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What Research Suggests: CBD For Restless Legs

Date 8th Sep 2021

What Research Suggests: CBD For Restless Legs

One of the sweetest parts of a long day is jumping into your comfy bed, feeling your body get heavy, and drifting off to sleep. For those who suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS), this is almost impossible without the help of medication.

With more research emerging about the potential benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) to support relaxation, discomfort in the muscles, and stress management, many people with RLS are turning towards CBD as a natural way to help them get a more restful sleep.

This article will investigate what the scientific literature says about CBD for RLS and how people are using it to manage their symptoms.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, restless leg syndrome is classified as a One of the sweetest parts of a long day is getting to lay down and your comfy bed, feel your body get heavy, and drift off to sleep. For those who suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS), this is almost impossible without the help of medication.

With more research emerging about the potential benefits of cannabidiol (CBD)to support relaxation, discomfort in the muscles, and stress management, many people with RLS are turning towards CBD as a natural way to help them get a more restful sleep.

This article will investigate what the scientific literature says about CBD for RLS and how people are using it to manage their symptoms.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, restless leg syndrome is classified as a neurological sleep and movement disorder.

RLS usually affects people in the evenings before bed when they feel an extremely uncomfortable urge and deep aching to move their feet, legs, hands, arms, and even neck as they're trying to sleep. The only relief they can get from this gnawing feeling is to move, but it can keep them up all night tossing and turning.

One of the strange things about this condition is that it's almost exclusive to the evenings when one is trying to sleep, and it disappears the next morning. It's common for people suffering from restless leg to sleep more in the day to catch up on the hours lost at night.

Restless legs syndrome is diagnosed into two categories:

1. Primary Restless Legs

Primary restless legs syndrome is idiopathic, which means it does not have a known cause, and it's often left undiagnosed in many people. Some researchers suggest that it may be linked to genetics or low iron levels in the brain [1].

2. Secondary Restless Legs

Secondary restless legs are accompanied by other conditions such as Parkinson's syndrome, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, pregnancy, or polyneuropathy.

Symptoms Of Restless Leg Syndrome

A doctor may diagnose a patient with restless leg syndrome or Willis Ekbom disease if they present with the following symptoms:

  • The urge to move limbs when resting
  • Tingling, pulling, or pain in the legs
  • More pronounced symptoms in the evenings
  • Aching legs after sitting or laying down
  • Constant motion, massage, bed-tossing to temporarily relieve symptoms

Your doctor may carry out a blood test to rule out possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and sometimes, a neurological examination is conducted. Another common test is the L-Dopa test, a reliable test that examines motor control symptoms related to Parkinson's disease.

If the patient's RLS symptoms improve while on L-dopa, it may suggest they have Parkinson's or confirm RLS. However, if there are no improvements, doctors aren't always quick to cross off RLS as a possibility as the relation between dopamine metabolism and this condition is still not well understood.

How Is Restless Legs Syndrome Treated?

Restless leg syndrome treatments can vary, depending on the severity of symptoms, but they will always include forms of self-care such as exercise recommendations and lifestyle changes to reduce stress on the body, such as quitting caffeine, alcohol, and smoking, along with relaxation techniques like meditation, breathing exercising, and yoga.

For more severe cases of restless legs syndrome, a patient may be prescribed medication such as L-dopa (Levodopa) to stimulate dopamine activity in the brain and nerve pain medication (opioids) to support comfort [2].


The FDA Has Not Approved CBD For Restless Legs Syndrome

While you'll find many people on online forums raving about how CBD oil has helped them manage their RLS symptoms, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any CBD product on the market to treat RLS.

And if you're suffering from severe restless leg syndrome, you should visit your doctor for medical advice before turning to CBD as an option.

CBD is the primary active compound in hemp cannabis plants, and its main interaction occurs in the endocannabinoid system, which is tasked with maintaining homeostasis (balance) to help our vital functions perform optimally.

