varicose veins

Varicose veins can be uncomfortable and unsightly to look at. In some cases, they can be extremely painful. Around half of the people above the age of fifty suffer from varicose veins, though women are twice as likely to develop this problem. Thankfully there are several natural remedies to treat this problem.

In this article, we will learn 10 different natural ways to treat varicose veins at home.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are gnarled and enlarged veins. These veins develop when the small valves in the veins that stop the blood from flowing back, become weak.

When this happens, the blood can pool in the veins, causing them to become twisted and swollen.

Varicose veins are usually dark blue or purple in color, and they bulge from under the skin.

The most commonly affected veins are the veins of your legs and feet. This is so because standing and walking put extra pressure on the veins of the lower body.

What are the different Symptoms of varicose veins?

Usually, varicose veins do not cause any pain, but the symptoms may include:

  • Veins that appear dark blue and purple in color
  • Veins that are twisted, swollen and lumpy

In some cases, the symptoms may get more severe, and they include:

  • Pain in the legs, especially after standing or sitting in one position for long
  • The legs may feel heavy, especially at night
  • Itching around the veins
  • Skin discoloration around the veins
  • Swollen ankles
  • Cramping and swelling in lower legs
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Spider veins in the affected leg
  • In case of minor injury, the bleeding may last longer than normal

What are the causes of varicose veins?

The main job of the veins is to return the blood from the body to the heart so that it can be recirculated. Muscle contraction in the lower legs and the elastic vein walls help the blood to return to the heart.

Our veins also contain tiny valves that open to let blood flow towards the heart and also prevent it from flowing backward.

When these valves become weak or damaged, the blood moves back and pools up in the veins, which causes the veins to swell up and get twisted.

Several factors lead to the weakening of these valves. These include:

1. Age

The risk of developing varicose veins usually increases with age. As you grow old, your veins lose elasticity, which causes them to stretch.

2. Obesity

When you are obese or overweight, it puts added pressure on the veins and weakens them.

3. Sex

Women are at a higher risk of developing varicose veins because of the hormonal changes during pre-menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can relax vein walls.

4. Hormonal treatment

Birth control pills and hormone therapy can also lead to varicose veins.

5. Pregnancy

The volume of the blood in the body increases during pregnancy, which can also enlarge the veins in the legs.

6. Family history

People who have a history of varicose veins in their family have a higher chance of developing varicose veins.

7. Sedentary lifestyle

If you stand or sit in one position for an extended period, it can increase your chances of developing varicose veins.

Are there ways to prevent varicose veins?

You can reduce the risk of developing varicose veins by improving your diet and making specific lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Include light exercise like walking or yoga into your daily routine.
  • Avoid standing or sitting in one position for a long time.
  • Eat a healthy diet comprising of complex carbs, proteins, and healthy fats.
  • Sit or sleep with your legs elevated by a pillow.
  • Wear loose fitting comfortable clothes to improve your blood flow.

Natural treatment for varicose veins

There is no complete remedy for varicose veins. However, there are several natural ways to manage the condition and improve the symptoms.

1. Exercise

Regular exercise is amongst the best methods to treat varicose veins naturally. It helps to lower inflammation and improve blood circulation in the legs, which prevents the blood from pooling in the veins.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, when you sit or stand in one position for too long, especially with your legs bent or crossed, it becomes for challenging for the veins to pump blood back to your heart (1).

Exercise helps improve the blood flow, which helps relieve the signs and symptoms of varicose veins.

Low impact exercises like walking, yoga, stretching, cycling, and swimming help you keep your calf muscles active without causing excessive strain.

Exercise also helps to lose weight, lower blood pressure and balance hormones, all of which can lead to varicose veins.

2. Compression stockings

Compression stockings apply uniform pressure on the legs, and this helps the muscles and veins to move blood towards the heart.

As we age, our blood vessels lose their elasticity, and this leads to their enlargement, which reduces the efficiency of the venous valves which stem the backflow.

The consistent and uniform pressure helps to compress the veins and reduce their diameter. This helps the valves work better and reduce the risk of blood clot formation.

During a 2018 study, when 30 patients with varicose veins wore graduated elastic compression stockings (GECS) or placebo stockings for one week.

The results showed that GECS are more effective in reducing pain and aching as compared to placebo stockings (2).

Compression stockings are readily available at pharmacies and online stores. You must check with your doctor to find out which type of compression stockings is best suited for you.

3. Maintain healthy weight

Overweight people are at a higher risk of developing varicose veins, and they also have more severe symptoms as compared to other patients.

The increased pressure caused by the excess weight weakens the valves in the veins which then fail to pump blood properly.

Obesity also masks the symptoms as the fat obscures the swelling and the fatigue in the legs is attributed to general tiredness.

According to a report published in the Huffington Post, in the face of obese patinas, varicose veins are often 4 to 5 cm inside the leg which is why they are difficult to diagnose (3). 

