Varicose veins are a condition where valves that should prevent the blood flowing backwards in the veins, have weakened and can no longer perform the task adequately, resulting in engorgement of the vessels. This can be unsightly, uncomfortable, even painful when standing. If not addressed, the condition may lead to complications which are harder to heal. The cause can be a combination of weak veins, standing for long periods, and a condition described in traditional medicine as ‘stagnation’, where the blood becomes overloaded with toxins due to poor diet and sluggish liver function and/or constipation.
Change in diet
It is very important that the underlying cause is addressed, especially if it involves the diet. Foods that are heavy in fat, refined carbohydrate and sugar are to be avoided, and alcohol should be reduced to the minimum possible consumption as should caffeinated and carbonated drinks.
Exercise is also important: the muscles of the legs help to pump the blood through properly, so jogging and walking are beneficial. Resting with the legs higher than the head will assist the flow and reduce the swelling temporarily. In chronic cases I have sometimes advised people to raise the legs of their bed up slightly, in order to produce a prolonged counteraction to the problem.
In terms of herbal medicine, the best remedy I know is Horse Chestnut (conkers!) which can be obtained from herbalists and suppliers as a tincture. 10-15 drops of this liquid extract 3 times daily, mixed in a little water, will make a significant difference over a month or two, especially if combined with the dietary and lifestyle measures above. However, if you have a chronic condition the best advice is to see a qualified herbalist who can make a full assessment of your needs.
People are advised not to massage over varicose veins in order not to exacerbate the condition. However, if lying with the legs raised, ie, when the blood vessels are not engorged, a very light-touch application of essential oils of Cypress and Geranium in sweet almond oil can be helpful. They have astringent properties which can help to tighten veins. It is vital that the touch is gentle and in an upwards directions towards the heart.