Varicose veins are gnarled, enlarged veins that no longer carry blood properly. A milder type—known as spider veins—are visible on the skin but do not pop out the same way varicose veins do. Though they can occur anywhere in the body, varicose most commonly develop in the legs and feet. This is because your body weight constantly puts pressure on the veins in your lower body all day long. Both varicose and spider veins are often accompanied by swelling in the legs and feet, which is caused by fluid leaking out of the affected blood vessels.
Varicose and spider veins are not dangerous in themselves. However, they can be a sign of a more serious vein or circulatory disease, so be sure to consult with a doctor if you notice them. In addition, even harmless varicose veins can cause pain and discomfort in the legs. If you need help managing yours, or want to prevent them from occurring, try one of these six natural remedies.
1. Oil pulling
A study published in 2007 found a link between a certain type of oral bacteria and the presence of varicose veins. Though some kinds of bacteria can be hard to remove with conventional brushing and rinsing, daily oil pulling is an excellent way to keep your mouth clean and free of dangerous bacteria. And if you’re nervous about the idea of swishing oil around in your mouth for twenty minutes, don’t be—traditional oil pulling only takes a few minutes at a time.
2. Avoid synthetic hormones
Prolonged exposure to synthetic hormones can disrupt your circulation and weaken the veins in your legs, leaving you more prone to developing varicose and spider veins. Unfortunately, these hormones are everywhere: in the BPA in plastic, the ingredients in personal care products, and the birth control that many women use.
To minimize your exposure, use a birth control method with a low dose of hormones, avoid plastics that contain BPA and other hazardous chemicals, and buy personal care products that you know are phthalate-free.
3. Adjust your diet
If you already have varicose veins or are at high risk for developing them, you can improve your circulation by adding spinach, kale, apples, buckwheat, and asparagus to your diet. These foods are all high in rutin, a bioflavonoid that keeps your veins strong and healthy. It also helps to reduce pain and swelling in your circulatory system, which may relieve some of the discomfort caused by already-damaged veins. It’s equally important to minimize the amount of salt in your diet, since high levels of sodium can cause swelling and water retention that makes varicose veins worse.
4. Collagen supplement
Years of exposure to too much direct sun can break down the collagen in your skin, causing damage to your veins and increasing your risk of spider or varicose veins. To give your body a boost, try taking a collagen supplement. You can also increase your body’s collagen production by eating foods high in fatty acids, such as nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
5. Grape seed extract
Grape seed extract is a common herbal remedy for treating varicose veins in France and other European countries. It’s known to improve circulation and reduce swelling. More importantly for varicose veins, it contains high levels of an antioxidant compound known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). Animal studies have shown that OCPs increase the elasticity of blood vessels, making them less likely to become clogged or damaged, as well as reducing the fluid leakage that can cause swelling around varicose veins.
6. Horse chestnut
Horse chestnut is an herbal treatment similar to grape seed, but it has been more widely studies. Research has shown that horse chestnut supplements help improve and prevent chronic venous insufficiency—a circulatory condition that can develop into varicose veins. Be sure to take a professionally prepared extraction, as homemade horse chestnut supplements may be toxic. And always consult with your doctor before taking new supplements, especially if you have allergies or take other medications.