Losing weight can help obese people alleviate pain and swelling and prevent further inflammation.

4. Gentle massage

Gently massaging legs in upward strokes can increase blood flow and smoother out twisted veins. You can use soothing massage oils or a moisturizer to massage the affected areas.

You must never put direct pressure on the bulging veins as it may damage the fragile tissue.

Keeping the legs elevated, ideally at the level of the heart, also helps improve circulation.

5. Essential oils

Essential oils are helpful in increasing circulation, reducing swelling and easing pain associated with varicose veins.

The lavender essential oil is known to have analgesic and sedative properties that can help reduce pain and inflammation in people with varicose veins (4).

Rosemary essential oil can also improve blood circulation and even relieve pain (5).

Cypress essential oil helps in improving blood circulation and relieving the symptoms of varicose veins.

Some other oils that help improve circulation and are helpful in treating varicose veins are clary sage, grapefruit, helichrysum, lemon, lemongrass, orange, rose, sage, and tangerine.

Chamomile, frankincense, ginger, myrrh, peppermint, spearmint, vetiver are some essential oils that have anti-inflammatory and anesthetic properties and are beneficial for varicose veins.

You can make a warm or cold compress with essential oils. You can also dilute these essential oils with a carrier oil and massage the affected area in the direction of the heart.

You should also add some drops of essential oils to your warm bathwater.

6. Dietary changes

A diet that contains harmful trans fats, processed foods, sodium, sugar caffeine, and alcohol can cause arterial damage, blood pressure issues, low circulation, hormonal imbalance, and weight gain.

All of these can increase the risk of developing varicose veins and worsen their swelling. So, having a healthy diet which contains high-fiber, antioxidant-rich, high-flavonoid food is the key to reducing the appearance of varicose veins.

High-fiber foods improve heart and digestive health. This reduces bloating and the increased pressure on the veins around the abdomen. Vegetables,  fruits, legumes, and whole grains are high in fiber.

Flavinoids improve blood circulation and also help reduce pressure on the arteries. Vitamin E is known to prevent blood clots as it acts as a natural blood thinner. Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Foods that contain flavonoids include vegetables like spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, citrus fruits, grapes, blueberries, apples, cocoa, and garlic.

Natural diuretics like fennel, dandelion greens, parsley, cilantro, cucumber, and celery reduce water retention and swelling.

Deficiency of essential nutrients magnesium and potassium can lead to blood pressure, leg cramps, and blood pooling.

Add food like leafy greens, avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, and cruciferous vegetables to your diet to improve these symptoms.

7. Horse chestnut extract

Horse chestnut extract is amongst the most popular herbal remedies for varicose veins.

Obtained from the bark, leaves and the flowers of the Aesculus hippocastanum plant, horse chestnut extract has astringent properties that constrict body tissues, including blood vessels.

It contains an active ingredient known as Aescin, which inhibits the enzyme that causes damage to the walls of the blood vessels.

According to a 2012 systematic review of 17 studies, when horse chestnut is taken over a small period, it can improve leg pain, swelling and itching in people with chronic venous insufficiency (6).

8. Grapeseed extract

Grapeseed extract is a common remedy for varicose veins. The antioxidants found in grapeseed extracts help fight chronic venous insufficiency.

Grapeseed extracts contain antioxidants known as Oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes that have properties that prevent damage to the walls of the blood vessels and promote the formation of collagen, which helps maintain the elasticity of connective tissues and strengthens the walls of the blood vessels.

Grapeseed extract supplements are available online and in many natural food stores.

9. Pine bark extract

Pycnogenol, a natural plant extract of the French maritime pine tree bark, may improve the appearance, swelling, and discomfort related to pregnancy-induced varicose veins, according to a study published in the International Journal of Angiology.

This extract contains many phenolic acids, flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins that help reduce varicose veins and the inflammation associated with them.

Oral intake of this extract helps strengthen the walls of the blood vessels and restores elasticity by binding with the structural protein collagen.

Pine bark extract also helps reduce blood pressure and improves blood circulation, which helps relieve the symptoms of varicose veins like leg cramps, and pain.

10. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is effective in improving circulation and removing inflammation. ACV also has astringent properties which help shrink swollen veins.

You can dip a cloth in diluted ACV and place it on the affected area. The drying effect of this liquid helps ease the pain and relieves swelling.

You can also take ACV internally to purify the blood and improve circulation. Add two tablespoons of ACV to a glass of water and add some honey.

Using ACV along with witch hazel on varicose veins also helps lower their swelling.

Final thoughts

Varicose veins are dark blue or purple enlarged and twisted veins that are usually seen on legs. Standing in one position for a long time, excessive weight, and hormonal changes are some of the causes of this painful condition.

Although these veins can be treated surgically or through lasers and chemicals, there are several natural ways to manage them. These include changing your diet, losing weight, massage, exercise, compression stockings and using essential oils and herbal extracts.