Varicose veins are difficult for conventional medicine to treat. Alternative therapies show some promise and can relieve and even reverse, some of the symptoms.
Varicose veins, are veins – usually in the legs – that have become enlarged and twisted. They don’t move blood as effectively as they should, allowing blood to pool. In addition to being unsightly and embarrassing, these bulging veins can be painful. Especially when you’ve been on your feet for a while. Due to a buildup of waste products, the area around your varicose veins can become red, itchy and sore.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, varicose veins affect an estimated 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men:
“Approximately half of the U.S. population has venous disease— 50 to 55 percent of women and 40 to 45 percent of men. Of these, 20 to 25 percent of the women and 10 to 15 percent of men will have visible varicose veins. 1 Varicose veins affect one out of two people age 50 and older, and 15 to 25 percent of all adults. 1 “
Varicose veins become more of a risk as we get older because veins lose their natural elasticity due to rising levels of inflammation. This make it important to start following an anti-inflammatory diet, sooner rather than later!
Swollen, bulging veins can also become a problem for women during pregnancy due to changing hormone levels. Pregnancy often brings enough discomforts with it, so finding safe natural treatments for varicose veins will provide some welcome and much needed relief.
A number of gentle home remedies and simple lifestyle changes can effectively prevent and treat varicose veins; expensive, painful surgeries – which don’t address the underlying reasons for the condition – should be considered a last resort.
In serious cases ulceration can occur, which is very difficult to treat, so you should do everything that you can to ease the condition before it gets to a more serious stage.
- 1 What Causes Varicose Veins?
- 1.1 Switch To An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- 1.2 Vitamin K Is Important
- 1.3 Exercise And Lifestyle Changes
- 1.4 Gentle Massage
- 1.5 Compression
- 1.6 Clay Mud Packs
- 1.7 Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
- 1.8 Grape Seed Extract
- 1.9 Essential Oil of Helichrysum
- 1.10 Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) Relieves Itching
- 1.11 Horse Chestnut
- 1.12 Pine Bark For Post Pregnancy Varicose Veins
- 1.13 Topical Application Of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
- 1.14 Witch Hazel
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are always a symptom of an underlying venous problem. Excessive pressure on the veins, usually caused by sitting or standing still for long periods, is considered the main reason. But they may just be an unlucky gift from your genetic line.
Pregnancy and obesity worsen the condition since the extra weight puts a lot of additional strain on the legs.
Your veins have one-way valves that keep blood flowing in one direction. When these valves fail, blood begins to pool in the weakened vein rather than continuing on to your heart.
Research shows that elevated homocysteine levels in the blood can damage the lining of the blood vessels and increase the risk of varicose veins. Deficiency of B-complex vitamins, B6, Folic acid and B12 in particular, is known to elevate homocysteine levels, so a nutritious diet is important. Alcohol consumption also has a similar effect.
Your oral hygiene routine could also be a factor causing your varicose veins. Researchers have found that nearly half of all varicose veins contain the same bacteria responsible for periodontal disease. They state
“PCR examination of the diseased vein specimens showed that 48% were positive for at least one of 7 periodontal bacterial DNA. No bacteria were detected in the control specimens.”
Symptoms of varicose veins include leg pain and a feeling of heaviness in the limb which worsens as the day progresses, ankle swelling – especially in the evening, and spider veins in the affected leg.
Continue reading to discover natural home remedies for varicose veins that will ease your discomfort and help shrink those enlarged blood vessels.
Switch To An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet will help reduce pain and swelling and improve your cardiovascular health and general wellbeing.
Foods rich in vitamins B6 and B12 can help varicose veins. Top sources of B12 include tuna, salmon, shrimp, chicken, turkey, organ meats and eggs. Although the bioavailability of vitamin B12 from eggs is less than 9%, compared to 40% to 60% from fish, fowl and meat.
Besides certain fermented foods there are no vegan sources of B12, so it’s important to take a quality supplement if you follow a vegan lifestyle. Foods rich in B6 include pork, turkey, beef, bananas, chickpeas, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and pistachios nuts.
Magnesium and potassium deficiency can cause leg cramps, high blood pressure and blood pooling. To obtain adequate levels of these nutrients eat avocado, broccoli, bananas, sweet potatoes and leafy green vegetables It’s also a good idea to take a quality supplement.
High-fiber foods – Varicose veins are rarely seen in the parts of the world where a high fiber, unprocessed diet is eaten.
Constipation can cause bloating and increased pressure on the veins in the abdomen and legs. Add 30 -40 grams of fiber to your diet by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, soaked or sprouted beans and seeds. It’s important to soak or sprout beans and seeds to remove the phytates that they contain. Phytates are anti nutrients and they prevent your body from absorbing vitamins and minerals.
