.  

I have always been annoyed with leg discomfort.  Sometimes it was just a little ache that made sitting still or sleeping through the night impossible.  More and more often one of those painful cramps, sometimes called a “Charlie Horse” woke me from a sound sleep, forcing me from my bed to try to stretch it out.  I was interrupted from sleep so often, that my husband, Bob, mentioned it to our doctor, trying to get me some help and himself some peaceful nights.  

By now I had a husband, Bob, four grown children, Nancy, Pamela, J.R., and Bonnie, plus fourteen adult grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.  Yes I can name them all and their birthdays. They are who makes hanging around for as many years as possible such an adventure.  

As all of those years passed, I learned a lot of things.  I know the answers to about 1/3 of the questions on Millionaire.  However, age didn’t improve my looks any.  I’d gladly swap some of my gained knowledge to look thirty again, but… so be it.   At least I’m still around.  So, on with the Hot Dog story.  

After Bob blew the whistle on me about the night cramps, (I hadn’t ever thought to mention this problem to the doctor myself, because I felt it had been with me for so long that it was just a fact of life), our doctor gave me some stretching and diet advice, otherwise, he said, there really wasn’t much out there for that particular problem.  I could understand that.  Even I would much rather scientists put their minds and money to curing cancer and stuff.

The problem continued growing worse with time. Over the years I’d tried different things looking for comfort, none of which were worth mentioning as they didn’t work that well. Otherwise I was in pretty good health, as the doctor put it… for my age.  (He could have left that part off.)

I also knew now that in our family aching restless legs seemed to be very common.  I recalled my Dad complaining about his constantly.  He never wanted to go to a movie because he couldn’t comfortably sit that long.  He lived into his 90’s, so the discomfort obviously was not life threatening.  It’s Funny though how his complaints took on more meaning as those things began to happen to me.  I wish this mustard thing had been discovered in time to help him.

One day our daughter, Pam, told us how miserable she had been the night before.  At about midnight a leg cramp awoke her with so much pain that she had considered calling 911 on herself.  She told us about it as it was still vivid in her mind.  This is how she explained it;  

“I’ve often had cramps, but this one was a killer.  Standing and stretching didn’t help at all. I imagined being willing to let them amputate my leg just to get rid of it. The muscle tightened up intensely causing an agonizing pain that continued on and on, it seemed like forever.  I was alone and nothing I tried helped, so even though it was the middle of the night, I picked up the phone to call for help.  I paused over the 911 wondering what to do.  Then I dialed my sister Nancy‘s number and woke her up.  I don’t know what I expected her to do.  Maybe come over and drive me to the hospital.  I sobbed out my problem.”  (Nancy is our oldest daughter and so able that all of us in the family call her when we need help for something or other.)  So Pam said, “As soon as I let her get in a word, she told me that she had read something on her computer WEB site that actually listed more than a dozen things people had found as ways to stop cramps.  She got night cramps, too, hadn’t tried any of these yet, so she didn’t give me the whole list, just the one she felt would be the fastest that she would do first, and told me to quickly go to the kitchen and eat some mustard. I dropped the phone and limped to the kitchen. Well, I hate mustard, never put it on my food, but my boys, when they’re home, love it, so the jar I found was nearly empty.  I took a spoon and still in pain, with tears running down my face, I scraped the jar clean and ate it all without even tasting it.  At that moment I’d have eaten mud.  Then a funny thing happened, the cramp eased and disappeared.  I wasn’t going to have to amputate after all.  I went back to the phone and told Nancy.  We discussed the possibility that the cramp was about to end anyway.  Perhaps the mustard was not really the reason it stopped.  “But,” Pam added with a little smile, ” I did go buy a big new jar of mustard just in case.”

I remembered Pam’s story when I awoke one night with a full, ankle-to-thigh cramp.  It was so tight I could feel the muscle vibrating like a tightly pulled guitar string.  The pain was terrible. I wanted to scream, but looking at my soundly sleeping husband so nearby, kept me gritting my teeth, as I tried my best to stretch it out.  A twinge of pain in my left ankle signaled that the other leg was now beginning to cramp also.  The left muscle tightened and I began to see why Pam had said amputation was a good option.  If asked, I would at this moment agree to anything. Suddenly I remembered the mustard.  Could I make it to the kitchen with both legs out?  I leaned on one piece of furniture after another, as I hobbled toward possible relief.

