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Varicose veins are more than a cosmetic problem—for some, they can be downright painful. They’re a common complaint, especially during pregnancy. Here are some varicose vein remedies to help improve ones that are already there to avoid getting new ones.
What Are Varicose Veins?
According to Mayo Clinic, varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins most commonly found in the legs. The blood vessels are a dark, purply blue and bulge out of the skin. Spider veins have a similar color, but they aren’t twisted and raised like varicose veins. Symptoms of varicose veins can include:
- A heaviness and congested feeling in the area from impaired blood flow
- Swelling and discomfort in the area
- Pain that gets worse after sitting or standing for long periods
- Itching or discoloration around the vein
- Blood clots
What Causes Varicose Veins?
According to American Family Physician, 55% of women will have spider veins sometime in their lives, while 29% will deal with full-blown varicose veins. Women are more likely than men to have this issue because of genetic factors and pregnancy.
Our hearts pump blood into our extremities, and the veins carry it back up, working against gravity. The check valves that prevent the blood from flowing back down can become damaged or weak. Once those valves aren’t doing their job properly, we can get spider or varicose veins.
Who Gets Varicose Veins?
Women are much more likely than men to get varicose veins, but it can happen to anyone. Pregnant women are even more likely to need treatment for varicose veins. Leg veins are most commonly affected. These factors increase your risk of poor blood circulation and varicose veins:
- Standing or sitting for long periods
- Crossing your legs (this impairs circulation)
- Age (veins weaken as we get older)
- Being overweight
- Chronic constipation (this can put more weight/pressure on the area)
- Hormonal changes from pregnancy, periods, or menopause
- Hormonal birth control pills
How to Stop Varicose Veins
The unfortunate truth is if you have a family history of varicose veins, then you’re much more likely to get them. The good news is there are plenty of things to do to help avoid varicose veins or minimize the appearance of varicose veins once they’re there.
- Don’t cross your legs when sitting
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Elevate the legs when sitting
- Have regular bowel movements
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Regularly move the body
- Avoid high heels or tight tights
- Dry brushing may help
- Swimming in warm water for low-impact exercise
Natural Varicose Vein Remedies
There are a lot of supplements out there that claim to work for varicose veins, but what really does work? Here’s a breakdown of some of the most commonly recommended home remedies for varicose veins and which ones work.
Grape Seed Extract
Not to be confused with grapefruit seed extract, this supplement is touted in some circles as a vein remedy. However, there’s very little evidence showing it works. One 1985 study found that grape seed extract didn’t work any better than a placebo. It might be better to skip this one in favor of more proven methods.
You might have heard that I’ve made a habit of jumping into ice water. It’s not just for fun, though: cold water therapy has some major health benefits, especially for the circulatory system! One placebo-controlled study found that alternating hot and cold water on the legs resulted in significant improvements. The treatment group had improved circulation and reduced swelling in their feet and legs.
If you can’t see yourself getting into cold water, then warm water is also an option. Over 2,500 people participated in a study that looked at the effects of swimming in warm mineral water on vein health. The therapy reduced hospital admissions, drug use, and acute vein episodes.
Horse Chestnut Extract
Horse chestnut extract is not only anti-inflammatory and antiviral, but it can help with varicose veins, too. It contains aescin, a component that helps blood vessel walls work better. Raw horse chestnut can be toxic, but standardized supplements have had the toxic components removed.
A meta-analysis from 2006 and another from 2012 both showed positive results. The horse chestnut helped reduce leg pain and swelling from chronic venous insufficiency with few side effects. Researchers also found horse chestnut extract worked just as well as compression stockings.
Certain plants have rutin, a flavonoid that can help with varicose veins. Most of the studies done on rutin and varicose veins, though, are looking at a semi-synthetic supplement. A 2015 review found that rutin-derived supplements helped improve pain, heavy feeling legs, and cramps linked with varicose veins.
Both Germany and Europe’s medical agencies have officially approved butcher’s broom as one of the herbal remedies for side effects related to varicose veins. It can help with vein-related pain, heaviness, leg cramps, itching, and swelling. One German study showed butcher’s broom significantly improved varicose leg ulcers in most of the patients studied. Patients also had better vein drainage, vein walls function, and less pain. Butcher’s broom can be taken as a tincture, in capsules, or simmered to make tea.
Hawthorn is a bee-friendly plant that has long been used to help support the heart and circulation. While hawthorn isn’t specifically for varicose veins on its own, it can help as part of an overall plan. Hawthorne is high in vitamin C, helps regulate blood pressure, strengthens the heart, and is anti-inflammatory. As a cardiotonic, it helps to improve the cardiovascular system as a whole.
Not only is this spicy pepper a staple in immune-supporting fire cider, but it’s also a great natural treatment for healthy circulation. Cayenne pepper helps the body move heat and circulation to the lower extremities and peripheral circulation. I include it in some of my homemade spice blends to season food.
This astringent herb helps tone tissues and is widely used to relieve the side effects of swollen veins. There isn’t much hard evidence on witch hazel’s use for varicose veins, but many find it provides temporary, soothing relief. To use it topically, apply a wet rag to the skin’s surface to reduce swelling in varicose veins.
Here are more ways to use witch hazel for skincare, diaper rash, and more. You can find witch hazel here.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Tim Jackson. He is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Orthopedic Rehabilitation, and a Functional Medicine provider. He holds a B.S. Degree in Health Science and Chemistry from Wake Forest University. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you tried natural remedies to get rid of varicose veins? Which ones have worked best for you? Leave us a comment, and be sure to share this post!
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