What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome? What are the benefits of CBD to combat this neurological disorder? Does your restless legs syndrome prevent you from getting proper sleep? If so, then know that CBD has many properties that may help with this condition.
Restless legs syndrome: The benefits of CBD
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) or Willis-Ekbom disease is a neurological disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, especially at night. In North America and Eastern Europe, it is estimated that 4-29% of the population is affected by this disorder, which severely affects the quality of life of sufferers. Currently, there is no official treatment or cure for RLS. As a general rule, doctors recommend a healthier lifestyle, possibly with medication to reduce stress and ease pain. However, these medications are restrictive, as they cause side effects and do not really solve the underlying problem. For some people, CBD (cannabidiol) is a natural alternative that improves their condition day and night.
Recent clinical research indicates that CBD helps relieve many of the symptoms of RLS, while improving the quality of sleep for patients who often suffer from insomnia. With CBD, they can finally have productive days and peaceful nights.
What are the positive effects of CBD on RLS? How to properly consume CBD to relieve the symptoms of this neurological disorder, in what form and at what dosage? To fully understand how CBD works on RLS, let’s start by looking at the elements that characterize this condition.
What is restless legs syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological disorder that can occur at any time in your life. Symptoms tend to occur at night, when your body is at rest, making it especially difficult to sleep. Automatically, lack of sleep can have a serious impact on your quality of life.
For most RLS sufferers, symptoms include itching and tingling in the legs that causes involuntary movements. All this restlessness prevents them from sleeping and leads to a feeling of intense fatigue during the day. A vicious circle that does not give patients a single second of respite.
Pain, discomfort, lack of sleep. All these negative aspects affect the physical and psychological well-being of patients. To relieve their symptoms, many people feel the need to move around nervously, which will naturally increase their level of stress and anxiety on a daily basis. Common situations such as going to class or staying for dinner can become embarrassing and impact their social life. Because of this, it’ s important to change habits and learn how to manage stress to get rid of this disorder, and this is where CBD comes in.
What are the benefits of CBD to combat RLS?
Scientific studies from 2017 have revealed the positive impact of therapeutic cannabis on RLS symptoms. On the one hand, it improves quality of life during the day by calming nervousness. On the other hand, it soothes itching and nighttime discomfort that prevents sleep, while providing patients with quality, restorative, and deep sleep. According to the study, 5 out of 6 participants confirmed a total remission following a treatment exclusively based on cannabis. On the other hand, all participants noted a significant improvement of their sleep at the end of the treatment.
As this study was carried out on only a few people, one can wonder if these results are valid for all patients. For the researchers, if CBD is so effective to fight against RLS, it is in particular thanks to its positive effects on the production of dopamine, also called the hormone of happiness. Indeed, RLS is caused by a neurological disorder, itself caused by a dopamine imbalance. Therefore, taking CBD helps the brain to stimulate this neurotransmitter and regulate it in a completely natural way.
Furthermore, scientists are unanimous in saying that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system and offers a whole host of therapeutic virtues that can soothe pain and effectively reduce stress. Thanks to its anti-anxiety properties, hemp allows for a lighter, calmer, and more serene mind. That’s why RLS sufferers who take CBD before bed are finally able to find sleep, rest, and have a great day.
How to consume CBD to relieve the symptoms of RLS?
Typically, RLS sufferers take CBD oil orally or sublingually to relieve their symptoms. To enjoy the relaxing effects for a few hours, you can pour a few drops on your food or in your drinks. If you prefer a fast-acting, but shorter-lasting effect, you can pour a few drops of CBD oil directly under your tongue.
CBD flowers and resins
With CBD flowers and resins, the scents and flavors are all there. To consume them in a healthy way, you can use a vaporizer, or crumble them to incorporate them in your dishes or in your herbal teas. The advantage of vaporization is that the effects will be almost instantaneous and all the flavors of hemp will be perfectly preserved. If you choose to incorporate them in your culinary preparations, the relaxing effects will take longer to appear, but they will last effectively for a few hours.
If you don’t like the taste of hemp and prefer a neutral product to get the benefits of medical cannabis, you may well turn to CBD capsules. These edible capsules have no taste or smell, but have the same soothing effects as oil or resin. Plus, the small capsule boxes are easy and discreet to carry around on a daily basis.
How much CBD should I take to relieve RLS symptoms?
With CBD, there is no risk of overdosing, but there is no perfect dosage either. If you suffer from RLS, you should adjust the dosage according to the intensity of your pain and how you feel. Start with a low dose to see if it does much for you or not. If you feel that you need more, increase the doses gradually. If in doubt, ask your doctor or a pharmacist for advice, who will be able to guide you towards the most suitable dosage for you. Once again, it is important to remember that CBD is not a medicine and that it cannot replace a real medical follow-up. Sometimes, CBD is enough on its own. But in some cases, it can be used in addition to a medical treatment. Whatever the case, listen to your body and choose the CBD format that suits you best.
