Affecting approximately one in ten adults, restless leg syndrome is characterized by unpleasant and uncomfortable sensations in the legs that commonly cause sleep problems. Those diagnosed with restless legs syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom disease, experience an irresistible urge to move their legs, particularly at night. Moving the lower limbs alleviates the sensation temporarily, but studies suggest that cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), may potentially help by offering longer relief.
The research on cannabinoids and restless leg syndrome are limited in volume, but findings are promising. Earlier this month, a study published in Sleep Medicine investigated the effects of cannabinoids on six patients with restless leg syndrome and found “a remarkable and total remission of RLS symptoms following [cannabinoid] use.” Five of the subjects inhaled cannabis containing both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. One reported complete loss of RLS symptoms after using CBD only.
Additionally, several studies suggest that dopamine agonist substances are effective for RLS patients with moderate-to-severe symptoms. While scientists have not directly examined how the influence of cannabinoids on dopamine release could impact RLS, they have determined that cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, to modulate the release of dopamine. Cannabinoids and their dopamine-regulatory effects have demonstrated efficacy at treating symptoms in Parkinson’s disease, another movement disorder.
CBD has also shown it may be beneficial for managing pain and improving sleep, potentially addressing two of the most common symptoms associated with RLS. While these pain relieving and sleep promoting properties of CBD have yet to be tested in RLS patients, they’ve shown to be beneficial in those with other conditions.
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the stalks, seeds, and flowers of cannabis plants like hemp. More research on CBD’s benefit for restless leg syndrome are needed, but so far findings indicate that patients may benefit from incorporating the cannabinoid into their regimen.
You can learn more about the research on CBD by visiting our education page.
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