Essential oils are the pure essence of a plant. They are extracted from the seeds, roots, barks, stems, leaves, or flowers of a plant by a process of steam distillation. The oil that is extracted is very concentrated and potent.
The oils give plants their unique scent, but they also protect plants from disease and predators, as well as assisting with the pollination process that ensures their survival. They aren’t only helpful for plants though, they can bring us plenty of benefits too. They have been used in cooking, in beauty therapies, and in medicines for many years. Essential oils are also widely used in aromatherapy practices, as once inhaled, they can easily reach the limbic system of the brain which controls emotion, and mood, via the smell receptors in the nose. This makes them very useful for bringing about benefits in relation to altering mood and stress levels. Some oils have been proven to be useful for depression and anxiety, and other mood disorders.
There are over 3000 known essential oils, and their composition varies depending on how they are harvested, what time of year it is, and how they are processed. This all impacts on the purity and potency of an oil. Generally, the purer the oil, the more potent the benefits. Oils can be used alone or as part of a blend, depending on the desired benefits of the user.
How essential oils can be used
Essential oils are absorbed quickly by the smell receptors in the nose and travel to the limbic system of the brain, which controls mood, emotion, and memory. This is why oils are so popular in aromatherapy. Some oils are used for boosting mood and some are used for calming purposes, among many other things. Oils can be put into a diffuser so they disperse in a room, or they can be inhaled directly from a handkerchief or from the bottle. If you mix them with water, they make a good room or linen spray. They are also effective for cleaning household surfaces, especially if they are citrus-based. They not only cut through grime, but they will leave your house smelling lovely too. Use them on to clean showers, toilets, and worktops.
Many oils have a long history of use in cooking or baking. As well as giving food added taste and aroma, they can provide many health benefits, in a very concentrated dose.
Taking an oil as a supplement gives you a very concentrated dose of benefits, but always be sure to follow instructions on dosage, as some oils can be highly toxic in large amounts. Natural does not mean safe, and the active compounds in essential oils can act just like those in a drug. Seek advice of a suitably qualified professional before taking any oils internally. You can use oils instead of dried herbs and spices in cooking, or you can add them to milk, smoothies, and soups. Remember that a little oil goes a long way though, so start off using a small amount.
Essential oils can easily penetrate the skin. They are widely used in massage for this reason, and when diluted with a carrier oil, they can be dispersed in the body more easily and bring about considerable local or systemic benefits. Always do a patch test on the skin of your upper arm to check for sensitivity, and start with a small amount of oil at first. Never apply oil to the ears or near the eyes, or to any areas of sensitive or broken skin. Remember, too, that some oils can increase sensitivity to the sun, so use them with caution. This is especially true of citrus based oils.
Try adding a few drops of oil to your bath, to a hot or cold compress, or to your favourite body lotion.
Restless legs syndrome is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease and it is a common condition of the nervous system that presents with an overwhelming urge to move the legs. Around 1 in 10 people are affected by restless legs syndrome at some point in their life.
Women are twice as likely to develop restless legs syndrome than men. It’s also more common in middle aged people, although the symptoms can develop at any age, including in childhood.
Sufferers can also experience an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves, and thighs. This is often worse in the evening or at night. Sometimes, the arms are affected too.
With restless legs syndrome, there can also be involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, known as periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS).
Some people have the symptoms of restless legs syndrome infrequently, while some people have them every day. The symptoms can vary from being quite mild to severe. In severe cases, restless legs syndrome can be very distressing and can considerably disrupt a person’s daily life.
Symptoms of restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs and other uncomfortable sensations.
The sensations can also occur in your arms, chest and face, too. The symptoms are often described as tingling, burning, itching, or throbbing, or a painful cramping sensation can occur. Sufferers tend to find it difficult to sit for long periods of time. The symptoms can usually be relieved by moving or rubbing your legs.
Periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS)
Around 80% of people with restless legs syndrome also have periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS).
