CBD Oil For Restless Legs

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Clinical studies on the use of medical cannabis in restless legs syndrome are very few and far between. Nevertheless, these few studies are promising. Little research is available, but there is some evidence that CBD may help treat restless legs syndrome (RLS). Here’s what to know before using CBD for RLS.

Restless Legs Syndrome: Medical cannabis as a therapy option

People with restless legs syndrome (RLS) complain of a strong urge to move their legs at night. Mostly also about tingling and aching legs. This is known as restless legs syndrome (RLS), a frequently occurring neurological disease.

The study situation regarding the therapy with medical cannabis for movement disorders is not yet clear. However, the results so far are promising.

Restless Legs Syndrome: typical symptoms

As its name suggests, the main symptom of this condition is to have restless legs. Those people affected by restless legs syndrome feel the urge to move their legs constantly. In addition, unpleasant feelings or sensations such as pulling or tingling in the legs can also occur. Frequently, cramp-like complaints and pain also occur.

Basically, patients experience RLS differently. While for some the urge to move is particularly agonizing, others suffer more from the sensations. In addition, both legs are not always affected at the same time. Thus, the complaints can occur in only one leg or they occur alternating in both legs.

However, it is typical for RLS that the symptoms worsen in sitting and lying down. Movements, on the other hand, provide relief. The following symptoms may also accompany the disease:

  • Difficulty falling asleep and sleeping through the night
  • Tiredness during the day
  • Exhaustion
  • Concentration disorders

Restless Legs Syndrome: What are the causes?

So far, the exact causes have not been clarified. Researchers suspect that the dopamine metabolism in the brain might be disturbed – similar to Parkinson’s disease, which also causes movement disorders. As a result of this disorder, the transmission of nerve signals can be defective. But a disturbance in the brain stem and cerebellum could also be the cause.

An inherited component may also be a possible cause. In the meantime, a gene has been identified that could be involved in the development of the neurological disease. However, the exact connections have not yet been clarified. It is also questionable whether this is the sole cause.

What forms of restless legs syndrome are there?

RLS distinguishes between the following two forms:

  • Primary Restless Legs Syndrome (idiopathic form): The causes are not known here.
  • Secondary restless legs syndrome: In the secondary form, the disease occurs as a result of other diseases. For example, the diseases diabetes mellitus, polyneuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s syndrome or thyroid dysfunction can trigger RLS. However, vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency or iron deficiency can also be the cause.

What medications can cause restless legs syndrome?

It is now known that certain drugs can also trigger or even aggravate the syndrome. This is especially true for drugs that interfere with the brain metabolism. These include, for example, drugs with a mood-lifting effect (antidepressants).

Restless Legs Syndrome: diagnosis and therapy

The diagnosis is based on the typical RLS symptoms:

  • The urge to move the legs only manifests itself at rest.
  • The urge to move increases in resting phases.
  • Sensations such as tingling, pulling or pain in the legs occur.
  • The RLS symptoms are more pronounced in the evening or at night.

In addition, a blood test is carried out to rule out possible deficiencies. An extensive neurological examination is also necessary.

To confirm the diagnosis, doctors often carry out a so-called L-Dopa test. If the RLS symptoms improve while taking L-Dopa, this can confirm the diagnosis. If the symptoms do not improve, this does not mean yet that RLS is not present. This is because the connections between RLS and dopamine metabolism have not yet been definitively clarified.

The treatment of restless legs depends on how severe the symptoms are and how much the patient suffers. If it is possible triggering diseases have been excluded, the patient can be prescribed an L-dopa preparation (e.g. levodopa). It is also possible to combine the active substances levodopa and benserazide, as well as drug therapy with dopamine agonists (e.g. ropinirole, pramipexole or rotigotine). Dopamine agonists can imitate the messenger substance dopamine and thus develop a dopamine-like effect.

If it is a very pronounced and painful form of RLS, patients are sometimes prescribed anti-epileptic drugs or strong painkillers (opioids).

What helps against restless legs syndrome?

If the syndrome is mild to moderate, patients can help themselves with various measures. For example, many RLS patients report that foot baths, alternating showers and leg massages can alleviate the symptoms. Stretching exercises and regular sport can also help to alleviate symptoms. Patients should also avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks and nicotine before going to bed, as these substances can increase the symptoms.

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Furthermore, the intake of vitamin B12, folic acid and iron could also have a beneficial effect. However, this should be discussed in advance with the doctor treating you.

Medical cannabis as a therapy option

Clinical studies on the use of medical cannabis in restless legs syndrome are very few and far between. Nevertheless, these few studies are promising. At the Université de Bordeaux in France there was a case study with six RLS patients who used cannabis to relieve the symptoms (1). Five of the patients reported that the symptoms disappeared almost completely after cannabis use. One patient even spoke of complete remission. The patients further explained that the quality of sleep improved significantly under cannabis use.

