That spider web of veins running down your limbs can be unsightly and a literal pain in your legs. These enlarged, protruding veins which can sometimes be lumpy or twisted are called varicose veins. They’re pretty common – about three out of ten adults have them,1 and they usually develop in the legs. They can cause pain and, in some cases, lead to skin ulcers or blood clots.
Varicose veins form when valves that open to let the blood flow into the heart become damaged or weak, causing blood to flow backward. This blood then pools in the veins, causing them to become swollen and twisted.2
Factors May Mean That You’re Likely To Get Them
- There could be a genetic component to varicose veins, with almost 50% of people with varicose veins having a family history.
- As you age, the valves in your veins become weaker and may not function properly.
- Women tend to be more likely to get them. Hormonal changes during menopause, pregnancy, and puberty could be a cause. Moreover, during pregnancy, the baby puts additional pressure on the mother’s legs, which can lead to varicose veins.
- Obesity can increase your risk as it puts extra pressure on your veins.
- Sitting or standing for long periods of time can also raise your chances of getting varicose veins. When you stay put in a position for long, your veins have to work harder to get blood to the heart.3
What Can You Do About It?
In some cases, your doctor may recommend medical procedures like endothermal ablation (which uses energy from radio waves or lasers to seal the veins that are affected), sclerotherapy (where a foam that scars the affected vein and seals it is injected in), or surgery.4 However, most people with varicose veins do not need treatment – lifestyle changes and home remedies can help them manage the condition. Traditional medical systems like Ayurveda too have answers for this condition.
1. Lifestyle Changes
- Your doctor may recommend the use of compression stockings which puts gentle pressure on the legs to help blood flow.
- Make sure that you take enough breaks if you have to stand or sit (especially with your legs crossed) for a while. Raising your legs above your heart level can also ease pressure on your veins.
- Regular exercise can improve the muscle tone of your legs and blood circulation. And if you’re obese, losing weight can help immensely.
- Dress comfortably as tight clothes can make it harder for blood to flow.
- Don’t wear high heels for too long; smaller heels are better for toning your calf muscles, which will improve blood circulation.
2. Natural Remedies
Some natural remedies can also be useful in dealing with varicose veins.
- Horse chestnut seed extract reduces swelling in the leg as well as itching, heaviness, and pain. The bioactive compound aescin is thought to be responsible for these effects.6 It’s effective when taken internally as well as applied externally. However, do keep in mind that raw horse chestnut seeds are toxic and should not be consumed. When properly processed, the toxic element (esculin) is removed, making it safe for use.7
- Bilberry Fruit extracts have been found to strengthen capillaries and increase the flexibility of red blood cell membranes. It can relieve swelling of the ankle and calf, numbness, and cramps.8
- Witch Hazel has flavonoids and tannins that protect the structure of veins and help maintain blood vessels. Wiping the affected area with a witch hazel decoction can be helpful, but do be careful not to exert pressure directly on the varicose veins.9
- Gotu Kola can strengthen veins and improve circulation.10 Salves as well as supplements containing its extracts are used for varicose veins. A study found that when it was used to treat people with varicose veins for two months it reduced swelling as well as heaviness in the legs.11
- Butcher’s Broom root contains ruscogenin, a steroidal component that helps to strengthen veins.12 Studies have found that a formulation containing the extract of butcher’s broom root has the ability to reduce pain, cramping, and heaviness in people with varicose veins when ingested.13 Topical creams with butcher’s broom are also used for varicose veins.
- Apple Cider Vinegar has been traditionally used for varicose veins. Participants of a study were asked to soak a cloth with apple cider vinegar and apply it to the affected area for half an hour twice daily, in addition to following regular medical treatment. Symptoms like cramps, swelling, pain, and itching improved considerably more than it did for those who were just following regular medical treatment.14
3. Ayurvedic Remedies
- Ayurveda prescribes the procedure of bloodletting (raktamokshan) for varicose veins. A medicinal leech is applied to parts of the body surrounding the varicose vein so that it can suck out blood. A study that looked at the effectiveness of leech therapy found that it promoted healing of ulcers or sores, and reduced swelling and hyper-pigmentation in people with varicose veins.15
- Massage with medicinal oils like narayan oil and bala oil or even plain warm sesame oil twice a day upward from foot to groin is considered to strengthen valves and improve varicose veins. Do be careful not to knead or apply pressure directly on the varicose. And soak your legs in warm water after the massage for a relaxing finish.16
- Ayurveda also prescribes specific medicinal formulations like naagaarjunaabhra ras and punarnavaadi guggulu to treat varicose veins.17
|↑1||Varicose veins, National Health Service.|
|↑2||What Are Varicose Veins? National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Who Is at Risk for Varicose Veins? National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Varicose veins – Treatment, National Health Service.|
|↑5||How Can Varicose Veins Be Prevented? National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6||Suter, Andy, Silvia Bommer, and Jordan Rechner. “Treatment of patients with venous insufficiency with fresh plant horse chestnut seed extract: a review of 5 clinical studies.” Advances in therapy 23, no. 1 (2006): 179-190.|
|↑7||Horse Chestnut, National Institutes of Health.|
|↑8||Bell, Jensa. Biodiversity and Human Health. Island Press, 1997.|
|↑9||White, Linda B., Barbara H. Seeber, and Barbara Brownell Grogan. 500 Time-tested Home Remedies and the Science Behind Them: Ease Aches, Pains, Ailments, and More with Hundreds of Simple and Effective At-home Treatments. Fair Winds Press, 2013.|
|↑10||Rector-Page, Linda G. Linda Page’s Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-healing for Everyone. Healthy Healing, Inc., 2000.|
|↑11||Pointel, J. P., H. Boccalon, M. Cloarec, C. Ledevehat, and M. Joubert. “Titrated extract of Centella asiatica (TECA) in the treatment of venous insufficiency of the lower limbs.” Angiology 38, no. 1 (1987): 46-50.|
|↑12||Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for herbal healing. Penguin, 2002.|
|↑13||Boyle, Pr, C. Diehm, and C. Robertson. “Meta-analysis of clinical trials of Cyclo 3 Fort in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency.” International angiology 22, no. 3 (2003): 250.|
|↑14||Atik, Derya, Cem Atik, and Celalettin Karatepe. “The Effect of External Apple Vinegar Application on Varicosity Symptoms, Pain, and Social Appearance Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2016 (2016).|
|↑15||Bapat, R. D., B. S. Acharya, S. Juvekar, and S. A. Dahanukar. “Leech therapy for complicated varicose veins.” Indian Journal of Medical Research 107 (1998): 281.|
|↑16||Ranade, Subhash, and Rajan Rawat. Ayurvedic Massage Therapy. Lotus Press, 2009.|
|↑17||Manohar, Murli. Ayurveda for all. V&S Publishers, 2012.|