Leaning on the kitchen counter, I began to search out the mustard.  Grateful to see the bright, yellow, plastic squeeze bottle, I flipped the lid up on the tiny squirt hole, but my shaking fist couldn’t get any to come out, so I yanked the screw top off and sucked two large gulps into my mouth.  After swallowing twice, I picked up a glass and hurriedly drank down tap water, not my usual choice.  I wanted the mustard to get down to my stomach and begin to do its thing, before I could even put the glass down, I felt a buzz travel down from my hips to my feet as the muscles relaxed.  Now, just like that, the pain was gone.  I gave two little tentative hops to test them.  Both legs were normal, as if the pains had never been.  Walking straight and steady, I carried the mustard into the bed room, where I keep some handy in my night stand to this day.   And of course, I had to wake Bob up anyway, just to tell him all about it. 

A month or so later when the family was gathered at our house, I was talking with Bonnie’s husband, Randy, and because he is a Pharmacist, I asked him about it.  I was curious if he knew about this mustard cure for a cramp. Call me crazy, but nothing could convince me that the mustard had not stopped that terrible cramp.  He said he had not heard anything about mustard, after all it’s comparatively cheap and easy to buy, not exactly what the pharmacy handles. I explained my experience.  He said he too, suffered from frequent night cramps, but knew of nothing to stop them.

A couple of weeks later, I was told, that Randy woke up to a serious cramp, and sent Bonnie down stairs to get some mustard.  She ran up with a squeeze bottle of the yellow stuff and began squeezing it into Randy’s mouth and guess what?  It worked.  The cramp drained away just as I said it would.  In fact later he confirmed himself that he had used it several times since and it always worked.  

We actually found a site under “leg-cramps-mustard” that explained the reason it worked so fast!  It turns out that the mustard doesn’t do the job itself.  It makes your body do it for you.  The mustard seed contains a chemical, acetocholine, which causes your own body to release an enzyme that instantly relaxes your muscles.   We learned that many athletic coaches carry small packs of mustard handy to give quick relief to athletes who are struck down with a cramp.  Compare it with the things we all experience often.  You pass a bakery or smell popcorn popping in the theater.  Those odors trigger saliva to begin in your mouth.  A sad thought can cause your eyes to tear-up.  A screech of tires on the street can cause an adrenaline rush, making you capable of quick action. The list is long.  There’s that wake-up jolt some say they get from their morning coffee.  Sometimes just thinking about chocolate will make my mouth water.  That is why I believed Nancy when she claimed that just thinking hard about mustard had stopped a cramp.  When she got to the cupboard, the mustard was empty.  She stood in pain for only a moment when she decided to try to fool her body by pretending to gulp a mouthful of mustard from memory. She closed her eyes and imagined the tang of the strong yellow sauce entering her mouth and throat.  She had done it for real so often, that it wasn’t difficult.  She swears the pain actually faded as if she had really eaten some mustard.  I would guess that you needed to have experience with the real product for that trick to work.  I know chocolate wouldn’t affect me if I didn’t already know what to expect.  Also, I’ve heard that chocolate triggers the endorphins that give one a feeling of well being: another chemical reaction to add to your feelings list. 

What about mind over matter?  Does mustard work just because we expect it to?

Well, I think not. Here’s why.  My poor old aching legs now have an actual syndrome of their own.  It’s even on T.V. and everyone gets to learn about R.L.S., whether they want to or not. “Restless Legs” is genuine now.  Companies are advertising little pills they will sell you to relieve it.  

Sorry, Dad you missed the boat.  You could have sat through a whole movie with one of these little pills.  

I now have a little bottle of pills in my night stand.  I can take one when my legs try to keep me awake.  They’re quite expensive and I don’t take them unless I’m desperate.  I can live with a little ache, because I’ve been doing it for many, many years.

One night when the ache became real pain, I opened the night stand to get my R.L.S. pill.  The yellow mustard container caught my eye.  I wondered… hmmm before I take the R.L.S thing, ( it has a name, Mirapex among others.) Is it possible the plain old mustard would work for this long standing problem too?  Naahh.  Just take the pill, my legs reminded me, It takes up to an hour to do its thing.  Best to get it started.  

