Herbs for Restless Legs
Herbal supplements are popular forms of natural medicine. Interestingly, there are only a few restless legs herbs that are popular for modern day use.
by Brad Chase
Herbal remedies are a popular choice for those dealing with restless leg syndrome.
Restless leg is not a life threatening disorder, so those many of those suffering from RLS prefer to use a treatment route that isn't as heavy or chemical rich as some of the medicines that doctors prescribe for RLS.
While benzodiazepines and dopamine agonists are all useful in their own way, they're also addictive, may have side effects, could have long term repercussions, and so on. As is often the case, many prefer the idea of using herbs for restless legs to combat the disorder without any of these potentially dangerous chemicals.
Interestingly, there are not many herbs for RLS used by nutritionalists and herbal medicine enthusiasts.
Generally, doctors recommend vitamin supplements as a natural treatment for RLS instead. Vitamins have been medically linked to both causing and treating restless leg syndrome, and since they're natural and safe for most users, they're usually the first choice that natural medicine experts use for RLS.
Still, there are some RLS herbs that are popular for those living with restless leg. These include:
Valerian root is a common herb for restless legs. Valerian is a natural sedative and sleep aid. The value of valerian is not in the restless legs itself – although there is some evidence that valerian may reduce leg twitching. Rather, valerian root is believed to help people sleep.
A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing measured the sleep disturbances and RLS severity of 37 patients taking valerian root or placebo. Those taking valerian root reported a considerable decrease in both sleepiness and restless leg symptoms.
This study and others do indicate that valerian may be a useful supplement to use to counter RLS symptoms. It doesn't treat the disorder (in the sense that the person will still have the same degree of RLS) but it makes the disorder less disruptive.
Fava beans are a lesser known but potentially effective solution for improving RLS.
Many studies have posited that restless leg syndrome is affected by dopamine levels. It's not clear what affects dopamine levels in general, but the symptoms of RLS appear to change over the same cycle as dopamine, and many dopamine agonists have been proven effective at relieving RLS.
Fava beans are one of the most L-Dopa rich foods in the world. L-Dopa creates dopamine in the brain. It's a standard treatment for Parkinson's disease, and has been linked to treating restless leg syndrome as well.
As of this writing, no studies have been conducted to test whether fava beans are an effective herb for restless leg syndrome. But the link between the two is fairly clear, so it is possible that fava beans and fava bean extract can potentially relieve RLS symptoms.
Skull cap may also be a valuable RLS herb.
What's interesting about skull cap is that it may provide several benefits to those living with RLS. Some of these benefits include:
The greatest mark against skullcap is the significant lack of research for RLS specifically.
Research does appear to have confirmed many of its sedation and other properties, but little research has been done for RLS specifically. Nevertheless, it remains a popular herb for restless legs.
Because of the link to dopamine, many dopamine agonists may be valuable for those living with restless legs. Indeed, some of the most common medicines given to those with RLS are actually Parkinson's medications that are being used off-label.
It stands to reason that other dopamine agonists may be beneficial as well. Cowhage is an herb that contains a high amount of L-Dopa, while both Gingko and Brahmi appear to improve blood flow in the brain, leading to higher concentrations of dopamine.
Unfortunately, very little research has been conducted on the effects of these herbs. Because of the lack of research (and lack of safety studies), it's recommended that you only take these restless leg syndrome herbs under the supervision of a doctor.
In addition to other dopamine agonists, it may also be possible for other natural sedatives and sleep aids to make living with RLS easier.
Unfortunately, the same qualities apply. There is simply not enough research to be certain that any of the sleep aid or sedation like herbs have any effect on RLS. It's quite possible that they do, but without confirmation it is hard to confirm one way or the other that any of these sleep supplements could be herbs for RLS.
Nevertheless, here are some of the most common sleep aid herbs, for those that are interested in something other than valerian and skullcap:
Some also posit that Marijuana (cannabis) may also be valuable as a restless leg herb, but due to the legal issues surrounding marijuana it has not yet been studied and is difficult to recommend.
Because of the nature and causes of restless leg syndrome, herbs for restless leg syndrome are generally used in combination with another type of natural supplement, usually one containing the vitamins for RLS.
In addition, there is not a great deal of research into herbs for RLS, making it a bit difficult to provide recommendations. Nevertheless, valerian and skull cap are both commonly used herbs to treat RLS, and several other herbs have potential to provide the same types of benefits.
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