High antioxidant foods – Antioxidants including vitamin E and vitamin C, help to strengthen veins, reduce inflammation and improve vascular health.
Vitamin E is an effective natural blood thinner and is known to help prevent blood clots.
Vitamin C is the superstar vitamin, and most people don’t get nearly enough of it in their diets. Most mammals produce their own vitamin C, ramping up production when inflammation or infections strike, but humans along with guinea pigs, bats and dry-nosed primates have lost this ability, so we have to get our vitamin C from food.
Dr Linus Pauling – the only person to receive two unshared Nobel Prizes – for Chemistry (1954) and for Peace (1962) – carried out extensive research on the benefits of vitamin C, and the maladies caused by vitamin C deficiency. He devised a cardiovascular therapy utilizing high dose vitamin C and Lysine, which prevents hardening and thickening of arteries and veins.
Spicy foods – foods made with healthy doses of cayenne pepper help to get blood flowing, aiding healthy circulation. Capsaicin has anti-inflammatory, pain relieving and blood thinning properties. It’s rich in vitamin C and flavonoids, which protect blood vessels from free radical damage and encourage collagen formation to keep them elastic. If you don’t like spicy food, you can still get the benefits of Capsaicin by taking a supplement.
Omega-3 fatty-acids – Omega-3 is important for proper blood flow. Wild fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, anchovies – and organic pasture raised eggs are good sources. Omega-3 can also be taken as a supplement, but the best bioavailability comes from food sources.
Natural Diuretics – A diuretic is something that reduces water retention and swelling by increasing urination. Natural diuretics include
- Dandelion greens (packed with minerals and vitamins too!)
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) – Taken internally ACV improves circulation and is an effective anti-inflammatory. Add 2 tablespoons of ACV to a cup of water and drink. You can add some raw honey to make it more palatable.
Vitamin K Is Important
Research published in the Journal of Vascular Research, found that the development of varicose veins may be linked to a lack of vitamin K.
Inadequate levels of vitamin K may reduce the activity of a substance in your body called MGP (matrix GLA protein). MGP prevents the calcification of arteries while at the same time another compound called osteocalcin aids in the calcification of bones. Without enough vitamin K, calcium can exit the bones and form deposits in the arteries. The same process that causes hardening of the arteries can also occur in the veins.
Since vitamin K is required to activate MGP, it is believed that adequate intake of vitamin K is essential for the prevention of varicose veins
Ensure good levels of vitamin K are present in your diet and/or take a quality vitamin K supplement to help prevent varicose veins from developing, and to protect and assist in the repair of veins that are already present.
There are two main forms of Vitamin K
- 1. K1 (phylloquinone, aka phytonadione)
- 2. K2 (menaquinones)
Vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, kale, collard greens, swiss chard and spinach.
Vitamins K2 includes several menaquinones, such as MK-4 found in meats, and MK-7, MK-8, and MK-9 found in fermented foods like cheese and natto.
Exercise And Lifestyle Changes
Sedentary lifestyles are bad for a wide range of health issues, and varicose veins are no exception. To prevent varicose veins or improve existing ones, sitting and standing still for prolonged periods of time should be avoided. Your heart pumps blood into your arteries, but its return from the heart is helped by the muscles in your calves. So you need to get active.
According to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute you should
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods and when sitting, avoid crossing your legs.
- When sitting, resting or sleeping, keep your legs raised, and when possible, elevate your legs above the level of your heart.
- Do physical activities to get your legs moving and improve muscle tone.
- If you’re overweight, try to lose weight. This will ease the pressure on your veins.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes, especially those that are tight around your waist, upper thighs, and legs. Tight clothes can make varicose veins worse.
- Avoid wearing high heels for long periods. Lower heeled shoes can help tone your calf muscles. Toned muscles help blood move through the veins.
Strenuous exercise isn’t recommended because it can put a strain on venous circulation, so choose gentle, low impact exercise.
Walking is a great activity, as it boosts circulation, and swimming provides an excellent workout for the legs, because your calf muscles can pump blood towards your heart without having to work against gravity.
For those with mobility problems, stationary exercises like side lunges, leg lifts and bicycle legs all help to stretch and strengthen the veins in the legs.
If you’re forced to spend most of your day sitting at a desk, make sure that you take frequent breaks to walk around.
If your job keeps you on your feet but stationary, frequently shift your weight from foot to foot and lift yourself onto the balls of your feet regularly.
Massaging the legs with light upward strokes helps to improve blood flow and smooth out twisted veins. Be careful not to push on bulging veins as this could cause further damage to the already weakened vessels. Use olive or coconut oil or a rich body butter to aid with lubrication. A few drops of peppermint essential oil adds a soothing and cooling effect to hot, itchy skin.
