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Essential Oils for Restless Legs Syndrome

By Jodi Cohen

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) – a movement condition that causes a strong urge to move your legs when you’re resting – may be correlated to poor fluid flow.  

Essential oils that support healthy fluid flow – including healthy circulation, lymphatic drainage, and fascia release – may help prevent the stagnation of fluid that can contribute to crawling, tingling, or itching sensations in your legs at night that are often alleviated by movement which helps support fluid flow. 

While there is no known cause of Restless legs syndrome, common treatment options for RLS symptoms all seem to support healthy fluid flow, including vibration therapy, essential oils, compression devices, stretching exercises, and massages.

That fact, coupled with the overlap between symptoms of RLS and poor circulation – including symptoms of tingling, numbness, pins, and needles,  led me to research questioning Is restless legs syndrome an entirely neurological disorder? Which notes that “the occurrence of unpleasant sensations in the legs at night should be the change of blood flow dynamics. Acceleration of blood flow in the legs when lying down should stimulate nerve fibers that are closely located in the blood vessels. This hypothesis can explain many aspects of RLS, including symptoms as well as epidemiological findings. It is easy to explain why unpleasant sensations occur while lying down, and why relief is achieved by walking.

More specifically, lying down affects the regulation of blood flow dynamics in the extremities, especially the lower legs. Acceleration of blood flow in vessels would increase the pressure of blood on the vessel walls, and subtle changes in vessel tension or shape might stimulate nerve fibers that are in anatomical proximity to the vessels.

It should also be noted that RLS is correlated with an iron deficiency – which is related to blood flow as blood carries iron – and varicose veins, which are also associated with poor circulation. 

Varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency are both associated with circulation problems in your legs. Both develop when tiny valves inside your veins stop working the way they’re supposed to, allowing blood to “pool up” or slow down. Over time, these tiny malfunctioning valves lead to vein problems and related symptoms, including RLS.  What’s more, a 1995 study published in Dermatologic Surgery found that 98 percent of RLS patients treated with a common therapy for varicose veins reported a reduction in RLS symptoms. 

Restless legs syndrome has been deemed a brain, nerve, and sleep condition that causes a strong, nearly irresistible urge to move your legs when you lie down or relax that can be relieved by movement. The urge to constantly move can interfere with your ability to relax or fall asleep.

Rest seems to trigger the onset of symptoms, with uncomfortable leg sensations starting or becoming worse when you’re sitting, lying down, or trying to relax.  Symptoms seem to improve with movement, such as walking or moving your legs which supports fluid flow.

Symptoms of restless legs syndrome include 

  • Leg discomfort combined with constant urge to move legs to relieve pain and feelings of tingling.
  • Repetitive cramping, twitching, jerking or kicking, or other involuntary leg movements during sleep.
  • Uncomfortable sensations deep within the legs that may include:
    • Twitching
    • Tingling
    • “Creepy-crawly” sensations of bugs crawling under your skin 
    • Sensations of “pulling” or “tugging.” 
    • Crawling.
    • Itching.
    • Aching.
    • Burning.
    • Throbbing.
    • Prickling electrical-current sensations

RLS sensations worsen at night contributing to sleep disturbances and contributing to other problems like:

  • Fatigue
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • Depression

Poor sleep can even cause weight gain, which can make underlying circulation problems worse. 

Movement and gravity help to facilitate the flow of fluids in the body.   Therefore when you are lying flat or still, fluids – like blood and lymph – are not flowing.  Poor blood flow means poor oxygen delivery/nutrients into a cell and poor waste removal away from an injury and out of the body. This contributes to chronic pain and inflammation.

Cells need blood flow to function and heal. If they can’t get adequate blood flow they cannot heal. Tightness, tension, and poor circulation can create blood flow ‘chokepoints’. Poor blood flow points in larger arteries and veins block the flow in smaller ones causing symptoms, like the pain and inflammation experienced with RLS.  

Solutions that support fluid movement – such as physical movement and essential oil application – may help relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of restless legs syndrome by treating the underlying circulation problems that may lead to RLS. 

Essential oils help keep plants healthy by moving vital fluids and energy. They transport water from the roots to the leaves and perform similar functions in your body, helping to move energy, flush toxins like viruses and heavy metals, and prevent stagnation.

They perform similar functions in your body, helping to move energy and prevent stagnation.  For example, essential oils help to vasodilate and open circulation pathways like those in your lymphatic and circulatory systems 

Natural compounds, like essential oils, have been shown to increase circulation and blood flow.  For example, essential oils can help relax and improve the health of your blood vessels.  This helps more blood circulate through them, improving your circulation and increasing brain oxygen levels in the process.

When the diameter of a vessel decreases by half, its resistance to flow becomes 16 times greater, contributing to stagnation and pain.  Helping to dilate the blood vessels helps to improve flow and calm pain and inflammation.

Research demonstrates that essential oils, like peppermint and lavender, can be beneficial for offering some relief from restless legs. Peppermint is known to help relieve muscular pain and spasms because it has a cooling effect along with its antispasmodic and analgesic properties.

Many essential oils have been found to have anesthetic properties, which helps explain their value in supporting circulation pathways. Science magazine reported that certain types of anesthetics, or substances that reduce sensitivity to pain, dramatically increase the space between your cells so fluid can flow more easily to help alleviate stagnation and inflammation. Studies have verified the sedative and anesthetic properties of essential oils like clove, eucalyptus, lavender, fennel, black pepper, and peppermint. For example, the administration of clove oil, which is high in the constituent eugenol, dramatically decreased the time required for the induction of anesthesia. Similarly, both fenchone, a constituent of fennel essential oil, and linalool, a naturally occurring constituent in lavender oil, have acute local analgesic effects.

