Essential Oils for Varicose Veins

(Last Updated On: August 15, 2018)

Varicose veins are a relatively common problem that can affect people of all ages although the problem is more prevalent in older people. Around half of the over 50 population are affected to some degree by varicose veins, while factors such as pregnancy, and obesity can cause varicose veins in younger people.

Because the condition is so widespread, it’s hardly surprising that there is considerable interest in alternative remedies for varicose veins, and because essential oils have such a wide range of medicinal effects, people wonder if essential oils could help with this condition.

The answer to that question is yes and no.

Yes, because essential oils can relieve the uncomfortable symptoms associated with varicose veins, improve circulation to lessen the chance of blood pooling in the veins, and decrease inflammation and swelling.

And no, because unfortunately, enlarged, twisty, swollen veins won’t go away without medical intervention.

We’ll find out which essential oils you can use to help deal with the effects of varicose veins in a moment, but first, let’s take a minute to better understand the problem.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, bluish veins that look like a thin cord underneath your skin. These veins can be smooth or they can have a lumpy appearance. The most commonly affected areas are the lower legs and the feet.

Varicose veins close to the surface of your skin are not usually considered a serious problem although they can be uncomfortable and cosmetically disfiguring.

A more dangerous situation develops when deeper veins become varicose. These deep, interior veins are not visible and can be the cause of pain and swelling. Blood clots may also form in deep veins. Thankfully, deep varicose veins are rare compared to surface varicose veins.

While the legs and feet are common sites for varicose veins, veins can also become enlarged and swollen in other areas.

As we age, bulging veins on the back of the hands can become apparent, and pregnancy, constipation and obesity can all result in varicose veins in or around the rectum – these are more commonly referred to as hemorrhoids.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

What Causes Varicose Veins

Your circulatory system has two distinct types of blood vessel. Arteries and veins.

Arteries are under higher pressure and carry oxygenated blood around your body.

Veins have lower pressure, and these blood vessels carry blood back to the heart where it is circulated through the lungs to pick up more oxygen before traveling around the body once more.

This difference in pressure (the pressure gradient) is vital for your circulation to work.

Veins rely on actions called the muscle pump and the thoracic pump to help move blood back to the heart. The muscle pump is the contraction of skeletal muscles and the thoracic pump action is generated by respiration.

The presence of tiny one-way valves in the veins is necessary to keep blood moving in one direction and prevent backflow, and the elasticity of vein walls also contributes to good blood flow.

When a valve fails to function optimally or if vein walls lose their elasticity, blood can pool causing the vein to stretch, this makes it more difficult for blood to flow which leads to more pooling.

Varicose veins are so common on the lower legs because compared with other veins in the body, leg veins have to work really hard against gravity to push the blood back to the heart.

Varicose Vein Symptoms

  • Veins with a blue or purple color.
  • Veins with an enlarged or bulging appearance.
  • Heaviness or aching in your legs.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Swelling and throbbing in the affected area.
  • Itching over and around the affected vein – a rash may be present.
  • Bleeding.
  • Hardening of the vein and ulceration.

Varicose veins should be looked at by your doctor if the vein feels very warm and tender when touched, if sores develop, if the skin around the ankle changes color, if the vein bleeds, or if the pain is interfering with your daily life.

Complications That Can Develop From Varicose Veins

For the majority of people with varicose veins, the condition is uncomfortable and cosmetically unattractive, but sometimes more serious complications can develop, these include:

Ulcers

Ulcers are slow healing lesions initially caused by a buildup of fluid under the skin. Most commonly found on the lower legs, ulcers form due to the increased pressure from blood pooling in the veins. This pressure inside the veins forces clear fluid out of the vein and into the surrounding tissue.

Blood Clots

Blood clots form in deeper, internal varicose veins. If this happens the leg may swell considerably causing pain. The real problem with blood clots is that they may break free and travel to the heart and lungs where their presence can be life threatening.

Bleeding

Sometimes surface varicose veins can burst and bleed. The bleeding should only be minor because blood usually clots quickly and forms a plug. But anyone on blood thinners which inhibit blood clotting could see more prolonged bleeding.

Risk Factors For Varicose Veins

For some people, genetics seem to play a role in varicose vein formation. If other family members have varicose veins, there is an increased chance that you will also develop the problem.

Being female increases your risk of varicose veins. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from varicose veins thanks to hormonal changes. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy are both additional risk factors that women need to be aware of.

Regularly standing for long periods of time makes varicose veins more likely because gravity causes blood to pool in the lower limbs.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle (desk jobs, driving jobs) increases the risk of varicose veins because of poor muscle tone hampers effective blood pumping.

Getting older can bring all kinds of unexpected challenges for previously healthy individuals and unfortunately because the valves in veins naturally weaken with age, varicose veins may well become a problem.

Being very overweight increases the likelihood of varicose veins because greater pressure is placed on your veins.

In the legs, any injury that damages the vein valves can result in varicose veins.

