Varicose Veins: Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies

Varicose veins are visibly obvious, swollen, crumpled, and stained and can be adverse. They may become enlarged or aching and may cause severe adverse effects. Non-surgical intervention may encompass a confidant or spouse supporting the leg, use of solids and drug medications. Exercise of herbal remedies and homeopathic cure are the main focal points of this literature. Many patients prefer alternatives to conventional treatment, so that they can avoid dissection and laser coagulation. This review will focus on the evidence available for homeopathic treatment of varicose veins, from the widespread separate of actives that have been used to some clinical tribunal and the evidence available on the effect of homeopathy. Quality of life was an additional secondary outcome and the results from both studies demonstrate that patients perceive an improvement in varicose vein symptoms, with Caesculus being superior to placebo and equal to the standard treatment in Germany of compression stockings and Mobiloerm being superior to placebo. This trial demonstrated that a homeopathic complex can have therapeutic effects yet evidence-based research is rarely conducted in the use of homeopathy for varicose veins. Furthermore, there is evidence available from a trial comparing the use of horse chestnut seed extract and compression stockings to the use of just compression stockings.

Herbal Remedies for Varicose Veins

The medicinal part of the butcher’s broom plant is the rootstock, which contains steroidal saponins that have vasoconstrictive and anti-inflammatory effects. The most important of these saponins are ruscogenin and neoruscogenin, which have been used to standardize extracts of butcher’s broom. A double-blind study found that a particular saponin-rich extract of butcher’s broom was more effective than a placebo for patients with chronic venous insufficiency. An open study found that a saponin-rich extract of butcher’s broom reduced symptoms such as leg swelling, heaviness, pain, and itching in patients with acute or chronic venous insufficiency. The study also found that the efficacy of the butcher’s broom extract was markedly increased when it was used in combination with leg compression.

Butcher’s broom is another herb that has been found to be effective for chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins. The common name “butcher’s broom” comes from its historical use in Europe to relieve the discomfort of varicose veins. The plant twigs were used to clean butcher’s chopping blocks, hence the name. This herb is believed to have haemostatic (bleeding-stopping) and anti-inflammatory effects. The Latin name Ruscus aculeatus literally means “little red one with a sting,” referring to its red berries and the prickly nature of the leaves.

Although horse chestnut seed extract is widely used in Europe for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins, it is not as well known in the United States. This is due to the constraints placed on herbal medicines as a result of the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act passed in 1994, which has prevented the use of many herbs from other countries. However, when properly prepared and used at recommended doses, aescin is believed to be safe.

Aescin has an anti-inflammatory effect by preventing the release of enzymes that damage capillary walls. It also decreases fluid retention by increasing the tone of the veins and the resistance of the capillaries. Aescin has been shown to reduce the activity of elastase, an enzyme that breaks down the elastic fiber in the vein wall, which is a common cause of varicose veins.

Horse chestnut seed extract, standardized to 50 mg of the key active ingredient aescin, taken two to three times per day, has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for chronic venous insufficiency. This condition occurs when the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart, usually due to damage to the valves in the veins. Chronic venous insufficiency is often associated with varicose veins. In Western herbalism, horse chestnut is the most commonly recommended herb for varicose veins.

The following section details three herbs that are commonly recommended for the treatment of varicose veins: horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), and gotu kola (Centella asiatica).

Horse Chestnut

Aescin has been shown to effectively reduce edema formation throughout the body. It is said to do this by reducing the increased permeability in the capillaries. In a study using rats injected with a known vascular permeability increasing agent, aescin was shown to inhibit the permeability increase in a dose-dependent manner. Efficacy was shown to be at its maximum with 1mg/kg injections of aescin. This inhibition of vascular permeability was also seen in a study of rats with pulmonary hypertension and congestive right-sided heart failure. The rate at which pulmonary edema formation occurred was reduced by an injection of aescin resulting in the experimentally induced heart failure lasting not more than 30 minutes. Aescin may be the most researched treatment for varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency of all herbal remedies.

One of the best-known herbal remedies for varicose veins, horse chestnut is a tree native to North America and Europe. Horse chestnut seeds contain a saponin known as aescin, which is said to have anti-inflammatory properties. This tree extract is used to treat chronic vein insufficiency. In a double-blind study, 22 patients suffering from chronic venous insufficiency or varicose veins were treated with 60 mg aescin or a placebo four times a day. Aescin was found to significantly reduce leg volume and calf and ankle circumference compared with placebo. The reduction in leg fluid volume was estimated to be approximately 10% and was accompanied by a 20% reduction in skin calf circumference. No side effects were noted.

Butcher’s Broom

Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is a traditional herbal remedy used to treat varicose veins and other circulatory problems. It is believed to work by causing the blood vessels to narrow and the tone of the walls of the vessels to tighten. Butcher’s Broom can help to relieve the itching and swelling associated with the condition. A study undertaken in 2002 found that Butcher’s Broom was effective in reducing the ankle swelling, pain and discomfort associated with chronic venous insufficiency when compared to a placebo. In Russia, Butcher’s Broom is classified as a drug and is used to treat patients with congestive or organic pathology of the venous capillaries, including those suffering from thrombophlebitis, varicose veins with edema, leg sores, and varicose eczemas. Treatment with Butcher’s Broom extract produced good to excellent results in 78% of patients. However, the safety of Butcher’s Broom in pregnant and breastfeeding women, or children has not been established, so it would be wise to avoid it during these times.

