Restless Leg Syndromeaccording to TCM

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. This sensation often occurs in the evening or nighttime hours while sitting or lying down.

RLS can begin at any age and generally worsens as one gets older. It can disrupt sleep — leading to daytime drowsiness — and make traveling difficult. The sensations, often described as itching, creeping, or crawling feelings, can vary in severity and can be relieved temporarily by movement.

How does TCM view Restless Leg Syndrome?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perceives Restless Leg Syndrome through a holistic lens, focusing on the balance and flow of Qi (vital energy) and Blood in the body. In TCM, RLS is often linked to imbalances or deficiencies in vital organs, particularly the Liver and Kidneys.

Unlike Western medicine, which largely views RLS as a neurological disorder, TCM emphasizes restoring harmony and balance within the body's energy systems. TCM practitioners assess individual patterns of disharmony to determine the root cause and tailor the treatment accordingly.

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome according to TCM

In TCM, Restless Leg Syndrome is often attributed to a couple of key patterns. First, Blood Stagnation, where the flow of Blood is obstructed, can cause the tingling and restless sensations in the legs. This pattern is often coupled with a Feficiency of Qi, leading to an inability to nourish and move Blood effectively.

Secondly, Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency is also a common cause, where a Deficiency in the vital substances leads to inadequate nourishment of the sinews and muscles, resulting in the symptoms of RLS. These patterns highlight the importance of Blood and Qi in maintaining leg health, according to TCM philosophy.

TCM Herbal Formulas for Restless Leg Syndrome

To address the underlying causes of RLS, TCM recommends specific formulas. For Blood Stagnation, Huang Qi Gui Zhi Wu Wu Tang, featuring Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi), is used for its warming and Blood-moving properties. This formula is particularly effective in invigorating Qi and promoting Blood circulation.

For Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency, Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang, with key herb White Peony Roots (Bai Shao), is used to nourish Blood and harmonize the Liver. Additionally, for patterns like Liver Qi Stagnation and Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency, Yi Guan Jian is beneficial. These formulas are tailored to replenish and balance Yin, Qi, and Blood, thereby alleviating the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address restless leg syndrome, organized by formula type.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that warm the meridians and disperse cold
  • Formulas that tonify blood
  • Formulas that nourish yin and tonify

TCM Herbs for Restless Leg Syndrome

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address restless leg syndrome, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Tonic herbs for qi deficiency
  • Warm/Acrid herbs that release the exterior
  • Tonic herbs for blood deficiency