I regard a cramp as a sudden tightening of a muscle always accompanied with intense pain.   “Restless Leg” is a dull ache that slowly affects your ability to remain at rest or asleep.  Why didn’t I ever think of trying the mustard for this before? I wondered.  I said to myself, “My legs hurt now, just swallow some mustard and see what happens.  Probably nothing.  Then if necessary take the pill.”

I’d always believed moving legs was just a natural thing.  Simply put, “One must move, if one must move.”  Then I began to notice differences in my 14 grandchildren.  Some can sit still at the table or with a book, but some can’t and it’s always the same ones.  Why was that?  This led to my observation of other people… unrelated strangers out in the real world.  Like…

One day I sat in the dentist’s waiting room. They had fallen behind and the chairs around the walls were full of waiting patients reading magazines or books.  I was doing the same, but as I read I tapped my feet, or crossed and uncrossed my legs, just moving constantly as usual.  Then I became aware, as noticing the other people, that some sat with legs crossed at the ankle, others at the knee, or  their feet stretched out before them, a few placed two feet together flat on the floor, where they stayed as if glued down.  I was the only one tapping, moving, crossing!   Well, Heck! If they can do that, I can do that.  I will sit here with my feet together, glued to the floor, and not move until after…after someone else does. Like a game… All of them against me!  I don’t get to move my feet until one other person moves his or hers.  I tried to read or just look at the People Magazine pictures, but I soon became anxious and just watched their feet.  Come on someone please move!  I said to myself.  But no one did. Not one. I couldn’t believe it.  Still I held my feet together on the floor by sheer will.  I must not move them until after someone…  I couldn’t stop myself, I stood up and walked out of the room and down the hall.  That’s when I knew I had a problem.  It was either walk out or make a fool of myself by screaming.  I took a couple of quick passes up and down the hallway to relieve the built up tension in my legs, then returned to my seat, where the silent game ended.  It was a stupid game anyway. I sat down, picked up an old People Magazine and crossed my legs and tapped my toes at will.  

So I had a problem.  It was not a serious one.  I would cope as I always had… my way.  Now, I thought, they have invented Restless Leg Syndrome, probably so they can sell me something, but no reason not to take advantage, if it works, and I learned that it did.  

But this night, weeks later, looking from my nice new pills to the old handy mustard, curiosity told me to try the mustard… just once.  This is silly!  I said out loud, as I took up the yellow plastic bottle and drew a large swig from it.  Mustard can’t possibly do anything for this type of pain.  But before I could put the bottle back in the drawer, the ache actually disappeared.  That’s right!  The entire leg ache stopped.  Now there was no need at all to take the pill.  So it can’t be mind over matter, because my mind refuses still to believe it will work.  Every time I take a mouthful of mustard for R.L.S., I think the same thing… This isn’t going to work.  But it always does.  If it were mind over matter it would not work.  I have a few pills left in the bottle, and I keep them, just in case.  Mustard isn’t a cure.  I still suffer those ailments, but man does the pain quit fast!

Now we know, Dad, you wouldn’t need to take an expensive pill to sit though a movie.  All you would need to do was to go out to the condiment bar and suck the mustard from three or four of the tiny plastic envelopes piled there to dress your hot dog. Surely the mustard people would be proud to be such a kind public service.  The fast food places usually toss a handful in your sacked order.  Perhaps I’ll just hang on to those for future use.  As long as mustard continues to stop my pain, I will use it.  If there is a side effect, I haven’t found it.  My skin has not turned yellow.    

Should we stock-up the pantry with a case or two of our favorite mustard before everyone learns about this?  Demand could make it scarce or drive the price up.  And heaven forbid! What if the Pharmacies take over all the mustard?  And… good grief!  Suppose we then have to have a doctor’s prescription to buy it?  Maybe in the future a properly dressed hot dog, complete with mustard will cost more than a ticket to the Ball Game.  

Oh well, I’ll just have to let the future take care of itself, unless maybe I want to invest in a sack of mustard seeds.

If you decide to experiment, may you have the same good luck we have had.

Beverly Mosier