Research surrounding CBD's use in medicine has been growing, but it's still in its early days. We'll get into some of CBD's potential to support the symptoms associated with restless leg syndrome below.

CBD May Support Healthy Dopamine Levels In The Brain

While it's not definitive, some evidence correlates restless leg syndrome with low dopamine levels in the brain.

Dopamine is a hormone with a lot of jobs. One of them is to regulate purposeful muscle movement and coordination by modulating the motor control center in the brain (basal ganglia). It's been observed that any disruptions in this pathway could result in involuntary movements like tremors associated with Parkinson's disease.

Endogenous cannabinoids (produced internally) help keep the dopamine system in balance. CBD supports the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by preventing the release of enzymes that break down cannabinoids.

These higher cannabinoids are like boosting your wi-fi signal to relay messages throughout the body much more efficiently.

CBD is also suggested to directly support the mesolimbic dopamine system, which is responsible for our motivation, reward-related motor function, and learning [3].

CBD May Support Sleep Quality In Those Who Suffer From RLS

Insomnia is extremely prevalent in patients with RLS. The constant urge to move limbs at rest can leave them pacing their bedrooms or tossing and turning all night.

For most people, the symptoms seem to disappear in the day, and they can catch up on those lost hours of sleep—but that's not always practical as there are commitments like school, work, caring for loved ones, and appointments to tend to in the day.

One of the popular reasons many people seek out CBD oil is to support restful sleep naturally. At large doses before bed, CBD may cause whole-body relaxation that primes the body for rest [4].

Another cannabinoid that has been gaining popularity for sleep support is CBN or cannabinol. It's a minor cannabinoid that, when combined with CBD, shows greater potential for producing a sense of calm and relaxation that may help with restful sleep.

CBD May Help With Discomfort

People who experience more severe symptoms of restless leg syndrome report pain like pins and needles—kind of like that feeling you get when your foot falls asleep—which is likely caused by irritation of the nerves.

Doctors may prescribe RLS patients opioids to help mitigate the discomfort to help them fall asleep, but powerful opioids may not always be ideal as they're highly addictive and come with a host of other side effects.

Many people find that CBD can provide them with gentle comfort for muscle-related soreness thanks to the endocannabinoid's broad-acting effects of regulating our perception of pain.

There are currently no FDA-approved CBD products that contain CBD alone to manage pain, but research suggests that CBD combined with THC may prove effective in alleviating some muscle and nerve-related pain symptoms when taken in large doses [5].

CBD May Support Healthy Stress Levels

Stress is a common trigger for restless leg syndrome. Many patients report experiencing more severe symptoms during periods of stress in their lives, which is why many natural-based treatments for RLS involve stress management.

While stress is an important biological process in our central nervous system (CNS) designed for survival and motivation, too much stress is bad for us.

CBD has been down to activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors in the CNS, which moderates anxiety and nausea [5]. CBD oil in high doses has also been shown to affect GABA activity in the brain [6].

GABA is a neurotransmitter that counteracts the stress response brought on by cortisol. Higher levels of GABA in the brain helps to calm the central nervous system to enter the rest-and-digest mode.

How Do People Use CBD For Restless Leg?

Before you consider taking CBD oil for restless leg syndrome, you should consult your doctor to ensure it won't cause any negative interactions with prescribed medications.

CBD is a versatile compound that's now found in various products online and over-the-counter, from oils, capsules, gummies, lotions, and vape products. It's important to know that what works for one person may not work for the next as CBD may affect individuals differently.

Based on anecdotal experiences of CBD oil users who suffer from restless leg syndrome, here are some pointers for shopping and using CBD oil effectively.

1. High Doses Of CBD

The studies conducted on the effectiveness of CBD towards sleep, discomfort, and stress used high doses of CBD upwards of 60MG per day.

If it's your first time with CBD oil, you probably don't want to dive too far into the deep end too fast, or you could end up with uncomfortable side effects. But you want a CBD product that will give you versatility in your dosing.

