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Although we tend to think of them as a woman’s problem, both men and women develop varicose veins — those bulgy veins that appear lumpy and dark in color (usually blue or purple). In fact, according to the Department of Health and Human Science, about 50 percent to 55 percent of women and 40 percent to 45 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from some sort of vein problem, with varicose veins affecting about half of all people 50 years and older.
They’re a common problem among older or pregnant women due to hormonal influences, and they tend to develop over time as someone ages and veins lose their natural elasticity due to rising levels of inflammation.
Women are at least twice as likely as men to develop varicose veins, but people of any age and race can be affected. They’re usually most noticeable on — and therefore the biggest concern for — people with light skin.
There are a number of different ways to prevent and treat varicose veins, ranging from expensive surgeries to using natural essential oils. Before turning to irritating prescription creams or expensive laser surgeries — which aren’t always effective and should really be considered last-resort options — it’s a good idea to try varicose veins home remedies first to lower the visibility of bulging veins without much risk involved.
Natural Varicose Veins Treatment
According to a 2012 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “treatment options for varicose veins range from conservative (e.g., medications, compression stockings, lifestyle changes) to minimally invasive (e.g., sclerotherapy or endoluminal ablation), to invasive (surgical techniques), to hybrid (combination of ≥1 therapies).”
A 2007 report published in the Journal of the Royal College of Surgeons of England found that nerve injuries following varicose vein surgeries are common and that more than half the patients treated will develop some recurrent varicose sites within 10 years of surgery.
Varicose veins are always a symptom of an underlying venous insufficiency disorder. This is true whether or not you experiences other symptoms like pain and swelling. If you visit a dermatologist or doctor to talk about treatment options, you’ll likely be advised to make certain lifestyle modifications first, before surgery or other treatments are even considered. These can greatly help decrease blood pooling in your veins, while also offering many other perks, like more energy, clearer skin, better heart health and improved digestion. And the best part is that natural remedies pose little to no risk and are far less expensive than surgeries too.
Here are five natural treatments for varicose veins:
1. Essential Oils for Balancing Hormones
Many different essential oils are beneficial for improving blood flow while also lowering inflammation and hormonal imbalances. One of the best for specifically treating vein problems is cypress oil, which has the ability to increase circulation and support the circulatory system. Try rubbing five drops of cypress essential oil on the problematic area twice daily for several weeks. If you experience muscle aches, swelling or skin blisters, try using other diluted essential oils like peppermint, tea tree and lavender oil in small amounts to soothe problem areas.
2. An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Certain foods help reverse inflammation and improve blood flow, making it possible to heal varicose veins faster and prevent future ones from forming. A poor diet — high in things like trans fats, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods — can contribute to arterial damage, low circulation, blood pressure problems, hormonal imbalances and weight gain. Many of these foods are also high-sodium foods, which is dehydrating, and contain toxins that can worsen swelling in varicose veins.
Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods for reducing the appearance of varicose veins include:
- High-fiber foods — Fiber helps improve heart health and is also necessary for healthy digestive functions. Eating 30–40 grams of fiber every day is a great way to prevent constipation, which can cause bloating and increased pressure on the veins around the abdomen and legs. High-fiber foods to eat include chia seeds and flaxseeds, (which are also omega-3 foods, which are anti-inflammatory), vegetables, fresh fruit, and soaked/sprouted legumes and ancient grains.
- High-antioxidant foods — Antioxidants, such as flavonoids (present in berries), vitamin C and vitamin E (both present in green veggies and citrus fruits), help strengthen veins, fight inflammation and improve arterial health. Vitamin E is known to help prevent blood clots, acts like a natural blood thinner and is tied to heart health. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-inflammatory and beneficial for skin health.
- Natural diuretics — Doctors sometimes use diuretic pills to help increase urination and reduce water retention or swelling. You can get the same effect safely by consuming things like fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil), fennel, dandelion greens, cucumber, asparagus and celery.
- Magnesium-rich foods — Blood pooling , blood pressure problems and leg cramps (like restless leg syndrome) are warning signs of deficiencies in electrolytes like potassium and magnesium. To overcome these symptoms, increase intake of things like leafy greens, avocado, bananas, cruciferous veggies and sweet potatoes.
- Spicy foods — Foods with spices such as cayenne pepper or curry help heat up the body and get blood flowing, adding to healthy circulation and even appetite/weight control.
- Wild-caught fish — Fish and seafood like wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and tuna provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for proper blood flow.
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV) — ACV improves circulation in the vein walls and is an effective anti-inflammatory. Many people find that using ACV along with witch hazelon varicose veins helps lower swelling and and improves their appearance within just a few weeks.
3. Natural Herbs Including Bilberry and Horse Chestnut
Bilberry and horse chestnut, two plants that are thousands of years old and popular folk remedies, have been found to be both effective and safe for treating varicose veins. Both have been studied for chronic venous insufficiency that causes pain, ankle swelling, feelings of heaviness, itching and nighttime leg cramping. They’re also beneficial for lowering water retention, circulatory problems, swelling, diarrhea, PMS cramps and other skin-related conditions.
The fruit of the bilberry plant can be eaten or made into extracts or tea. The horse chestnut tree (sometimes called buckeye) produces seeds, leaves, bark and flowers that can be found in extract, cream/lotion, tea or capsule form. Look for horse chestnut seed extract standardized to contain 16 percent to 20 percent aescin (escin), the active ingredient. Horse chestnut should be taken in doses around 100 milligrams once daily. I recommend taking bilberry in doses of about 160 milligrams, twice daily.
In addition, you can combine these with butcher’s broom (200 milligrams daily), grape seed extract (200 milligrams daily) and vitamin E (400 IU daily) to help boost blood flow, protect veins and achieve natural blood-thinning effects safely. University of Maryland Medical Center also recommends increasing intake of rutin, a type of bioflavonoid that may protect the walls of veins and help them work better. Bioflavonoids help relieve swelling, aching and pain from varicose veins and can be found in grape seed, pine bark, cranberry, hawthorn, blueberry and other plants that provide antioxidants like vitamin C.