Can CBD permanently cure RLS?
No, CBD is not a medicine and it does not cure any disease. On the other hand, it can help relieve many symptoms and restore a better quality of life. In other words, it helps you get back to quality sleep, reduce stress and anxiety and thus, it accompanies you in a gentle and totally natural healing process.
Can CBD cause neurological side effects?
No, CBD is not known to cause neurological side effects, unlike some drug treatments. In fact, CBD is a natural substance that has powerful protective properties for the brain and neurons.
CBD for Restless Legs Syndrome: Effects & Dosage
Untreated restless legs syndrome (RLS) has consequences that affect your overall quality of life. It prevents you from getting restful sleep, which impacts your physical health. It also puts you at risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Medications help control RLS symptoms, but prolonged use of these drugs sometimes has ugly side effects.
CBD, as research studies suggest, has properties that may help control your RLS symptoms and improve your quality of life. It’s also non-psychoactive, non-toxic, and safe.
Read more to know what RLS is, how CBD helps with this neurological disorder, and how to use CBD for restless legs syndrome.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome is a type of neurological disorder that causes a painful throbbing, pulling, itching, or electric sensation in the legs. An uncontrollable need to move the legs also accompanies the sensation.
These unpleasant sensations typically occur late in the afternoon or the evening hours but progressively worsen at night when you’re resting or sleeping. The symptoms also often wake you up and prevent you from going back to sleep. Inactivity, prolonged sitting, and stress typically make the symptoms worse, and moving the legs or walking relieves them.
RLS has no known cause, but a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests that genetics, kidney disease, and an imbalance in the neurotransmitter levels in the brain may be the causative factors .
Health problems like peripheral nerve damage, kidney failure, iron deficiency, and spinal cord problems also increase RLS risks.
How is Restless Legs Syndrome Treated?
If left untreated, RLS will start affecting the quality of your life.
Because you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll feel exhausted all the time, with your daytime fatigue affecting your activities of daily living. Mood swings, easy irritability, inability to concentrate, poor memory, short attention span, and sleep deprivation may also occur. Sleep deprivation and RLS symptoms will also impact your mental health and may cause anxiety and depression.
The treatment for RLS consists of finding the underlying cause and treating the problem. Once the root cause is treated, there’s usually an improvement in the RLS symptoms.
If no underlying cause was found, then lifestyle modification may be suggested. These include:
- Diet change
- Regular exercise program
- Healthier sleep habits
- Warm baths
- Avoidance of caffeinated beverages
- Smoking or alcohol cessation
Prescription medications may also be given such as:
- Muscle relaxants for muscle cramps and spasms
- Sleep aids for sleep problems
- Painkillers like opioids for severe pain
- Anticonvulsant drugs like gabapentin
- Dopamine agonists like rotigotine and ropinirole
Short-term effects of these drugs may cause nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. However, prolonged use may also result in drug tolerance, in which case you’ll need a higher dose of the same medication or a different medication altogether. Long-term use may also cause worsening of your RLS symptoms.
CBD, on the other hand, is a safe, non-toxic, and non-psychoactive cannabinoid that may be used for RLS. Before we discuss CBD for restless legs syndrome, let’s first go over the role of the endocannabinoid system.
The Endocannabinoid System and Restless Legs Syndrome
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is involved in many physiological functions — from regulating appetite and stress to controlling an abnormal inflammatory response. It consists of three components: the endocannabinoids, the cannabinoid receptors (CB1R and CB2R), and the enzymes that degrade the endocannabinoids.
You’ll find cannabinoid receptors all over the body, including the peripheral tissues. However, the brain and the spinal cord have the most abundant numbers of CB1R. This is why its activation results in the modulation of many physiological functions such as appetite, hunger, fear, memory, stress, anxiety, pain, pleasure, sleep, as well as sensory and motor responses, etc.
The CB2R, on the other hand, is mostly found in the immune system, and its activation results in decreased inflammation.
The main role of the ECS is to make sure there’s a balance among the different chemicals inside the body. Unfortunately, noxious stimuli like pain, infection, or diseases easily disrupt this balance and cause symptoms. If left untreated, this imbalance can contribute to ECS dysfunction.
In RLS, for example, low levels of dopamine in the region of the brain controlling motor movements cause painful muscle spasms and cramps. Iron deficiency also contributes to fatigue, dizziness, and joint pains, which worsen RLS symptoms .
Studies suggest that inflammation caused by chronic health problems also plays a role in the worsening of RLS symptoms. It contributes to abnormal dopamine and iron levels in the brain .
