Two primary 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.
When one 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.
Varicose 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.
Although 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
** 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.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements shown to help Varicose Veins:
Prescription for Natural Cures
James F. Balch
Super Prescription #1 Horse chestnut (Aesculus
Take a standardized extract that contains 100 mg of
aescin daily. This herb strengthens vein walls and
valves and also improves circulation and reduces
Super Prescription #2 Butcher's broom (Ruscus
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 of veins.
Super Prescription #3
Grape Seed Extract
- LifeSource Products - Take as
directed daily daily. This supplement contain
proanthocyandins, constituents, which is helpful for
Super 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.
Super Prescription #5
Bilberry (Vaccimium myrtillus)
- LifeSource Product - Take a
standardized extract containing 25 percent
anthocyanosides at 160 mg twice daily. Bilberry
improves the circulation and strengthens capillary
Super Prescription #6
- LifeSource Product - 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.
Super Prescription #7 Witch hazel (Hammamelis
Apply as a gel or a cream to external hemorrhoids, or
add 1 ounce to a sudsy bath daily. Witch hazel has an
astringent effect on external varicose veins.
Click here to see all products, articles and
studies for Varicose Veins
Swollen, 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.
A genetic weakness in the vein or a vein's valve
A diet that's low in fiber and high in fatty and refined food
Long periods of sitting or standing
A hormone imbalance
The low-fiber 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 varicose veins.
A high-fiber 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.
Consume 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, along with 10 ounces of
water, daily to obtain healthful fiber.
Certain 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.
To improve circulation, flavor your meals with garlic, onions, ginger, or
Vitamin E is good for the circulation and also helps prevent blood clots.
Wheat germ is an excellent source, as are soybeans and leafy greens.
Foods to Avoid
Saturated fats, along with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils,
slow down your circulation and worsen the inflammation of the blood
vessels. Avoid them.
Sugar and other refined carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and
constipation. Dramatically reduce your intake of sweets and refined foods.
Caffeine and alcohol are dehydrating, and they worsen varicose veins.
Exercise 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 veins.
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
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