A writer for LittleThings felt compelled to conduct a personal experiment when she discovered pickle juice in a gift bag her boyfriend received after running in a 5K.
Ileana Paules-Bronet conducted a personal experiment in which she took one shot of pickle juice a day for seven days. Since pickle juice is "known to ease muscle cramps," according to her, she hoped the pickle juice would help with her menstrual pain.
"By the end of the day, my cramps were gone -- whether they went away on their own or because of the pickle juice, I’m not sure," Paules-Bronet wrote. "But either way, they were gone."
On day three of the experiment, she attended a cardio barre class. Paules-Bronet noted that she almost always experiences muscle cramp the day after attending these classes. However, she woke up on day four "pleasantly surprised" that she did not have muscle cramps.
She concluded that drinking one shot of pickle juice daily helped with her muscle cramps and bad breath.
"The most successful benefits seemed to be the ones related to exercising, so I’ll definitely keep pickle juice in mind next time I’m considering buying a sports drink," wrote Paules-Bronet.
However, a study suggests she would be better off with the sports drink if she hopes to rehydrate or restore electrolytes.
During an internet search, Paules-Bronet came across a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study that attributed pickle juice to relieving muscle cramps. Though the study associated pickle juice to the feeling of relief, it did not necessarily conclude that pickle juice helped heal cramping, rather subdued the firing of neurotransmitters that send the pain signal to the brain.
In a crossover medical study, researchers found drinking pickle juice sent such a strong message to the subject's neurotransmitters that it overpowered the message of pain, rendering pickle juice to be the only thing they could concentrate on within 35 seconds of drinking it.
Pickle juice did not necessarily cure the researcher's subject's cramping, but it seemed to eliminate the thought of the cramping, according to the researchers. Pain is in the mind, so it could be argued to be the cause of cramping since the series of neurotransmitters that induce pain are no longer heightened when drinking the juice. But the loss of electrolytes and fluids at the time of the cramping are not alleviated by the pickle juice, the study concluded:
Pickle juice … inhibits electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans. This effect could not be explained by rapid restoration of body fluids or electrolytes. We suspect that the rapid inhibition of the electrically induced cramps reflects a neurally mediated reflex that originates in the oropharyngeal region [the area behind the tonsils] and acts to inhibit the firing of alpha motor neurons of the cramping muscle.
The neurons that would typically be sent to the cramping muscle were instead sent to respond to the sensation of the pickle juice at the back of the throat.
In the crossover study, they also tested the hydration levels and electrolyte loss of the subjects while ingesting pickle juice. They concluded there was no added benefit from the pickle juice and that it had no effect on hydration. So, the pickle juice didn't make them more dehydrated but it didn't hydrate them either.
"If [exercise-associated muscle cramps] are caused by large electrolyte loss due to sweating, these volumes of pickle juice … are unlikely to restore any deficit incurred by exercise," wrote researchers in the Journal Of Athletic Training.
Kevin Miller, Phd. of Athletic Medicine, a researcher on the team with several studies under his belt on muscle cramping in exercise, wrote in his research that pickle brine “overwhelmed the neuroreceptors and caused them to reset the neurological impulse that dictated the cramp," Mercola notes.
Therefore, one would want to think twice before replacing their sports drinks for pickle juice. It seems that the effects of pickle juice could be all in the mind.