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. CBD oil is safely used for many conditions, including pain management. Could it help relieve your restless leg syndrome symptoms?
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.
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
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:
- Decreased appetite
- Upset stomach
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).
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:
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.
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.
Morales P, Hurst DP, Reggio PH. Molecular Targets of the Phytocannabinoids: A Complex Picture. Prog Chem Org Nat Prod. 2017;103:103-131. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45541-9_4
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
The Effects of CBD Oil on Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) affects up to 10 percent of the U.S. population, causing people to lose sleep due to uncontrollable spasms in the legs when trying to rest. If you suffer from RLS, you may find temporary relief by moving your legs in an attempt to stop the cramping and tingling feelings in your legs. Unfortunately, those unpleasant symptoms do not go away, and you’re left feeling tired during the day due to a lack of restful sleep.
Because the probable causes of RLS cover a wide range of conditions — everything from an iron deficiency and a low level of dopamine in the brain to varicose veins — remedies are hard to come by. Yet a small number of studies and anecdotal reports suggest CBD oil might help you alleviate the uncomfortable sensations of RLS and swollen varicose veins.
How CBD Oil Works on RLS
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is found in the cannabis plant along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both substances interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates our perception of certain physiological sensations, such as mood, hunger, energy level, pain, and sleep, among many others. The difference between CBD and medical marijuana is that CBD oil is most often derived from industrial hemp, which contains a higher amount of cannabidiol, but doesn’t contain THC, the psychoactive agent that creates a feeling of euphoria in the user. That’s why you’re able to buy CBD oil in retail stores.
In recent years, medical cannabis has been approved by many states to treat a variety of conditions, including chronic pain and inflammation. For RLS patients, CBD oil’s main benefit is its relaxing effect, which eases a person into a restful sleep. That conclusion is supported by a recent study, which reports RLS patients experiencing a reduction in symptoms after taking cannabis.
CBD oil is not a cure for RLS; it merely alleviates some of the painful side effects of the condition. If you believe you suffer from RLS, you’ll need a full diagnostic review to determine what may be causing it. RLS has been attributed to several medical conditions, including iron deficiency, kidney disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. It could also be due to medications you take, such as antidepressants and anti-nausea medications. If you have one of those conditions, you’ll be prescribed dopamine agents to boost dopamine levels in the brain, iron supplements, or another medication to treat that condition.
Varicose Vein Treatment for RLS
Another possible cause of your RLS could be varicose veins. Varicose veins and RLS share many symptoms, including pain and cramping in the legs. Studies have suggested a connection between RLS and varicose veins. According to the research, when people with both RLS and venous insufficiency were treated for varicose veins, RLS symptoms greatly diminished.
Similar to its calming effect on RLS patients, CBD oil might reduce the discomfort and inflammation caused by varicose veins. If you don’t want to use CBD or medical marijuana, you can try hemp oil, which contains neither CBD or THC. It instead contains omega-3 fatty acid that thins blood as it runs through veins. Varicose veins develop when blood becomes blocked in the veins due to malfunctioning valves. Any substance that increases the speed of blood flow aids in circulation, decreases swelling, and reduces the appearance of varicose veins.
CBD can be taken before bed either orally or topically. Start with a low dose, and of course, check with your doctor first to ensure it doesn’t interfere with other medications you may be prescribed.
However, if you’re looking for a more permanent solution to your painful varicose veins and RLS, you’ll need a noninvasive treatment to collapse or remove the damaged vein. CBD oil, while typically not harmful, provides only a brief respite from varicose vein or RLS symptoms – it’s not a cure.
Meet With the Vein Specialists
At Center for Vein Restoration, our only goal is to help our patients overcome the pain of varicose veins and other venous disorders. Using the latest in diagnostic and surgical techniques, we’ll improve your vein health and quality of life. Contact us today for an appointment.