Applying uniform pressure on the legs with compression stockings is a standard remedy for varicose veins. The gentle yet consistent pressure compresses the veins, reducing their diameter and helping to restore normal blood flow. When used at the first signs of varicose veins, compression stockings can prevent the worsening of the condition, or even reverse it.
Clay Mud Packs
Applying a mudpack to affected legs may help reduce enlarged veins and ease pain. A fine clay such as bentonite is best for mudpacks. Bentonite clay comes in powder form.
To make a mudpack, mix the clay with water to form a thick, smooth paste. Apply to your legs before going to bed. As the clay dries, it contracts and tightens the area around the veins, working in a similar way to compression stockings; but with the additional benefit of drawing out impurities from the skin and blood vessels. It’s also calming and soothing if the skin around your veins is irritated and itchy. One note of caution. Clay shouldn’t be used if you have ulcerated skin.
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
“Numerous double-blind studies have demonstrated that the triterpenic acid extract of gotu kola is effective in the treatment of varicose veins.” Doctor Michael Murray N.D
Commonly known as Indian pennywort, this herb has been used as a traditional varicose vein remedy in India and Southeast Asia for thousands of years. The herbal extract or dried herb powder is taken orally.
Gotu Kola reduces leakage from veins, calms inflammation and acts as a mild diuretic to decrease water retention. The triterpenoids in Gotu Kola can strengthen the connective tissue that surrounds blood vessels and increase blood flow.
Gotu Kola can also be used topically to soothe irritation and itchiness in the area around varicose veins and helps to heal ulcers.
Caution – Those with liver disease should not use Gotu Kola. Gotu Kola can also interact with sedative medications. To be safe, check with your doctor before taking.
Grape Seed Extract
Rich in antioxidants and natural plant compounds called oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs), Grape Seed Extract is excellent at treating vascular disease because it increases the structural strength of weakened blood vessels.
In a double blind trial of fifty patients with varicose veins, 150 mg of grape seed OPC a day worked faster and longer than the drug Diosmine. Reducing pain, burning and tingling and the degree of distension of the veins.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
“Today, grape seed extract is used as a folk or traditional remedy for conditions related to the heart and blood vessels, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poor circulation.”
While there is no set daily recommended amount for grape seed extract, some studies have used doses of 100-300 milligrams per day. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends looking for products with an OPC content of not less than 95 percent.
Caution – Grape seed extract may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you also take blood-thinning drugs. Grape seed extract may also interact with a number of other medications, so ask your doctor before taking it.
Essential Oil of Helichrysum
This oil is extracted from the flowers of Helichrysum spp. and has anticoagulant and anesthetic properties. It can prevent the formation of clots in the pooled blood within varicose veins. Use 2-3 drops of Helichrysum as a spot treatment to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) Relieves Itching
For quick relief from the itching and dryness associated with varicose veins; make an infusion of pot marigold petals in boiling water, and use as a warm compress.
Pot marigold promotes collagen formation in the skin and reduces any pain and inflammation.
Horse Chestnut Extract is one of the most popular herbal remedies for varicose veins. Its active ingredient is Aescin which protects veins by inhibiting the enzymes that cause damage to the walls of the blood vessels.
Aescin also has astringent properties that shrink enlarged blood vessels. The vasoconstriction obtained through the use of horse chestnut extract is comparable with the effect produced by compression stockings. Horse Chestnut is also anti-inflammatory and mildly diuretic, reducing pain and swelling in the affected area.
Homemade Horse Chestnut Extract should be avoided as it can contain a toxic compound. Commercial extracts have this toxin removed. Choose a trusted brand to ensure safety.
Caution – Pregnant women, people with liver or kidney disease, those on blood-thinning medications, diabetes medication or lithium should not take Horse Chestnut Extract.
Pine Bark For Post Pregnancy Varicose Veins
According to a peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Angiology, a standardized natural plant extract from the French maritime pine tree bark, may significantly improve the appearance and swelling of pregnancy-induced varicose veins.
The study found that after 6 months the treatment group had
- Significant reduction in the numbers of varicose veins compared to the control group
- Fewer leg cramps
- Decreased pain and discomfort after prolonged standing
- Reduced swelling
Topical Application Of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Apple cider vinegar has astringent properties which help to shrink swollen veins, improve their elasticity and reduce pain. Just dip a washcloth in some apple cider vinegar diluted with equal amount of water and place it over the swollen veins.
The tannins in Witch Hazel give it excellent astringent properties, allowing it to constrict the enlarged veins. Classed as a vulnerary, it seals off leaks in blood vessels and stimulates drainage from bruised areas. Witch Hazel has excellent anti-inflammatory properties, reducing pain and swelling, and soothing red itchy skin. Apply a Witch Hazel soaked washcloth or bandage to the affected area and elevate the leg to relieve the aching and throbbing of the vein at the end of a long day on your feet.