By Debbie Cotton for CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).
Varicose veins are sore, raised, normally purplish coloured areas of blood vessels that occur most often on the legs. They form as a result of weak or faulty valves that are present within the veins, and the area becomes stagnated with blood, causing inflammation and further damage to the area.
They are more common in people that have jobs in which they have to stand all day. The trouble with varicose veins is that once they have formed, they are quite tricky to make disappear, but what you can do is prevent them from forming or getting worse. If you are predisposed to prominent veins, it is a good idea to start a preventative treatment as soon as possible.
Vitamin C is a very important nutrient that is needed in the formation of collagen and elastin, which are two proteins that help blood vessels keep their strength and elasticity. It is very important to increase your levels of Vitamin C if you are predisposed to varicose or spider veins. The best sources of Vitamin C are fruits such as berries, cherries, citrus and vegetables.
A diet which is high in fresh fruit and vegetables and foods that contain essential fats such as fish, and are low in refined foods can also prevent further damage occurring to the blood vessel walls. Social activities such as smoking and excessive alcohol drinking can also weaken the integrity of blood vessels, predisposing you to varicose veins. Keeping these activities to a minimum can certainly help.
Preventing varicose veins
Another fantastic preventative for varicose veins is an amazing herb known as ‘Horse chestnut’ (Aesculus hippocastanum). It is often used as a tonic for veins, especially when there is water retention present in the legs as well. It can be taken as a tea, tincture or capsule. It is often found in preparations with another herb specific to the venous system known as ‘Butchers Broom’ (Ruscus aculeatus). If used appropriately and under supervision, they can produce fantastic results.
One of the major supportive things to do for veins is to help the blood flow back to the heart through exercise. Veins rely on movements of the leg muscles to help the transportation of blood against gravity up towards the heart. Walking, jogging, swimming or bouncing on a mini-trampoline are all very useful ways of supporting this movement and preventing stagnation that leads to damaged veins. Another way of doing this is after taking a warm shower, have a 20 second jolt of cold water before you get out. This helps to increase the contraction of small capillaries and will help to increase circulation.
If you are on your feet all day, once home take 20 minutes to lie on the ground with your legs vertical rested against the wall. This gives your veins a rest, and it helps to drain any stagnation back towards the heart.
A high amount of water intake will also prevent water retention which too can be damaging to the blood vessels. Drinking up to 2 litres of still pure water a day is highly recommended to prevent any stagnation.
In Eastern natural medicine, the lychee fruit is often promoted as being of help in cases of poor vein structure, so it could be worth adding lychee to your fruit salad!
Calendula cream is great to apply topically to any inflamed or sore patches on the skin. It has a lovely soothing action that will also help to speed up the healing time.
Debbie Cotton is a Herbalist, Nutritionist and Homeopath. CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) is the UK’s leading training provider in a range of natural therapies, with colleges across the UK and Ireland. To find out more about CNM courses, visit www.naturopathy-uk.com