If you have PLMS, your leg can jerk or twitch uncontrollably, usually at night when you’re asleep. The movements are brief and repetitive, and usually occur every 10 to 60 seconds. PLMS can disrupt sleep by waking both you and your partner. The involuntary leg movements can also occur when you’re awake however.
What causes restless legs syndrome?
In most cases, there’s no apparent cause of restless legs syndrome.
Some specialists believe that the symptoms of restless legs syndrome have something to do with how the body processes a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine helps to control muscle movement and might be responsible for the involuntary leg movements associated with restless legs syndrome.
In some cases, restless legs syndrome is caused by an underlying health condition, anaemia, or kidney failure.
There’s also a link between restless legs syndrome and pregnancy. About 1 in every 5 pregnant women will experience the symptoms in the last few months of their pregnancy, although the exact reason for this is not clear, and the symptoms tend to go away after giving birth.
Triggers for restless legs symptoms
There are some things that can make the symptoms of restless legs worse. These include:
Medications, such as some antidepressants, antipsychotics, lithium, calcium channel blockers, some antihistamines, and metoclopramide, which is an anti-sickness drug.
Other possible triggers include:
excessive smoking, caffeine intake, or alcohol
being overweight or obese
lack of exercise
Treating restless legs syndrome
Mild cases of restless legs syndrome that aren’t linked to an underlying health condition may not need treatment, other than making some lifestyle changes, such as:
Putting good sleeping habits in place for example, having a regular bedtime, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine late at night
quitting smoking if you smoke
exercising regularly throughout the day
If your symptoms are more severe, you might need medication to regulate the levels of dopamine and iron in your body.
If you have restless legs syndrome that is caused by anaemia, iron supplements may be all you need to treat the symptoms.
If it’s associated with pregnancy, it usually disappears on its own within a few weeks of the birth.
During an episode of restless legs syndrome, doing the following may help relieve your symptoms:
massaging your legs
taking a hot bath in the evening
applying a hot or cold compress to your leg muscles
doing activities that distract your mind, such as reading or watching television
doing relaxation exercises, such as yoga or tai chi
walking and gentle stretching
A small study carried out in 2011 found that a type of osteopathic exercise technique called positional release manipulation could help people with restless legs syndrome. It involves holding different parts of the body in positions which have been found to reduce feelings of pain and discomfort.
Medication for restless legs
Dopamine agonists might be prescribed if you’re experiencing frequent symptoms of restless legs syndrome. They work by increasing the brain’s dopamine levels, which are often low in people with the condition.
Dopamine agonists that may be recommended by your doctor include:
rotigotine skin patch
These medications can sometimes make you feel sleepy, so you should be careful when driving or operating tools or machinery after taking them. Other known side effects can include nausea, dizziness and headaches.
If you experience nausea while taking one of these medications, you may be given medication to reduce nausea.
Impulse control disorder (ICD) is a less common side effect sometimes associated with taking these medications. People with this disorder are unable to resist the urge to do something which could be harmful to themselves or others, whether it is drinking alcohol, taking drugs, gambling, or promiscuity. The urges tend to go away once treatment is stopped.
A mild painkiller, such as codeine or tramadol, might be prescribed to relieve the pain associated with restless legs syndrome. Drugs like gabapentin and pregabalin are also sometimes prescribed to help relieve the other painful symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Side effects of these types od medications include dizziness, tiredness and headaches.
Drugs that can help you sleep
If restless legs syndrome is disrupting your sleep, a short-term course of medication may be prescribed by your doctor. Most sleep medications are known as hypnotics, and the group of medicines includes drugs like temazepam and loprazolam. Hypnotics are usually only recommended for short-term use because there is a strong chance of becoming addicted to them. You may find you still feel sleepy the morning after taking these types of drugs.
Levodopa may be recommended if you only have occasional symptoms of restless legs syndrome. This is because if you take this drug every day, there’s a chance it would actually make your symptoms worse.
Levodopa is available in tablet or liquid form, and it should be taken once you feel the symptoms of restless legs syndrome starting.
This medication will make you feel very sleepy, so you should never drive or use tools or machinery after taking it.