Crossing your legs won’t cause varicose veins but sitting in this way can aggravate existing varicose veins.

Are Spider Veins A Type Of Varicose Vein?

Spider veins are very tiny, thread like surface veins and capillaries, and yes, they are a type of varicose vein. Spider veins may remain small and largely unnoticeable or they can worsen and become more prominent.

An area with spider veins may later develop a more substantial varicose vein.

When you first notice spider veins, it’s an early sign that you have a problem with the flow of blood in your veins.

If lifestyle factors are relevant to your condition, birth control pills, HRT, obesity, low-fiber diet, or too much sitting or standing, it would be a good idea to see if you can make any changes that would prevent any worsening of the problem.

How Do You Get Rid Of Varicose Veins?

The only permanent ways to remove a varicose vein are various medical procedures which either physically remove the vein at the time of the procedure, or cause it to collapse and overtime be reabsorbed by the body.

These procedures only work on the surface, superficial veins and not on the deeper veins that are essential to your circulatory system.

Your doctor can go through the options with you if you feel that removal is something you want to pursue. Briefly, the common procedures used today include:

  • Laser treatment which causes the vein to gradually disappear. More than one laser session is necessary, and this treatment is only used on small varicose veins.
  • Sclerotherapy which uses a chemical injected into the vein causing it to collapse.
  • Ablation which involves the insertion of a catheter to deliver radio waves or laser beams which generate heat and destroy the vein.
  • Stripping, a surgical procedure which pulls the vein out of the body.

How Essential Oils Can Help Varicose Veins

Essential oils won’t remove your varicose veins, but consistent use may be able to decrease swelling and improve their appearance. Essential oils can also help to relieve the discomfort associated with varicose veins.

Because there is a lack of medical research in the area of essential oil use for varicose veins we have to look to traditional medicine to find out which oils have a history of use for this condition.

It’s also helpful to look at the actions of various of essential oils to determine which will be of most use for relief of symptoms.

The best oils for varicose veins are those that can improve circulation, reduce inflammation and swelling, promote hormonal balance, and relieve pain. Other essential oils may be useful for controlling itching and skin rashes related to the problem.

Chamomile Essential Oil (German – Matricaria Recutica & Roman – Chamaemelum Nobile)

Both types of chamomile essential oil are strong anti-inflammatories but German chamomile has a higher concentration of anti-inflammatory azulene. Inflammation can impede good circulation so regular massage with chamomile essential oil will be helpful.

Rashes and irritating itches can also be calmed with soothing chamomile.

Chamomile essential oil is noted for its ability to assist with hormone regulation and it may be helpful if hormonal changes are the cause of your varicose veins.

If varicose veins are painful, chamomile is a good choice because it’s a natural analgesic (pain reliever).

Safe for use during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy at a 1% dilution.

Palmarosa Essential Oil (Cymbopogon Martinii)

Palmarosa has been used traditionally used as a circulatory stimulant. This oil is best used in a massage blend with other suitable oils.

Yarrow Essential Oil (Achillea Millefolium)

Yarrow is a traditional remedy for varicose veins. In Traditional Chinese medicine, yarrow is specifically used to shrink hemorrhoids (a type of varicose vein) and for menstrual problems which are

caused by hormonal imbalances.

In addition to its more direct beneficial actions, yarrow essential oil can also calm itchy skin and reduce inflammation.

Cypress Essential Oil (Cupressus Sempervirens)

Cypress has vasoconstrictive properties which help to tighten blood vessels and improve circulation. In traditional medicine, it is noted for use on hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

Another useful property of cypress essential oil is that it can be used to stop bleeding because it is a styptic agent. So if you find yourself troubled by varicose veins that bleed, an application of diluted cypress oil will help to staunch the bleeding.

Safe for use during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy at a 1% dilution.

Myrtle Essential Oil (Myrtus Communis)

The astringent action of myrtle essential can help to shrink swollen tissue, and it’s also useful for controlling pain and irritation.

A study published in 2017 reported on the benefits of myrtle essential oil when used on hemorrhoids.

Application of myrtle resulted in decreased pain, bleeding, irritation and itching.

Although the research only focused on one particular type of varicose vein – hemorrhoid, myrtle may prove useful for varicose veins in other parts of the body.

Geranium Essential Oil (Pelargonium Graveolens)

Geranium essential oil has a wide range of uses and it has been valued as a medicinal oil since antiquity.

For varicose veins, geranium oil can help to reduce inflammation, shrink swollen tissue and stop bleeding. One of the traditional uses for this essential oil is for shrinking and soothing hemorrhoids.

Safe for use during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy at a 1% dilution.

Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia)

Widely appreciated for its gentle and effective actions, lavender essential oil can be useful for varicose veins in several ways.

Lavender is a natural analgesic so you can use it for pain relief without worrying about the side effects from over-the-counter medications.

It’s also a good anti-inflammatory which will reduce swelling as well as calm irritated, itchy skin.

