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Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins close to the surface. They can occur almost anywhere but most commonly occur in the esophagus and the legs.

Veins, which return blood to the heart, contain valves that keep blood from flowing backward as a result of gravity. When these valves become weak, blood pools in the veins of the legs and causes them to bulge. These enlarged vessels are called varicose veins. Standing and sitting for long periods of time, lack of exercise, obesity, and pregnancy all tend to promote the formation of varicose veins. Sometimes varicose veins are painful, but elevating the affected leg usually brings significant relief.

 

Rating Nutritional Supplements Herbs
fd

Flavonoids (hydroxyethylrutosides)
Proanthocyanidins

Butcher’s broom
Gotu kola
Horse chestnut
Witch hazel

Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.


What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

Symptoms of varicose veins may include a dull pain, itch, or heavy sensation in the legs. The sensation is worse after prolonged standing and better when the legs are elevated. Varicose veins typically appear on the legs as dilated, tortuous veins close to the surface of the skin, and may look blue. Advanced varicose veins may cause ankle and leg swelling or skin ulcers.

Lifestyle changes that may be helpful for varicose veins

Keeping the legs elevated relieves pain. People with varicose veins should avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time and should walk regularly.

Nutritional supplements that may be helpful for varicose veins

A controlled clinical trial found that oral supplementation with hydroxyethylrutosides (HR), a type of flavonoid that is derived from rutin, improved varicose veins in a group of pregnant women.1 Further research is needed to confirm the benefits observed in this preliminary trial. A typical amount of HR is 1000 mg per day.

A small, preliminary trial found that supplementation with 150 mg of proanthocyanidins per day improved the function of leg veins after a single application in people with widespread varicose veins.2 Double-blind trials are needed to determine whether extended use of proanthocyanidins can substantially improve this condition.

Are there any side effects or interactions with varicose veins?

Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.

Herbs that may be helpful for varicose veins

Although witch hazel is known primarily for treating hemorrhoids, it may also be useful for varicose veins.3 Topical use of witch hazel to treat venous conditions is approved by the German Commission E, authorities on herbal medicine.4 Application of a witch hazel ointment three or more times per day for two or more weeks is necessary before results can be expected.

Horse chestnut seed extract can be taken orally or used as an external application for disorders of venous circulation, including varicose veins.5 Preliminary studies in humans have shown that 300 mg three times per day of a standardized extract of horse chestnut seed reduced the formation of enzymes thought to cause varicose veins.6 Topical gel or creams containing 2% aescin can be applied topically three or four time per day to the affected limb(s).

Oral supplementation with butcher’s broom7 or gotu kola8 may also be helpful for varicose veins.

Are there any side effects or interactions with varicose veins?

Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.

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