Interesting is also a study from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. It is known that cannabinoids from the cannabis plant such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) interact with the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2 receptors) of the endocannabinoid system. The researchers found indications that this could also regulate dopamine release. This dopamine regulation has already been shown to be effective in the treatment of movement disorders, for example in Parkinson’s disease.

Cannabidiol (CBD) against restless legs

Various studies suggest that the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) may relieve symptoms such as tremor, anxiety and sleep disturbances. The use of CBD in restless legs syndrome could be considered as a solution to the anxiety and sleep problems (2).

With regard to CBD and movement disorders, the study results are inconclusive. For example, in one study, Parkinson’s patients did not experience symptom relief from CBD therapy (3). The researchers believe that CBD might play less of a therapeutic role, but could be used preventively in Parkinson’s Disease. Further research is needed, however.

Conclusion

The current study data are not yet sufficient to draw conclusions regarding the movement disorders associated with restless legs syndrome. Despite the widespread publicity about the medical benefits of cannabinoids, further pre-clinical and clinical studies are necessary to better characterize the pharmacological and therapeutic effects.

(1) Département de Neurophysiologie Clinique, France, Megelin T1, Ghorayeb I2, 2017, “Cannabis for restless legs syndrome: a report of six patients”

Alexandra Latour verfügt über langjähre Erfahrungen als Autorin im medizinischen Bereich. Ab dem Jahr 2017 hat sie sich als Medical Writer auf das Thema Cannabis als Medizin spezialisiert und war für Leafly Deutschland tätig.

Can CBD Help With Restless Legs Syndrome?

Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Nicholas R. Metrus, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and neuro-oncologist. He currently serves at the Glasser Brain Tumor Center in Summit, New Jersey.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) causes unpleasant sensations in the legs, along with an overwhelming urge to move them.

Symptoms tend to be strongest in the evening, when you’re least active. They can also flare up when you lie down in bed. RLS can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, which can become a serious quality-of-life issue.

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may help ease symptoms of RLS. However, there haven’t been many studies focusing on CBD for RLS.

This article will cover the research, potential benefits, and side effects of using CBD for RLS, along with information about dosage and the types of CBD products that are available.

Atsushi Yamada / Taxi Japan / Getty Images

What Is CBD?

CBD is a cannabinoid, a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant.

It’s not the same as medical marijuana. Marijuana contains a significant amount of another cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the substance that produces psychoactive effects that make you feel “high.”

CBD is extracted from hemp. The difference between marijuana and hemp is the amount of THC. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, which isn’t enough to get you high.

THC vs. CBD

Cannabis is a plant of the Cannabaceae family. Cannabis products come from its leaves, stems, seeds, and flowering tops. Cannabis contains more than 120 naturally occurring substances called cannabinoids. THC and CBD are two of the main cannabinoids. THC is the substance that produces a high. CBD is a nonintoxicating substance that may have therapeutic effects.

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Research Around CBD and RLS

There hasn’t been much research to assess the effectiveness of CBD in the treatment of RLS.

It does appear, however, that some people are using it for that purpose. In a small 2021 survey based primarily in the United Kingdom, more than 42% of respondents said they used CBD to improve sleep or for insomnia, while another 5% reported using CBD for RLS.

A small 2019 study on the efficacy of smoking cannabis for RLS suggests that regular use of cannabis may reduce symptoms of RLS. A notable limitation is that study participants smoked cannabis containing THC. It’s possible that results are distorted by THC’s psychoactive and antianxiety properties.

More large-scale studies on CBD and RLS are needed.

Types of CBD Products

The three main types of CBD products are:

  • CBD isolate: This type is also called “pure CBD” because all other cannabinoids have been removed.
  • Broad spectrum: This type contains three or more other cannabinoids. It may have terpenes and flavonoids, which provide aromas, flavors, and colors. It does not contain THC. : Also known as “whole flower CBD,” it’s almost the same as broad spectrum. However, it can contain up to 0.3% THC.

These products are available in many forms, including:

  • Oral tablets and capsules
  • Chewables and gummies
  • Tinctures, oils, and extracts
  • Patches, creams, and lotions
  • Spray

What to Look for in CBD Products for RLS

Once you decide on the type of CBD product, it’s important to look for a reputable source.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some CBD products are marketed with unproven medical claims and are of unknown quality. The agency hasn’t approved any nonprescription CBD products.

CBD products sold in dispensaries must have a label that lists exactly how much CBD it contains. It should also state whether it contains THC.

If you don’t have access to a dispensary, another good option is a trusted pharmacy. You can also buy CBD products online, but be careful about the source. One study of online CBD products found that:

  • 31% were accurately labeled.
  • 43% had more CBD than labeled.
  • 26% had less CBD than labeled.

