Restless Leg Syndrome

Phytoestrogens Contribute to Most Cases of Restless Leg Syndrome

by Peter Eckhart, MD

Just because something is natural does NOT mean it is good for you. For instance, mushroom toadstools in your yard are natural, but those mushrooms are poisonous. Restless Leg Syndrome may be provoked by some plants, foods and herbs. The therapeutic effect of Natural Progesterone may also be blocked by some herbs.

I had a patient with good intentions to purchase "healthy products" from a health food store. She began to complain of sore tender breasts. I traced the problem to the expensive health food store shampoo that contained pomegranate. Pomegranate was used as a traditional folk medicine to create a miscarriage. Anything that creates a miscarriage is ANTI-progesterone.

I had another patient with severe endometriosis that noticed that her endometriosis flared when she binged on pomegranate juice Pomagranates contribute to Restless Legg Syndromeand pomegranates during a health food store special sale on pomegranates.

In yet another example, breast enlargement formulas rely on the estrogenic activity of the herbs in their formula. These same breast enlargement herbs may cause restless leg syndrome.

Avoid Bad Phytoestrogens (Plant Estrogens)

Plants produce chemicals that mimic estrogen and/or block estrogen, and/or block progesterone. These chemicals are known as phytoestrogens or plant estrogens. The human body has receptor for estrogen and a receptor for progesterone. These receptors will respond not only to the body's own hormones, but also plant hormones. The plant chemical hormones fit into the human body's hormone receptors and can stimulate, block, weakly block, or do something in between. In general, phytoestrogens are thought to wash out of the human body in several days. There may be exceptions, of course. In contrast, synthetic chemicals (xenoestrogens) may take months to decades to be excreted from the human body. Whole grains, fruits, seeds, beans and herbs are known to have estrogen and/or progesterone activity. The most famous is soy.

3000 years ago, a Chinese emperor wrote that soy was poisonous. Soy is in its raw form poisonous. If you feed raw soy to pigs, the pigs die. So the pig farmers routinely cook the soy for 45 minutes and THEN feed the soy to the pigs.

In Chinese History, a hungry fellow likely discovered that fermenting soy destroyedSoy is a phytoestrogen. the poisonous effects of soy. So tofu is fermented soy. Tofu seems to be safe and is eaten by more than a billion people in China and Japan. However, soy powder is NOT fermented and some of the anti-nutritive effects and hormonal effects are still present. This is the reason why soy formula is so widely debated among pediatricians. Fermented soy is widely credited with the small incidence of breast cancer in China and Japan. The breast cancer incidence rate is 20 times less in China and Japan.

It is thought that the fermented soy contains weak phytoestrogens that block more harmful xenoestrogens. Rats fed soy powder developed smaller nipples. The smaller rat nipple size would argue for the soy weak phytoestrogen effect.

I personally observed that women born in China raised on a traditional diet typically have small breasts. However, these same Chinese women born and raised in America fed an American diet have large breasts. These same Chinese women have a breast cancer incidence rate approaching that of an American woman.

In general, if the people group in question is relatively free from these estrogen related diseases, then the food that has been eaten by a culture or people group for centuries is probably all right to eat. When referring to phytoestrogens, it is generally thought that a "weak" estrogen may actually be protective against cancer causing xenoestrogens. The best example is Lilian Thompson PhD's work that showed that oral ground Flax the max of all phytoestrogens.flax seed reduced breast cancer size between the time of diagnosis and surgery. The phytoestrogen contained in the flax seed binds to the progesterone receptor, but does not stimulate it. The flax seed phytoestrogen competes with other estrogens that would otherwise stimulate the estrogen receptor. The flax seed phytoestrogen acts as a blocker. In contrast, a strong phytoestrogen may actually make the disease worse. For example, red clover will make your fibroids worse.

"Pro" means for. "Gesterone" means gestation. "Progesterone" means "for gestation". Natural Progesterone is the hormone of pregnancy and this hormone goes up during pregnancy. Progesterone opposes estrogen. Anything that creates a miscarriage is ANTI-progesterone.

There are many herbs that are used to create miscarriages. These herbs called abortifacients will create estrogen dominance and contribute to Restless Leg Syndrome. Do NOT take these abortifacient herbs.


Coffee is a known phytoestrogen that exacerbates Restless Leg Syndrome. Since it is a phytoestrogen, decaffinated coffee may still be able to act as an estrogen. Coffee is a phytoestrogen and has caffeine.  Caffeine will prevent estradiol from being excreted.According to one Bringham Young University study (OB/GYN) 2 cups of coffee per day increased women's estradiol levels by 70%. The caffeine in the coffee may impair the liver's ability to excrete estradiol.

So Coffee has two punches. 1) Increased estradiol through impaired liver detoxification and caffeine (the liver is working on the caffeine and can't work on the estradiol). 2) Plant hormones in the coffee that pretend to be estrogen (phytoestrogens).

