top of page

Herbs and Supplements for Restless Leg Syndrome

I've been suffering from restless leg syndrome for a long time and I can't tell you how annoying it is! My heart goes out to those who suffer this for many years. As with anything that happens to me, I turn to herbs, and I have found some very effective solutions and wisdom I'd like to share.

There are three herbs/ supplements that I recommend for folks who suffer from restless leg syndrome:

  1. White peony root tea (I take two scoops of this powdered extract in hot water, once a day)

  2. Calcium-Magnesium (I take two capsules of This product from Solaray).

  3. Iron (I like this chewable iron from Natural Factors, 1 tablet daily)

White peony root in particular has been studied in China for folks with RLS, and according to the study I read, had a 100% success rate. Though it has not gotten rid of my RLS, as long as I drink a cup a day when symptoms are present, it gets rid of it. If I forget, I also find that I can get out of bed and drink a cup of the tea and go back to bed and it will be gone.

RLS can be caused by iron deficient anemia, which is why iron is often recommended. I would try taking iron by itself for a week to see what kind of effect it has for you. If it has no effect, then there is more at play than just iron deficiency.

Calcium deficiency can also cause muscle spasm and tension. Especially for women, and especially for women who menstruate, calcium can often be deficient. Calcium levels can also drop at certain points in the menstrual cycle, such as right before menstruation. I find that my RLS gets worse at these times, and is aided greatly by taking a Cal/Mag supplement. They are best taken together because they each help the absorption of the other. The form of calcium matters–I prefer the more easily absorbed calcium citrate, and avoid the more difficult to absorb calcium carbonate.

Magnesium deficiency is perhaps more well known for causing muscle spasms. Magnesium is a great thing to supplement for folks with RLS. Note that Magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin, through epsom salt baths or magnesium creams. I sometimes used a magnesium cream on the hip for RLS as it can hit the system faster. The form of magnesium you take also matters. I take magnesium citrate, and also like magnesium glycinate.

I want to revisit white peony root a bit to touch on a concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) called "blood deficiency." "Blood" does not refer the literal blood in our veins, though perhaps there are some parallels in that anemia is similar to what "blood deficiency" means in TCM. You can think of blood as the nourishment that reaches our connective tissue and organs. On top of a host of other symptoms (including fatigue, dizziness, seeing floaters, brittle nails and hair, and dull headaches), people with blood deficiency tend to experience muscle spasms. The solution to this in TCM is to tonify the blood, which basically means building it up. This can be done with herbs, food, acupuncture and also supporting the organs involved in making blood (we don't delve into that piece in this article). White peony root builds the blood, but also calms spasms and has an affinity to the tendons and connective tissues. There are many other herbs and herbal formulas that build the blood, but for RLS, white peony root alone is a safe bet.

Diet can also certainly be used to build blood along with the herbs and supplements above. Here is a list of foods that can help.

Foods that build blood

- all meat and fish, but especially organ meats and bone marrow

- liver

- goji berries

- mulberries

- molasses

- beets

- dates

- figs

- kale

- parsley

- seaweed

Going back to the concept of blood deficiency, it is important to note that there are types of herbs that can exacerbate blood deficiency and potentially make your RLS worse. Avoid any herb that is astringent (drying) or bitter, which deplete the blood. One prominent example of this is dandelion root, which is commonly consumed as a coffee substitute. Dandelion root is very drying, and can deplete blood, so avoid it with RLS! Also, herbs like goldenseal, which is very astringent and bitter, should be used sparingly.

The last point I'd like to touch upon, is that RLS can also be caused by medications and health conditions. These herbs and supplements may or may not help you if that is the case. It is important to check for interactions with anything you are taking, especially if you have a complex health picture.

Good luck calming your legs! May you rest peacefully.

If you'd like to learn more about foraging your own herbal remedies, you can check out my book, Medicinal Plants of the Pacific Northwest: A Visual Guide to Harvesting and Healing with 35 Common Species. It contains a lot of plants that grow everywhere, so it can be helpful even for folks who live elsewhere.

bottom of page