Research has found people with restless legs syndrome may be twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease, such as coronary heart disease or stroke, compared with people who do not have the condition.
The risk is thought to be greatest in people who have frequent or severe symptoms of restless legs syndrome.
The exact reason for the increased risk is not known, but experts think that the rapid leg movements are linked to an increased heart rate and blood pressure. The sleep problems that restless legs can cause have also been linked to cardiovascular disease.
To reduce the risk, you should exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, give up smoking if you smoke, and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
There is currently no scientific evidence that essential oils can make the symptoms associated with the condition disappear, but many users have given anecdotal evidence that using natural oils has greatly improved their symptoms, so if you’re suffering, it’s worth a try.
How to use essential oils for restless leg syndrome
You can either apply a few drops of the essential oils directly onto the leg with the help of a carrier oil. Coconut oil is recommended for restless legs syndrome. Massage the mixture onto the legs. Alternatively, you can use some of the recommended essential oils for restless leg syndrome as aromatherapy for treating the condition. Just put a couple of drops into a diffuser and relax and enjoy the scent.
The best essential oils to use
Magnesium oil for restless leg syndrome
Some doctors believe that restless leg syndrome might be caused by a magnesium deficiency in some people. Magnesium can both be taken orally and used topically. It can relieve insomnia, anxiety, and depression, which are all linked to restless leg syndrome. Magnesium oil is probably one of the most effective essential oils for restless leg syndrome.
Coconut oil for restless leg syndrome
Coconut oil increases blood circulation, so it can to relax the legs affected by restless leg syndrome and relieve any pain. Apply it topically every night, just heat up some coconut oil and massage it on your legs for up to 10 minutes.
Peppermint oil for restless leg syndrome
Peppermint oil is an analgesic, an antispasmodic, and it’s very cooling. It is very effective for relieving muscle pain. You can drink some peppermint tea before going to bed, or massage a few drops of peppermint oil on your legs to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
Lavender oil for restless leg syndrome
This is another excellent essential oil for restless leg syndrome. It’s an effective analgesic and antispasmodic and it’s very good for relieving muscle pain and muscle spasms. Lavender also relaxes the mind and promotes good sleep which often suffers when you have restless leg syndrome.
Chamomile oil for restless leg syndrome
Chamomile is an analgesic and antispasmodic, so it’s very useful for relieving muscle pain and muscle spasms. You can use it in a diffuser, in the same way as lavender oil, as its scent also promotes healthy sleep.
Some other excellent essential oils for restless leg syndrome are:
Basil oil for restless leg syndrome
It’s an antispasmodic and very good for relieving muscle pain and spasms.
Bergamot oil for restless leg syndrome
An effective analgesic, antispasmodic, basil is also calming, and it relaxes and relieves pain and tension in the muscles
Clove oil for restless leg syndrome
Clove oil has analgesic, and antispasmodic properties, and it is very effective for relieving muscle pain and muscle spasms.
Ginger oil for restless leg syndrome
Ginger oil is a well-known analgesic and antispasmodic agent and it is very useful for relieving muscle pain and muscle spasms.
Jasmine oil for restless leg syndrome
Jasmine has analgesic and antispasmodic properties, and it is very effective for relieving muscle pain and spasms.
Marjoram oil for restless leg syndrome
It has analgesic, antispasmodic, and sedative properties which are good for muscle aches, pains, and spasms.
Rosemary oil for restless leg syndrome
Rosemary oil is an effective analgesic and antispasmodic, so it’s good for muscle aches, pains, and muscle spasms.
Essential oil blends for restless leg syndrome
Essential oils work very well alone but they can be even more effective if they are blended with other complementary oils.
Here are some essential oil blends for restless leg syndrome:
3 drops marjoram oil
1 drop lemongrass oil
3 drops peppermint oil
5 tablespoons coconut oil
Mix well and apply topically to the skin
10 drops chamomile oil
5 drops frankincense
5 drops lavender oil
5 tablespoons coconut oil
Mix the ingredients and massage onto the legs at bedtime.