kinds of blood vessels exist in the circulatory system. Arteries
are one kind; they deliver blood away from the heart to the
rest of the body. Veins are the second type of blood vessel,
and their function is to conduct blood back to the heart. Of
the two kinds of vessels, veins have the more difficult task.
Unlike the arteries, they cannot rely upon the heart’s
direct pumping motion to propel the blood to its destination.
Instead, the pumping action comes from contracting and relaxing
effect of muscles surrounding the veins. Luckily, however, the
veins are equipped with a series of valves that help keep the
blood flowing in one direction only: toward the heart.
of these valves malfunctions, or when a vein wall is somehow
weakened, the blood cannot continue to flow properly. Instead,
it pools and accumulates within the veins, which are burdened
by the excess blood. They grow weaker, and they begin to stretch
and bulge. These enlarged, raised blood vessels are called varicose
veins. They usually appear on the legs—especially on the
thigh or the back of the calf—where the veins have to
fight strong gravitational pressure as they push blood back
up to the heart. Varicose veins can also appear in other parts
of the body, including the anus, where they are called hemorrhoids.
veins may be tender and painful and may cause the legs to feel
tight and swollen, but in general, they do not pose a health
risk. They are also quite common: about 50 percent of middle-aged
Americans have some varicose veins. In many people, the condition
is brought on by a genetic weakness in a vein or valve, but
it can also be caused by anything that puts excess pressure
on the veins. A diet that’s high in fat and low in fiber
can stress the veins (because this contributes to constipation),
as can inactivity, obesity, and long periods of sitting or standing.
Many women develop varicose veins during pregnancy, when the
legs are burdened with a great deal of extra pressure. We often
see women with hormone imbalances who have problems with varicose
veins, particularly women taking a synthetic hormone replacement.
no one has a cure for varicose veins, home treatment is quite
effective at reducing the pain and the swelling. Home therapies
can also strengthen the vein walls and prevent the condition
from growing worse. Of particular importance is a group of herbs
known as venotonics. This class of herbs improves the tone of
the venous wall. Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and
butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) are two prime examples
and are discussed in this section. We find that the natural
therapies in this section often prevent a further progression
of varicose veins, and in some cases, there is a mild improvement.
In most cases, patients find that their circulation improves.
Sometimes, however, professional care is in order. In rare cases,
varicose veins deep in the leg can lead to a more serious circulatory
disorder, such as phlebitis or a blood clot that can travel
to the lungs, resulting in a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
If you have an intense pain deep in your legs, or if you experience
persistent swelling in one or both your legs, consult your doctor.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective;
level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult
your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
Super Prescriptions – Varicose Veins
Prescription #1 Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
Take a standardized extract that contains 100 mg of aescin
daily. This herb strengthens vein walls and valves and
also improves circulation and reduces swelling.
Prescription #2 Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus)
Take a standardized extract that gives you 200 to 300
mg of ruscogenins daily. Ruscogenins are constituents
within this herb that are believed to reduce inflammation
Prescription #3 Grape
seed extract - LifeSource
Take as directed daily daily. This supplement contain
proanthocyandins, constituents, which is helpful for Varicose
Prescription #4 Bioflavonoid complex
Take 1,000 mg two to three times daily. Various flavonoids,
such as rutin and hesperidin, have been shown to be effective
as accessory nutrients in treating varicose veins.
Prescription #5 Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) -
Take a standardized extract containing 25 percent anthocyanosides
at 160 mg twice daily. Bilberry improves the circulation
and strengthens capillary walls.
Prescription #6 Vitamin
E - LifeSource
Take 400 IU of a mixed complex twice daily. Vitamin E
acts as a natural blood thinner, to promote blood flow
and reduce inflammation of the veins.
Prescription #7 Witch hazel (Hammamelis virginiana)
Apply as a gel or a cream to external hemorrhoids, or
add 1 ounce to a sitz bath daily. Witch hazel has an astringent
effect on external varicose veins.
raised veins that may be tender and painful
Heavy, tight, swollen, or fatigued legs
Bruising in the affected area
Itchy skin near the varicose veins
Ulceration over the varicose veins.
genetic weakness in the vein or a vein’s valve
A diet that’s low in fiber and high in fatty and refined
Long periods of sitting or standing
Western diet leads to constipation. Straining during bowel movements
puts intense pressure on the veins of the lower body; over time,
it can cause veins to weaken and enlarge. Therapies that encourage
regular elimination are an important part of the treatment for
diet is your best weapon against varicose veins. Reduce your
risk of constipation by eating plenty of fresh vegetables and
fruits, whole grains, and nuts and seeds.
1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, along with 10 ounces
of water, daily to obtain healthful fiber.
kinds of flavonoids will strengthen the walls of the veins and
improve their elasticity. Berries that have a bluish-red color—cherries,
blueberries, and blackberries, for example—are rich in
the flavonoids you need, so enjoy them often as snacks or dessert.
Buckwheat, as a food and in tea forms, is a good source of a
flavonoid called rutin, which increases the strength of capillaries.
Use it in whole-grain pancakes or breads.
circulation, flavor your meals with garlic, onions, ginger,
or cayenne pepper.
E is good for the circulation and also helps prevent blood clots.
Wheat germ is an excellent source, as are soybeans and leafy
Foods to Avoid
fats, along with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils,
slow down your circulation and worsen the inflammation of the
blood vessels. Avoid them.
other refined carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and constipation.
Dramatically reduce your intake of sweets and refined foods.
and alcohol are dehydrating, and they worsen varicose veins.
is one of the best ways to improve varicose veins. Bicycling
is highly recommended, as it works the legs without putting
a great deal of pressure on them.
Avoid long periods of standing and sitting, if you can. Take
frequent breaks to walk around or to put your feet up.
Elevate the foot of your mattress so that its five to eight
inches higher than the head. When you sleep, your blood will
flow to your heart more easily, instead of pooling in your
Support hose will take pressure off your veins and improve
circulation. To get the maximum results, lie down with your
legs raised before putting on the hose, so that you aren’t
trapping blood in the lower half of your body.
If you’re obese, you can significantly reduce varicose
veins by losing weight. The dietary suggestions in this section
will give you a start.
Don’t wear tight clothes that restrict your circulation.
Tight pants, garters, and poorly fitting pantyhose will just
make the condition worse.