Lavender may be most useful however for the treatment of any ulcers that develop because of varicose veins. Research has shown that lavender essential oil helps to decrease ulcer size and speed healing.

Safe for use during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy at a 1% dilution.

Lemon (Citrus Limon)

Use lemon essential oil to boost your circulation and help blood to flow without pooling. You can also apply diluted lemon essential oil to varicose veins that bleed.

Lemon essential oil is a phototoxic oil which means that it causes painful skin changes when exposed to direct sunlight. You should keep skin away from sunlight for 24 hours after using lemon essential oil.

Safe for use during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy at a 1% dilution.

Helichrysum Essential Oil (Helichrysum Angustifolium)

Helichrysum is another circulation boosting essential oil. It can also be used to soothe inflammation and skin irritation. If small sores develop, this essential oil will help to heal them more quickly, and if varicose veins bleed, helichrysum will also to repair the break in the skin.

Rosemary Essential Oil (Rosmarinus Officinalis)

Rosemary is one of the oldest medicinal plants and as such it has a long history of use as a traditional remedy for many ailments.

Relevant properties which make it a good choice for varicose vein support are its analgesic action which will relieve pain, its astringent action which shrinks swollen tissues, its stimulant action on the circulatory system which will improve blood flow, and its vulnerary action which will help sores and breaks in the skin to heal more rapidly.

Peppermint and Spearmint Essential Oils (Mentha Piperita & Mentha Spicata)

Both mints can help to relieve the pain associated with varicose veins although they have slightly different actions. Peppermint has an analgesic action while spearmint acts as a local anesthetic and induces a numbing effect.

The menthol in both oils is very cooling and you’ll find an application of either of the mint essential oils very soothing if your varicose veins are feeling hot and irritated.

Peppermint also acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce inflammation and soothe irritation.

Ginger Essential Oil (Zingiber Officinale)

Ginger has several benefits for those with varicose veins. Ginger improves circulation, relieves pain, reduces inflammation, and calms irritation.

Safe for use during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy at a 1% dilution.

How to Use Essential Oils for Varicose Veins

How to Use Essential Oils for Varicose Veins

Essential oils can be applied to the skin as massage oils or as compresses.

To make a massage oil, you need to dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil – you should not use undiluted essential oils on your skin. Carrier oils which sit on the skin for a while are best for massage, so you don’t want to use quickly absorbed oils like sunflower oil or rice bran oil.

Good choices are olive oil, sesame oil (which is has its own circulation boosting properties), coconut oil and apricot kernel oil.

To every ounce (30 ml) of carrier oil, you can add up to 12 drops of essential oil. This makes a 2% dilution, and this strength is considered safe for most applications.

For pregnant women and the elderly a 1% dilution is recommended. This uses 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.

Many essential oils can be safely used at higher concentrations, but before you increase the amount you use it’s wise to seek the advice of a fully qualified aromatherapist.

To massage the oils into your skin, you should use gentle upward strokes. In severe cases, the skin over varicose veins and the veins themselves are more fragile than usual so you really need to take care not to use too much pressure which could break the skin or cause pain.

If your varicose veins aren’t too bad, you can use a skin brush in the shower to help boost your circulation before you apply your massage blend. Skin brushing together with essential oil massage can improve the appearance of varicose veins quite dramatically in some cases.

The other way to apply essential oils to varicose ways is by using a cold or a warm compress. You can use whichever feels most comfortable and brings you the most relief.

You’ll need a small bowl of warm or cool water, a teaspoon of vodka and your essential oils. The vodka is necessary to allow the essential oils to dissipate and mix with the water instead of just floating on top.

Add up to 20 drops of essential oil to a teaspoon of vodka then mix into the water.

Take a soft face cloth and soak it in the water then gently press over your skin. Leave the compress in place for a few minutes, then re-soak and apply again.

For pain relief, the analgesic essential oils can be inhaled. You can inhale directly from the bottle or you can shake a few drops out onto a tissue or handkerchief.

An Essential Aid To Use Along With Essential Oils

Varicose veins benefit enormously from the assistance provided by compression stockings. Traditional compression stockings aren’t the most attractive garments in existence, but their appearance shouldn’t prevent you from making use of this very necessary health aid.

Compression stockings provide gentle pressure which helps blood to flow back to the heart instead of pooling in your veins.

Stocking design has come a long way in recent years, and you no longer have to make do with the thick, white bandage socks that your grandparents may have worn.

Today’s support stockings come in a range of colors and styles that allow you to wear them unobtrusively with skirts and dresses, and the ones designed for sportswear look like any other high tech sports clothing.

Your local pharmacy will most likely have some basic support stockings but you’ll need to use a retailer like Amazon if you want something more fashionable.

 

“This article is due to be re-visited, proofread and updated a maximum of 3 years from its original upload date by Dr. Kimberly Langdon, M.D. All the content and media has been uploaded by Lily Greene our webmaster, who is also is in charge of page design.”

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.