We lack studies that focus on the ECS and RLS, but ECS dysregulation has been implicated in diseases like multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease . Similar to RLS, these neurological diseases also cause motor problems. Parkinson’s disease, in particular, shares similar features with RLS since they both have abnormal dopamine levels .
According to an issue published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, patients with Parkinson’s disease respond well to CBD . This effect may be one of the reasons why CBD for restless legs helps.
What are the Effects of CBD for Restless Legs Syndrome?
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that doesn’t dock very well on the CB1R. However, it binds to several receptors like the serotonin, vanilloid, adenosine, and PPARy receptors to produce its therapeutic effects.
CBD directly stimulates the CB2R though, producing a strong anti-inflammatory response.
Below are the effects CBD may have on RLS symptoms.
CBD for Pain
The classic symptom of RLS is a pain in the legs that get worse at night. It’s often described as throbbing, pulling, crawling pain inside the legs, and some also describe it as an itching and electric pain. The pain becomes severe when resting or sleeping, and an uncontrollable urge to move the legs often temporarily relieves the unpleasant sensation.
CBD produces strong analgesic effects when it binds to the vanilloid, adenosine, and PPARy receptors . These receptors play active roles in controlling pain sensation.
When CBD binds to these receptors, the cells stop secreting pain-generating compounds. They start releasing compounds that counteract the effects of the pain-generating ones. This CBD effect also stimulates the cells to reabsorb the pain-generating chemicals, reducing their levels in the system.
CBD for Inflammation
Low-grade inflammation caused by chronic health problems plays a role in RLS and may contribute to decreased dopamine and iron levels in the brain, fatigue, and chronic widespread pain .
CBD exerts its anti-inflammatory effects through the CB2R, serotonin, vanilloid, PPARy, adenosine, and GPR55 receptors. Activation of these receptors results in apoptosis or cell death of the immune cells. This effectively stops the immune cells from sending signals for more immune cells to the site .
This CBD effect only affects the abnormal immune cells while protecting the healthy cells.
CBD for Muscle Spasms and Cramps
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke notes that more than 80% of individuals suffering from RLS also complain of periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). These muscle jerks and spasms typically occur during sleep, with an interval of about 15 to 40 seconds between each involuntary movement .
CBD produces muscle relaxant effects and anticonvulsants through the non-cannabinoid receptors. Their activation prompts the brain cells to slow down their release of excitatory neurotransmitters while increasing their release of inhibitory ones. CBD also allows the endocannabinoids to stay longer in the system by attaching to the enzymes that break them down .
CBD for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
If you’re suffering from RLS, you’re at a higher risk of developing chronic stress as well as depression and anxiety. RLS also makes you more vulnerable to panic disorders .
CBD reduces stress and anxiety, and it also improves symptoms of depression by stabilizing the abnormal neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Again, these CBD effects are through its activation of non-cannabinoid receptors such as the vanilloid and serotonin receptors .
CBD for Sleep
You never get a full, restful sleep when your RLS attacks. The painful sensation keeps you up at night, and the muscle twitches sometimes pull you out of sleep. If left untreated, RLS results in sleep deprivation, which impacts your overall mental and physical well-being.
CBD not only relieves several symptoms associated with RLS but also improves sleep. A study published in The Permanente Journal revealed that CBD improved the duration and quality of sleep in patients with anxiety problems.
CBD for Restless Legs Syndrome
We lack specific studies that focus on CBD for RLS, but one notable study published in Sleep Medicine showed that smoking marijuana and sublingual CBD improved the sleep quality of six patients with RLS .
The study also noted that cannabis use was effective in controlling RLS symptoms. It’s also well-tolerated by the patients.
How to Find the Best CBD Dose for Restless Legs Syndrome?
Unlike other popular supplements in the market, CBD doesn’t have a recommended daily intake. Yes, you’ll see label instructions telling you to take one dropper daily, but the CBD dose it contains may not be the best dose for you. Depending on the total milligrams of CBD in the bottle, one dropper can either be too low or too high.
The best way to find your CBD dose is to follow this simple rule:
- For mild symptoms or low-strength CBD, take 1 mg of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight
- For moderate symptoms or medium-strength CBD, take 3 mg of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight
- For severe symptoms or high-strength CBD, take 6 mg of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight
For example, if you weigh 120 pounds and have mild RLS symptoms, then you need at least 12 mg of CBD (36 mg of CBD for moderate symptoms and 72 mg of CBD for severe symptoms).
Let’s say you bought a 30 mL bottle containing a total of 750 mg of CBD, then divide 750 by 30, and you get 25 mg of CBD per one full dropper. Each dropper contains at least 20 drops, so divide 25 by 20, and you get 1.25 mg of CBD per drop.
