The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 8 • December 2015

RESTLESS LEGS: Other Possible Remedies

Quinine Might Work for Some

Quinine in the form of tonic water, a very popular mixer with spirit alcohol, has been found to have the very interesting effect (Talavera, 2008) of inhibiting the TRPM5 channel-dependent response of taste receptors to sweet taste. This is part of a recently discovered facility of bitter compounds to frequently inhibit the sweet taste transduction pathway.

Dr. xxxx, the new editor/author of the “Nutrition & Healing” newsletter, formerly written by Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., suggests that 2-4 ounces of tonic water with quinine may be able to stop ongoing restless legs in some. I’ve tried it. Sometimes it helps. But don’t drink too much of it. Though there is no warning on a bottle of tonic water, there is about 75 mg of quinine in a bottle (1 liter) and some people have been reported to be sensitive to as little as 30 mg. (See “Wikipedia” article on quinine.) Those sensitive to it can end up having a kind of hangover that includes lower blood pressure (even to the point of fainting), lightheadedness, and difficult in walking (as if you were drunk on alcohol). This may possibly be due to the decreased response of the taste receptors to sucrose, which is supposed to release insulin that then releases noradrenaline. Reduced noradrenaline can lower blood pressure and might lead to lightheadedness, fainting, memory problems, and motor clumsiness.

Scaring Away Restless Legs

A possibility (per an experience of Sandy’s) is that a scary incident can frighten away restless legs, just as hiccups can also be eliminated that way. (You may have to be totally unprepared for the surprise fright.) This suggests (but doesn’t prove) that a bolus release of (probably) noradrenaline/adrenaline might be what counteracted the restless legs in this case. On the other hand, a chronic release (as compared to a bolus release) of noradrenaline/adrenaline might make restless legs worse so don’t take a long-acting adrenergic agonist and necessarily expect it to give you longtime relief.

Sandy has found agonists of the adrenergic alpha2 receptor to be usually effective at suppressing restless legs. Such agonists include the anti-hypertensive/sedative drug clonidine and dopamine (with L-dopa as its precursor). Alpha 2 adrenergic agonists suppress noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus; these neurons “fire during waking, fire less during sleep and their activity increases just before waking, suggesting they promote wakefulness.” (Zhang, 2015). The scientists who produced that paper (Zhang, 2015) found that a drug with alpha 2 adrenergic receptor agonism produced sedation that resembled closely recovery sleep following loss of sleep.


  • Talavera, Yasumatsu, et al. The taste transduction channel TRPM5 is a locus for bitter-sweet taste interactions. FASEB J. 22:1343-55 (2008).
  • Zhang, Ferretti, Guntan, et al. Neuronal ensembles sufficient for recovery sleep and t he sedative actions of alpha2 adrenergic agonists. Nat Neurosci. 18(4):553-61 (2015).

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