Lavender has been known to slow down blood pressure and heart rate, while putting you in a relaxed state, both physically and mentally. 

A randomized 2014 clinical trial study on The Effect of Massage With Lavender Oil on Restless Legs Syndrome randomly assigned RLS patients to receive either massage using lavender oil or routine care for three weeks.  The RLS patients who received massage with lavender oil showed a “significant decrease” in RLS symptoms, leading to the conclusion that “Lavender oil massage was effective in improving RLS. It has no adverse effects and is practical and cost-effective. It is suggested to be used along with routine treatment of RLS.”

Essential oils can help support healthy cellular function, regulating your body’s fluid levels and supporting cellular hydration, nerve impulses, blood pressure, and muscle contraction. More specifically, topically applying essential oils to specific points on your skin can activate fluid flow directly and quickly.

Circulation™ to Improve Blood Flow

Your circulatory system helps move fluid through your body.  Poor circulation can cause the veins in your legs to become swollen and painful.  Circulation™ blend is formulated to support healthy circulation to deliver oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the body and the brain, while simultaneously carrying toxins and waste to the kidney and liver to be eliminated. Circulation™ blend contains Black Pepper essential oil, which has been found to enhance circulation, increasing blood flow to your digestive system which helps boost nutrient absorption, so much so that it is often added to supplement formulations to enhance the effectiveness of the supplement. Apply 2- 3 drops on the sides or back of the neck, over the left clavicle, and on the wrists or ankles to promote circulation and greatly accelerate the healing process.

Lymph™to Support Lymphatic Circulation 

Your lymphatic system permeates every part of the body, serving as a complementary system to our circulatory system.  It draws fluid from the cells and carries it through a series of lymphatic ducts and nodes back to the circulatory system, establishing the link between the smallest blood vessels – the capillaries – and the cells.

The lymphatic system needs to be functioning optimally to support healthy circulation.  The lymphatic system is critical for moving metabolic waste, toxins, and infections out of the cells via the lymphatic fluid.  The lymphatic system also helps carry nutrients, oxygen, hormones, and other healing substances into every cell. 

To enhance lymphatic flow and drainage, generously apply Lymph™ around the sides of the neck, under the armpits, and along the bikini line.

Fascia Release™  to alleviate restrictions in connective tissue

Fascia promotes the movement of vital fluids such as blood, lymphatic, and interstitial fluid. By transporting nutrients, oxygen molecules, and waste products throughout the body, this supportive function allows for optimal tissue health along with respiration and nourishment of all cells of the body. Tightness or denseness of the fascia in the legs can create a structural obstruction to healthy fluid flow.  

In fact, patients suffering from RLS often demonstrate fascial restrictions in their feet and pelvic regions, trapping the legs in the middle of a connective tissue tug of war.  Helping to release fascia constrictions and densifications in the soft tissues of the body and legs may help diminish RLS symptoms.

Your fascia is connective tissue that surrounds your muscles, skin, organs, and bones, holding your entire body together.   Fascial densifications can form in the soft tissue of the legs and other areas of the body.

Very often, patients suffering from RLS demonstrate fascial restrictions in the feet and pelvic regions, which makes sense if you consider that the legs are then caught in the middle of a connective tissue tug-of-war. 

The Fascia Release™ blend helps to increase circulation and lymph flow which helps to move fluid out of the tissues of the legs and consequently, decrease swelling and relieve painful symptoms.

As you may know, fascia lies just below the skin so topically applying essential oils onto the skin allows for easy and immediate access to the fascia.  The skin is your largest organ and is relatively permeable to fat-soluble substances like essential oils.

Topical supplements play an important role in supporting fascia health and recovery from inflammation. For example, essential oils easily penetrate layers of restricted fascia, creating warmth to break up congestion, increasing circulation, lymphatic drainage unraveling constrictions, adhesions, and any fascial restriction that impede the movement of fluid in your tissues.

Essential oils soften the myofascial tissue, allowing the deep and constrained tissue to stretch and move as it is designed to function.  They also have an analgesic effect, relaxing the muscles and reducing pain.

Essential oils can be used to revitalize and de-stress the fascia and muscles, working quickly to break down inflamed, fibrous tissue, and removing toxins from the painful area.

The essential oils in the Fascia Release™ blend are uniquely formulated with penetrating essential oils, such as the combination of Angelica Root, Black Pepper, Cypress, Elemi, Frankincense, Lavender, Rose, Geranium, Vetiver, Litsea Cubeba, Rosemary and Ylang Ylang work synergistically to create warmth to break up congestion while relaxing tissues and releasing constriction and congestion and improving blood and lymphatic circulation.

Parasympathetic® to Balance the Nervous System and Blood Pressure

An imbalance of the autonomic nervous system, known as Sympathetic dominance, can spike blood pressure and systemic inflammation which may contribute to RLS.  Parasympathetic ™ blend may help to activate the vagus nerve to trigger the Parasympathetic rest and digest state of the autonomic nervous system.  The vagus nerve travels down both sides of the neck and is most accessible behind the ear lobe on the mastoid bone.  Topically applying the Parasympathetic ™ blend on the vagus nerve behind the neck can help reset the autonomic nervous system for optimal function, allowing muscles to relax and setting the stage for the optimal detoxification state.

Anti-Inflammatory™ to Relieve Contraction and Inflammation of the connective tissue and fascia

To help relieve contraction and inflammation of the connective tissue and fascia, Anti-Inflammatory™ can be topically applied to the legs, bottoms of the feet, abdomen, and other areas of the body where tissue feels tight and contracted.  This blend contains several essential oils known for their anti-inflammatory properties.  It is designed to reduce inflammation and encourage regeneration of damaged or stressed cells and tissues that have been chronically inflamed or acutely inflamed.

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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.