No matter where you get CBD, always ask for a certificate of analysis (COA). This document provides information such as:

  • The date of the report, so you know it’s recent
  • The name of the third-party lab that performed the testing, along with its license number
  • The potency of a variety of cannabinoids, including CBD and THC
  • Whether the product passed safety tests for contaminants

Things to avoid:

  • Illegally sold synthetic CBD products, including those marketed as “bath salts” or “spice,” which can cause a psychotic reaction in some people
  • CBD added to food or labeled as a dietary supplement, which is illegal
  • Products that claim to prevent or cure a health condition
  • Products that list only “total cannabinoids” rather than breaking them down separately
  • Products without a COA

CBD Dosage for RLS

The FDA has approved prescription CBD products for the treatment of certain seizure disorders. The agency hasn’t granted approval for any other use. And because research on CBD for RLS is limited, there’s no standardized dose.

It’s best to start with a low dose and build up slowly, if needed. Discuss dosing with a healthcare provider or pharmacist and ask about possible interactions with any medicines or supplements you take.

Benefits of CBD for RLS

People from all walks of life are using CBD for specific health conditions, including RLS and sleep problems. Many say CBD helps in the absence of conventional medicine alternatives and with few troublesome side effects.

Since research specific to CBD for RLS is scarce, the benefits are unclear. If you try CBD for RLS, it may be helpful to keep a journal of the CBD product, dose, and your response. Over time, this may clarify whether it’s beneficial for you.

Side Effects of CBD for RLS

CBD is a naturally derived product, but natural products can cause side effects. Side effects of CBD can include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritability

Due to limited controlled studies, there’s not enough information to properly assess risks such as:

  • Cumulative effects
  • Food interactions
  • Effects on older populations, children, and adolescents
  • Effects during pregnancy or while breastfeeding
  • Interactions with common medications

There may be an increased risk of liver damage in people who take medicines that affect the liver. There may be interactions between CBD and immunosuppressive drugs used for organ transplants, as well as with chemotherapy or Coumadin or Jantoven (warfarin).

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Other Treatment Options

There’s no cure for RLS, though it’s possible to minimize symptoms and improve sleep. You may not need treatment if your symptoms are mild.

  • Avoid or cut back on alcohol and tobacco.
  • Set up a regular sleep schedule, going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning.
  • Perform leg-stretching exercises and massage your legs as needed.
  • Take a warm bath before bed.
  • Apply an ice pack or heating pad to your legs.
  • Try a compression foot wrap or a pad that delivers vibration to the back of your legs.

Medications to treat RLS include drugs that affect dopamine levels, such as:

  • Requip (ropinirole)
  • Mirapex (pramipexole)
  • Neupro (rotigotine)

Sometimes, anti-seizure drugs can help with symptoms of RLS. These include:

    or gabapentin enacarbil

If those medications don’t work, opioids may be an option. These may include:

  • Methadone
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone

Benzodiazepines such as clonazepam and lorazepam may help improve sleep.

Each of these drugs can produce serious side effects. It’s important to discuss the potential benefits and side effects with your healthcare provider.

Is Medical Marijuana Effective for RLS?

Research on the use of medical marijuana for RLS is limited. There are reports of total remission, suggesting that more scientific research, including controlled trials, is warranted. Marijuana contains THC, which can get you high. It also contains other substances that produce different side effects than CBD does.

Summary

RLS causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs along with a powerful urge to move them. Symptoms usually occur in the evening, when you’re at rest or in bed.

RLS can make it very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, which can have a negative effect on your quality of life. There are medicines to treat RLS, but they don’t help everyone.

CBD is one of hundreds of cannabinoids in cannabis plants. Unlike THC, it doesn’t produce a high. CBD is available in many forms, including chewables, tinctures, and sprays.

It appears that many people have used CBD for symptoms of RLS. And many report that it helps without causing serious side effects.

Unfortunately, CBD for RLS is not well studied. There’s a lack of information regarding proper dosing and the effects of long-term use.

A Word From Verywell

Living with RLS can be challenging, especially if lifestyle changes or medicines aren’t helping. If you’re considering trying CBD, it’s a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider first. Be sure to mention other health conditions you have, as well as any medications and supplements you’re taking.

A healthcare provider or pharmacist can help you decide if CBD is right for you and possibly suggest a starting dose. All CBD products are not alike. If you’re purchasing CBD online, make sure it’s a reliable source and you have access to a COA. And, of course, stay away from products that claim to prevent or cure RLS.

Frequently Asked Questions

It varies a lot from person to person. It could be several hours to a full day. Factors such as metabolism, dose, method of administration, and how often you use it all play a role.

While there are anecdotal reports of improvement and even some of total remission, there’s not enough scientific data to put a number on it.

It appears that most people are able to tolerate CBD with minimal side effects. But it’s important to remember that research on dosing, administration, and cumulative effects is in its infancy.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909

Valdes-Donoso P, Sumner DA, Goldstein R. Costs of cannabis testing compliance: Assessing mandatory testing in the California cannabis market. PLoS One. 2020;15(4):e0232041. Published 2020 Apr 23. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0232041

Corroon J, Phillips JA. A cross-sectional study of cannabidiol users. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018;3(1):152-161. doi:10.1089/can.2018.0006

By Ann Pietrangelo
Ann Pietrangelo is a freelance writer, health reporter, and author of two books about her personal health experiences.

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