Our ultra-high potency 12,000MG CBD oil is perfect for this as it's the most cost-effective option too. It delivers 200MG of CBD extract in every dropper full—but you can scale your doses as needed drop by drop.

2. Use Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Not all CBD extracts are made the same.

On the market, you'll find two common types of hemp extract—full spectrum hemp extract, sometimes called whole-hemp extract, and CBD isolate, which only contains CBD.

Many experts agree that full spectrum CBD extracts will deliver the most potent effects as it contains a range of minor cannabinoids and terpenes to amplify and balance CBD's actions in the body.

Full spectrum CBD extracts may have up to 0.3% THC, according to the US Farm Bill. While THC is federally legal, some states have strict restrictions around the compound, even in these trace quantities. Others may also want to steer clear from THC altogether due to sensitivities or potential medication interactions.

The next best option is broad spectrum CBD extracts. While less common, these extracts still contain other cannabinoids and terpenes but have undergone extra processing to eliminate traces of THC.

3. Take CBD Topically

Many people who need fast relief from restless leg syndrome will use a high-strength CBD topical like a muscle rub or massage oil to deliver the benefits of CBD straight to the area of discomfort.

CBD topicals don't enter the bloodstream. Instead, it interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the skin to support homeostasis. Unlike ingesting or smoking CBD, you can use CBD topicals as frequently as needed without the risk of discomfort associated with high doses of CBD like nausea, headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness.

The Takeaway: Can CBD Oil Help With Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

The research specific to CBD for restless leg isn't sufficient, but we can expect more pre-clinical and clinical studies to investigate. Despite this, many people are still turning towards hemp-based cannabinoid use to improve one's quality of life living with RLS and other movement disorders.

If you plan on using CBD for RLS, please check with your doctor first to ensure it's safe and recommended for you.

The best treatments for RLS combine a mix of lifestyle changes, natural therapies, and doctor-prescribed medications to help alleviate severe symptoms. For example, RLS patients find that foot baths, massages, stress reduction therapies, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol help their condition.

You can check out our blog for more articles like this and how you can use CBD to support your health and wellness. You can also sign up to our Insider Scoop email list to receive industry updates straight to your inbox with exclusive Neurogan product offers.

Resources:

  1. Picchietti, M. A., & Picchietti, D. L. (2010). Advances in pediatric restless legs syndrome: Iron, genetics, diagnosis, and treatment. Sleep medicine, 11(7), 643-651.
  2. Allen, R. (2004). Dopamine and iron in the pathophysiology of restless legs syndrome (RLS). Sleep medicine, 5(4), 385-391.
  3. Renard, J., Norris, C., Rushlow, W., & Laviolette, S. R. (2017). Neuronal and molecular effects of cannabidiol on the mesolimbic dopamine system: Implications for novel schizophrenia treatments. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 75, 157-165.
  4. Scuderi, C., Filippis, D. D., Iuvone, T., Blasio, A., Steardo, A., & Esposito, G. (2009). Cannabidiol in medicine: a review of its therapeutic potential in CNS disorders. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 23(5), 597-602.
  5. Russo, E. B., Burnett, A., Hall, B., & Parker, K. K. (2005). Agonistic properties of cannabidiol at 5-HT1a receptors. Neurochemical Research, 30(8), 1037-1043.
  6. Bakas, T., Van Nieuwenhuijzen, P. S., Devenish, S. O., McGregor, I. S., Arnold, J. C., & Chebib, M. (2017). The direct actions of cannabidiol and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol at GABAA receptors. Pharmacological research, 119, 358-370.Chicago
Katrina Lubiano
Katrina Lubiano

Katrina Lubiano is a content writer in the health and wellness space based in Vancouver, Canada — Canada's epicenter for cannabis culture. When she's not working, she enjoys sailing, watercolor painting, and cooking.