Since you need 12 mg of CBD for your mild RLS symptoms, divide 12 by 1.25 and you get 9.6. This means that you need at least 10 drops for symptom control.
You can also buy extra-strength CBD oil for moderate to severe symptoms. It may be a bit pricier, but it will last you a long time.
How to Choose the CBD Product?
Looking for CBD products shouldn’t be difficult. CBD’s popularity has made it readily available in the market. However, this doesn’t mean though that you have to buy the first product you see.
Instead, you should be extra careful when buying CBD to avoid mistakes, especially since there’s the risk of buying illegal and/or substandard CBD products.
When buying CBD, always consider these factors.
CBD Source and Extraction Process
Make sure it’s an organic CBD that is sourced from organically grown plants. This reduces your risk of buying contaminated CBD products since no artificial fertilizers and pesticides were used in growing the plants.
There are many ways to extract CBD, including the use of solvents like ethanol, alcohol, butane, oil, and carbon dioxide. Of these methods, the supercritical CO2 extraction process is, by far, the safest and cleanest method that produces pure, residue-free CBD.
CBD Legal Status
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp . This means that we can now use all the parts of the plant legally, including its leaves, stems, flowers, cannabinoids, extracts, derivatives, isomers, acids, etc., as long as its THC level doesn’t go over 0.3%. Cannabis plants containing more than 0.3% THC are considered marijuana and are illegal under federal laws.
People, regardless of age, have access to hemp-derived CBD products. You don’t need to get a letter of recommendation or a prescription from your doctor. You can simply buy CBD from dispensaries, health stores, and online CBD shops. There’s also no restriction on the amount of hemp-derived CBD products you can possess.
Marijuana-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are only available to people residing in states that legalized marijuana. Some states require patients to register into their medical marijuana program to get a card, while other states don’t. You only have to present a valid ID as proof that you’re of legal age to buy marijuana-derived CBD with higher THC content.
Before buying CBD products, we recommend checking your state’s cannabis laws.
Certificate of Analysis
One of the differentiating factors between a good CBD and a bad CBD product is its COA.
Legitimate CBD producers send samples of their products to certified facilities for laboratory testing. The tests look for contaminants such as heavy metals, toxic residues, residual solvents, harmful microbes, etc. They also check the potency of the products by getting the cannabinoid profile and their concentration.
The COA is proof that the product underwent third-party testing. You’ll see this on the product label and the producer’s website.
Don’t buy CBD products that don’t have COAs. You’re not guaranteed their safety, quality, and potency.
Types of CBD
When choosing CBD products, you’ll encounter the different types of CBD products:
- Pure CBD which has only CBD and no other extra ingredients
- Broad-spectrum CBD which also has other cannabinoids and terpenes
- Full-spectrum CBD which also has THC, in addition to the extra cannabinoids and terpenes
They all help, but with full-spectrum CBD oil, you also benefit from the entourage effect. This is a cannabis phenomenon that states that all the compounds found in the plant (including THC) work together and boost each other’s therapeutic effects.
Forms of CBD
You’ll also encounter different forms of CBD such as sublingual, edible, inhalable, and topical CBD products.
Sublingual and inhalable CBD products give you fast relief since the cannabinoid bypasses the digestive organs and the liver. You’ll feel the effects in under 30mins. However, the effects don’t last as long as edibles.
Edible CBD takes some time before you feel the effects (about 30 minutes to 1.5 hours) since it goes through the digestive system and liver first before joining the blood circulation. However, the effects last longer since the cannabinoid circulates in the body for a longer period.
Topical CBD creams stimulate the cannabinoid receptors found on the skin and help provide immediate relief to muscles and joints.
Once you’ve chosen a CBD product (with consideration of the factors above), the last step is to read reviews. Customer feedback and their experience already tell a lot about the CBD product.
Of course, stay away from CBD products that received more negative than positive reviews.
Is CBD Safe?
CBD is safe and non-toxic . There may be some side effects like eye and mouth dryness or lightheadedness, but these are usually well-tolerated and typically go away in time.
Final Thoughts — Can CBD for Restless Legs Syndrome Help?
Can CBD for restless legs syndrome help control symptoms?
There’s no study yet that purely focuses on CBD for RLS, but other CBD studies show that this non-psychoactive cannabinoid has many properties that relieve RLS symptoms. It helps with unpleasant sensations in the legs, and it also relaxes the muscles. CBD may also help with associated RLS symptoms like sleep loss, increased anxiety, and depression. Moreover, CBD helps control low-grade inflammation, which contributes to the worsening of RLS symptoms.
Are you using CBD for restless legs syndrome? Has it helped with your symptoms? Comment your story below!
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Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.