Natural Treatments for Varicose Veins

Remedies That May Help

Horse chestnut
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What are Varicose Veins?

The word "varicose" comes from the Latin word "varix", meaning "twisted". Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that are usually bluish purple. Small, one-way valves in veins ensure blood only flows towards the heart. In some people, these valves become weakened and blood collects in the veins, causing them to abnormally enlarge.

Varicose veins are most common on the legs, because leg veins must work against gravity.

Standing increases pressure on leg veins. Varicose veins are a common condition in the United States. Up to 25 percent of women are affected and up to 15 of men are affected.

Natural Treatments for Varicose Veins:

So far, scientific support for the claim that any remedy can treat varicose veins is fairly lacking.

1) Horse Chestnut Extract

The herb horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is one of the most widely used alternative medicine remedies for varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency (a related condition). The active constituent in horse chestnut is a compound called aescin. 

In 2006, researchers with the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed studies involving the use of oral horse chestnut extract in people with chronic venous insufficiency and found an improvement in the signs and symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency with the horse chestnut extract compared with the placebo. Horse chestnut extract resulted in a significant reduction in leg pain and swelling compared with the placebo.

The researchers concluded that based on the evidence, horsechestnut extract has potential as a short-term treatment for chronic venous insufficiency. None of the studies, however, evaluated whether the extract could reduce the appearance of varicose veins. Whole horse chestnut is considered unsafe by the FDA and may lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, convulsions, circulatory and respiratory failure, and even death.

Tea, leaves, nuts, and other crude forms of the horse chestnut plant should also be avoided.

More on horse chestnut.

2) Grape Seed and Pine Bark Extracts

Grape seed extract (Vitis vinifera) and pine bark extract (Pinus maritima) both contain oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs), antioxidants that appear to strengthen the connective tissue structure of blood vessels and reduce inflammation.

Preliminary studies suggest that OPCs help people with various veins. Grape seed extract should not be confused with grapefruit seed extract. The most commonly reported side effects are digestive complaints such as nausea and upset stomach.

People with autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease, should not take pine back or grapeseed extract unless under a doctor's supervision because of its effects on the immune system. The safety of pine bark and grapeseed extracts have not been established in pregnant or nursing women or children.

Pine bark or grapeseed extracts should not be combined with medications that suppress the immune system or with corticosteroids, unless under medical supervision.

More on grapeseed extract and pine bark extract.

3) Butcher's broom

A plant in the lily family, Butcher's broom (​Ruscus aculeatus) is also known as box holly or knee holly. It contains ruscogenins, constituents that proponents say strengthens collagen in blood vessel walls and improves circulation.

Side effects of butcher's broom may include digestive complaints such as indigestion or nausea. People with high blood pressure or benign prostate hyperplasia should not take butcher's broom without first consulting a doctor. The safety of butcher's broom in pregnant or nursing women or children has not been established.

Butcher's broom should not be taken with medication for high blood pressure, benign prostate hyperplasia, or MAO inhibitors unless under medical supervision.

More about butcher's broom for chronic venous insufficiency.

4) Reflexology

Reflexology is a form of bodywork that focuses primarily on the feet. One small study compared reflexology with rest in 55 pregnant women. Reflexology significantly reduced leg swelling.

Pregnant women should consult their doctor before having reflexology. Some sources say that reflexology should not be done during the first trimester.

Read more about reflexology.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause.
  • Being overweight increases the pressure on veins.
  • Prolonged sitting or standing restricts circulation and puts added pressure on veins.
  • Chronic constipation
  • Genetics
  • Aging

Although in some people, varicose veins can be a cosmetic concern, in other people, they can cause swelling and uncomfortable aching, heaviness, or pain or be a sign of heart disease or circulatory disorders. If left untreated, varicose veins may lead to serious complications such as phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), skin ulcers, and blood clots.

At any time, if varicose veins become swollen, red, or tender and warm to the touch, or if there are sores, ulcers, or a rash near the varicose vein, see your doctor.

Using Natural Remedies

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of any remedy or alternative medicine for varicose veins, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating any condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Bamigboye A, Smyth R. Interventions for varicose veins and leg oedema in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan 24;(1):CD001066.

Pittler MH, Ernst E. Horse chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jan 25;(1):CD003230.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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