Clover, Red Clover tea, Alfalfa Sprouts

In the 1940's, the sheep farmers of Perth in western Austrailia began to experience an epidemic of still births despite three seasons of exceptionally good weather. The merino sheep looked healthy. But, the ewe's did NOT go into labor; the lambs died in still birth. The ewe's sometimes died as well. In 5 years,Clover is a phytoestrogen and may exacerbate Restless Leg Syndrome the ewes failed to conceive at all even after repeated breeding with fertile rams.

Federal and agricultural specialists searched for and found the problem. The problem was clover. Fifteen years earlier, ranchers imported a particular clover from the Mediterranean region in Europe. The first scientific paper on this problem appeared in the Australian Veterinary Journal in 1946 and named as "clover disease". Three years later three chemicals were suspect. Finally, formononetin, only one of the chemicals, was shown to be the culprit. Formononetin mimics and pretends to be estrogen.

Sunflower Seeds (this might include avoiding sunflower oil and avoiding the botanically similar safflower oil)

Coumestrol found in sunflower seeds when fed to the mother rat caused permanent reproductive problems in the rat pups. Female rat pups when fully grown did not ovulate. Sunflower seeds are estrogenic, and also the sunflower oil.Male rat pups had altered mounting behavior and fewer ejaculations. Neonatal rats and immature rats exposed to coumestrol had premature estrous cycles.

Sunflower oil and Safflower oil MAY or MAY NOT have active hormone components in it. Until we know more Sunflower oil should be avoided. Safflower is in the same botanical family as Sunflower. Safflower oil should be avoided as well.

Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot)

Queen Anne's Lace During the fourth century B.C., Hippocrates noted that Queen Anne's Lace prevented pregnancies.


The Greeks used this plant as a contraceptive. Modern research confirms strong estrogen activity.


Fennel may also contribute to Restless Leg Syndrome. Used in the ancient world to prevent pregnancy and precipitate abortions.

Licorice, Red Clover, Yucca, Hops (Beer) and Motherwort

Beer can exacerbate Restless Leg Syndrome. Zava, PhD showed that these herbs stimulated estrogen receptor positive breast cancer cells to grow. Red Clover and Yucca were found to be equal in potency to estradiol at the same concentrations. Women who harvest hops for beer begin menstruating 2 days later anecdotally. Beer contains hops.  Hops are estrogenic.Zava has confirmed that beer has a significant amount of phytoestrogens that have moderate estrogen activity from hops used in the flavoring of beer.

This is why beer swilling men can have small penises, large beer bellies, and gynecomastia (man-boobs - male breast enlargement). The estrogenic effect of beer creates this problem. Anything that creates gynecomastia (man-boobs) is estrogenic.

Other Herbs that may exacerbate Restless Leg Syndrome

Zava, PhD also identifies Bloodroot, Ocotillo, Mandrake, Oregano, Damiana, Pennyroyal, Verbenna, Nutmeg, Tumeric, Yucca, Thyme, Calamus rt., Red Clover, Goldenseal, Licorice, Mistletoe, Cumin, Fennel, Camomille, Cloves as having strong estrogenic effects.

There are separate estrogen and progesterone receptors. Zava, PhD was able to show that the above herbs are able to bind to the progesterone receptor. These herbs would compete against any natural progesterone taken and should also be avoided. Interestingly enough all the progesterone binding herbs were antagonists or neutral meaning they competed against progesterone and worked against it or blocked progesterone. None of them were progesterone stimulators. Bloodroot, mandrake, pennyroyal, yucca, and mistletoe all have very strong progesterone binding activity and are used as abortifacents (create an abortion), and to bring on menses. Bloodroot was used in England to treat breast cancer 100 years ago, and was used by Native Americans to treat surface tumors. Herbalists today use it to treat breast cancers, nasal polyps, and cervical dysplasia. Mistletoe has been used for 100 years in Europe to treat breast cancer and leukemia.

Herbs that Suppress Breast Cancer Cell Growth

Zava, PhD also found that Mandrake, Bloodroot, and Juniper stunted the growth of BOTH estrogen Blood root is hormome active.receptor positive breast cancer cells and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells. Saliva estradiol results also showed very low estradiol in women taking the Chinese herb Dong Quai. It is thought that Dong Quai suppresses estradiol synthesis - mechanism is still unknown.

Cotton Seed Oil

Since the 1970s most of the work on cottonseed oil as an antispermatogenic has been conducted in China, after Chinese authorities noted decreased fertility in some provinces in the late 1950s and eventually linked it with the use of cottonseed oil in cooking. In one study rats fed 0.5 milliliters ofCotton seed oil will stop sperm from forming. cottonseed oil a day produced no viable sperm at the end of the 28-day test period. Cotton is the most intensively sprayed field crop in the world, accounting for more than 10 percent of the pesticides used worldwide and 25 percent of the pesticides used in the U.S. Yet despite cotton's role in the food chain, chemicals that are banned for use on food crops are used on cotton.

Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) and Lavender Oil causes Gynecomastia (male breast enlargement) in boys

From Science News, issue of 1 July 2006

Two ingredients common in many hair- and skin-care products have been linked to abnormal development of breasts in boys. Lavender oil and tea tree oil contain compounds that act like female sex hormones and interfere with male hormones, researchers have determined.

Enlarged male breasts, or gynecomastia, result from an imbalance between the activity of estrogens, which stimulate breast growth, and estrogen-inhibiting androgens. The condition is extremely rare before puberty, says Denver-area pediatric endocrinologist Clifford Bloch.

Nevertheless, since the mid-1990s, Bloch has treated gynecomastia in a series of boys age 10 or younger. Most had normal ratios of sex hormones in their blood, indicating that theirs wasn't a problem of hormone production.

Tea tree oil is estrogenic From the youngsters and their parents, Bloch learned that at least five boys had been using a shampoo, hair gel, soap, or another topical product that listed lavender oil among its ingredients. One of the products also contained tea tree oil. "A couple of patients were putting pure lavender oil on their skin," he says.

Bloch recommended that the boys stop using lavender-containing products. When they followed his advice, gynecomastia disappeared within a few months.

To verify his hunch that the plant oils were hormonally active, Bloch contacted Derek Henley and Kenneth Korach of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C. In their lab, the two investigators exposed human-breast cells to lavender oil and, separately, to tea tree oil. They found that each oil turned on estrogen-regulated genes and inhibited an androgen-regulated gene.

"These oils possess both estrogenic and anti-androgenic properties," Henley reported at the Endocrine Society meeting in Boston this week. He adds that the finding is the first to implicate "essential oils" from plants in gynecomastia.

Young boys should avoid the oils, Bloch advises. Many personal-care products contain them. Other plant products act like estrogens in the body.

Pediatric endocrinologist Edward Reiter of Tufts University School Lavender will cause gynecomastia and will contribute to Restless Leg Syndrome.of Medicine in Springfield, Mass., applauds Bloch for his "impressive, Sherlock Holmes" performance in unearthing what the boys had in common. While similar patients probably trickle in to other endocrinology clinics, he says, the cause of their enlarged breasts could escape diagnosis because doctors don't make the connection to personal-care products.

"If I had seen [just] one of those kids, I'm sure I would have missed it," he says.

The rapid reversal of gynecomastia that Bloch accomplished is a rare achievement in medicine, comments Ken Ong, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England. As such, it strongly suggested a link between the products and the boys' problem.

The plant essences presumably have similar potential effects in young girls, Reiter says. Studies show a recent rise of early breast development in girls. Prepubertal children have low sex hormone concentrations, so relatively small amounts of hormone-mimicking compounds might upset their physiologic balance at that age, says Reiter.

Yes, the common lavender herb and tea tree oil used in many health food store soaps and shampoos is causing restless leg syndrome.


The Bottom Line

Summary - Phytoestrogens Causing Restless Leg Syndrome

Pharmaceutical companies routinely travel to the jungles to seek native cures. They modify traditional herbal remedies to create prescription drugs. One such example is digoxin that is derived from a traditional Irish tea and the fox glove plant. Many herbs, foods and spices have estrogen activity as well as progesterone activity. In general, if a people group has been eating a particular food for centuries and have relatively small amounts of estrogen linked diseases, the food is safe to consume in reasonable quantities. Many of these herbs that have estrogenic effects will also cause restless leg syndrome. BE VERY VERY VERY Careful what goes on the skin

  • Avoid Coffee, Decaffinated Coffee, and Beer
  • Avoid Sunflower Seeds, Red Clover Tea, Camomille Tea, Alfalfa Sprouts, Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot), Pomegranate, Fennel, Fenugreek, Licorice, Red Clover, Yucca, Hops (Beer) and Motherwort.
  • Avoid Phytoestrogens that block and interfere with the action of Natural Progesterone. Avoid Bloodroot, Ocotillo, Mandrake, Oregano, Damiana, Pennyroyal, Verbenna, Nutmeg, Tumeric, Yucca, Thyme, Calamus rt., Red Clover, Goldenseal, Licorice, Mistletoe, Cumin, Fennel, Camomille, Cloves.
  • No Sunflower Oil, No Safflower Oil, and No Cotton Seed Oil.
  • No Tea Tree Oil. No Lavender Oil.
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Restless Leg Syndrom No More

Dear Sir,

I don't know if you remember me - but I called you several years ago complaining of Restless Leg Syndrome. You listened and responded that you thought it was caused by the toiletries that I put on the skin. So I simplified my lifestyle getting rid of the "junk" that I put on my skin, AND my Restless Leg Syndrome was gone! Now, I bike cross country.

Thank you.


I used some of your product just because I thought that Natural Progesterone would be good for me and my Restless Leg Syndrom disappeared!


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