Varicose veins—those squiggly, swollen knots of blue or red blood vessels—are ugly and often painful. They form when valves in the veins lose their elasticity and the walls of the veins weaken and develop balloonlike pockets. These pockets can trap blood and cause minor clots and inflammation. Varicose veins occur most often in the legs but can appear in your arms as well.
Since the tendency to develop them can be inherited, you may not be able to stop varicose veins altogether. But your attempts to avoid or remove them don’t have to be in vain. The natural remedies in this chapter—in conjunction with medical care and used with your doctor’s approval—may be helpful for those with varicose veins, according to some health professionals.
See Your Medical Doctor When...
Stimulate circulation in the legs with gentle massage, recommends aromatherapist Judith Jackson, author of Scentual Touch: A Personal Guide to Aromatherapy. She says to blend 12 drops each of cypress and geranium essential oils in four ounces of a carrier oil such as almond, soy or sunflower. (Carrier oils are available in most health food stores.) Then, she says, gently apply the mixture to the legs by stroking upward, in the direction of the heart. Don’t massage directly on the veins, Jackson cautions; instead, massage the surrounding area and gently stroke the oil over the veins.
For information on preparing and administering essential oils, including cautions about their use, see page 19. For information on purchasing essential oils, refer to the resource list on page 633.
“A high-fiber diet helps prevent straining of your stool, which can build up pressure and aggravate varicose veins,” says Julian Whitaker, M.D., founder and president of the Whitaker Wellness Center in Newport Beach, California. He suggests trying to consume at least 30 grams of fiber a day. You can get this amount by building your meals around whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, adding these foods to your diet as often as possible, he says.
Also, Dr. Whitaker says to eat plenty of blackberries and cherries, since they are rich in compounds that may prevent varicose veins or lessen the discomfort they cause.
At least four remedies can help control varicose veins, writes Andrew Lockie, M.D., in his book The Family Guide to Homeopathy. He suggests taking one of these 30C remedies every 12 hours for up to seven days.
For varicose veins that feel bruised and sore, try Hamamelis, according to Dr. Lockie. He recommends Pulsatilla if you feel chilly and if warmth and allowing your legs to hang down make your veins worse. Carbo vegetabilis is a good remedy for varicose veins that make the skin around them appear mottled and marbled, he says. If your legs look pale but redden easily and walking slowly relieves the weak, achy feeling, he says to try Ferrum metallicum.
All of these remedies are available in many health food stores. To purchase the remedies by mail, refer to the resource list on page 637.
After eliminating contributing factors such as obesity, constipation and clothing that has tight waistbands, try alternating hot and cold baths to stimulate circulation in the legs, suggests Agatha Thrash, M.D., a medical pathologist and co-founder and co-director of Uchee Pines Institute, a natural healing center in Seale, Alabama. Use two buckets or plastic wastebaskets tall enough to submerge the legs up to the knees. Fill one container with enough comfortably hot water to cover the lower legs and the other container with the same amount of cold water. Soak your feet and legs in the hot water for about three minutes, then immerse them in the cold water for about 30 seconds. Repeat three times, finishing with the cold soak. You’ll need to use this treatment once a day for at least one month to see results, according to Dr. Thrash. If you have diabetes, you should use warm (not hot) water, she adds.
Fresh fruit juices can be very helpful for those with varicose veins, says Cherie Calbom, M.S., a certified nutritionist in Kirkland, Washington, and co-author of Juicing for Life. Dark-colored berries such as cherries, blackberries and blueberries contain anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, pigments that tone and strengthen the walls of the veins, Calbom explains. She adds that pineapples are rich in the enzyme bromelain, which helps prevent blood clots, an uncommon but serious complication of varicose veins.
“Juicing provides these nutrients in much higher concentrations than you can get by just eating the fruits,” says Calbom. She suggests drinking eight ounces of fresh berry or pineapple juice, alone or diluted with another fruit juice, once or twice a day for maximum benefit.
For information on juicing techniques, see page 93.
Never massage directly on varicose veins, warns Elaine Stillerman, L.M.T., a massage therapist in New York City. Still, a general leg massage can help reduce swelling in the veins, she says. Sit up comfortably on a sofa or bed, with your legs raised slightly on a pillow. Now use the effleurage stroke (page 570) to work up the entire leg from the ankle to the upper thigh. Again, remember not to touch the varicose veins. You can do this daily for about five minutes on each leg.
Working your hands or feet may help with varicose veins, says Rebecca Dioda, a reflexologist with the Morris Institute of Natural Therapeutics, a holistic health education center in Denville, New Jersey. She recommends focusing on these reflex points: adrenal and parathyroid gland, digestive system (especially the liver), spine, heart and sciatic nerve.
To help you locate these points, consult the hand and foot reflex charts beginning on page 582. For instructions on how to work the points, see “Your Reflexology Session” on page 110.
A special breathing exercise can help ease pain from varicose veins, according to Stephen A. Nezezon, M.D., yoga teacher and staff physician at the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. His instructions: Start by lying on your back on the floor, arms at your sides, with your feet resting above you on a chair. Breathe deeply through your nose using the belly breath (see page 152). Dr. Nezezon says gravity helps pull blood from your legs. The deep breathing creates a pull in your chest cavity that also draws blood from the legs. Fresh blood then enters your legs, easing the pain. Do this exercise once a day for about ten minutes.