Gotu Kola

Gotu Kola, a common herb in Ayurvedic medicine, has been used for centuries to treat varicose veins. Gotu Kola improves the strength, tone, and elasticity of blood vessels, which it achieves by stimulating the synthesis of collagen and elastin. In a double-blind study of healthy volunteers, Gotu Kola significantly increased the elasticity of the blood vessels. Limitations in elasticity are associated with venous insufficiency and are often a contributing factor in the development of varicose veins. During the study, test subjects consumed Gotu Kola for a fourteen-day period, and while an increase in vessel elasticity was observed after only four days of treatment, up to a twenty percent increase was recorded by the end of the study. Another study has shown that a subtype of Gotu Kola known as TTFCA improves symptoms of venous hypertension, such as pain, swelling, fatigue, and a sensation of heaviness in the legs. TTFCA has been shown to be more effective than compression stockings, often the first method of treatment for symptom augmentation. In a double-blind study of sixty participants, symptoms improved in ninety percent of patients who used TTFCA compared to only forty-eight percent in the group using compression. TTFCA was especially beneficial to patients who suffered higher intensity pain and also those with edema.

Homeopathic Remedies for Varicose Veins

Hamamelis is commonly prescribed when varicose veins have developed. This presents with violet-like bruises over the vein area. Severe discomfort is frequently found in such individuals. The relevant areas often feel sore. Passive movement of the leg does not affect discomfort. This corresponds to a small percentage of hamamelis cases. Often there will be a character change associated with the discomfort. The individual often finds themselves very emotional and self-pitying about the veins, some set of circumstances may have caused distress. At this point, the person will require pulsatilla and you must notice the change since there are very few cues to change the remedy. Another hamamelis case moves more into the terminology of acute on chronic. This is possibly more common for this remedy as it has a gradual affecting action on the veins. Suddenly there is discomfort due to an acute exacerbation. Pulsatilla is most effectively learnt through understanding its changes in emotional and physical. The remedy has moodiness and changeability but always with a gentle and tearful disposition. A person needing this may become quite unlike themselves. One day their fears can be very great and needing reassurance; this is similar to that change when the individual has felt a small amount of despair from their varicose vein condition. An acute feeling may also involve itchy skin which is worse from warmth and comfort. Coming out of the bath, this person may feel some palpitations and anxiety. All these symptoms are purely an aggravation and set off the varicose vein state. If aching and throbbing is felt in the vein area, there has been an ineffective prescription and the remedy must be changed. Pulsatilla is often a remedy used to normalize changed states and is forgotten when symptoms seem inconsequent.

Hamamelis Virginiana

Some of the homeopathic remedies that have been proven effective in the treatment of varicose veins are too numerous to mention. However, some of those which are often indicated are discussed in some detail here. Perhaps the most commonly indicated remedy is taken from the bark of the Hamamelis Virginiana, or Witch Hazel, tree. This remedy has a marked effect on bruises and venous congestion, and its general physiological action is well suited to the complex problems presented by patients with varicose veins. The key note of this remedy is a sensation of soreness and bruised pain, with the patient showing a strong aversion to any movement which may jar or disturb the affected parts. It is also especially suited to cases complicated by the presence of hemorrhoids. Hamamelis can be used very effectively both in the treatment of acute symptoms and in the longer term with a view to preventing future relapses. The clinical results from the use of this remedy are often very impressive.

Pulsatilla

Helps when legs feel heavy, know about Pulsatilla: it’s a big vein remedy, but it’s also good for the types of veins that need big veins. These people are emotional and moody. They like consolation and are weepy when telling their symptoms. They are mild, gentle people who will avoid confrontation. This is a very common type of person with vein problem. They can be quite lovable despite their often irritability, and are usually thirstless. Their symptoms are generally worse in a warm room and better in the open and when moving slowly. This fits with the fact that congested veins will increase pooling and stagnation at higher temperatures. This remedy is really for the person associated with the veins rather than the veins themselves. It can be used for a wide variety of congested veins and may suit well a person who has tried another remedy on the veins with little success.

Calcarea Fluorica

Calcarea Fluorica (Calc. Fluor.) is a tissue salt which is indicated for the treatment of varicose and enlarged veins, haemorrhoids and allied conditions. It acts as a resorption remedy for hard, stony glands, varicose veins and bone malformations. Calc Fluor helps to unblock the pores and as such is useful for clearing glandular swellings, stony hard, jagged glands and varicose veins. Varicose veins can occur in many parts of the body but most frequently in the legs. They are purple or bluish in colour, twisted and swollen in appearance; some veins may be quite large. Up until now the treatment of varicose veins has been long and painful or quite expensive. Usually the only alternative has been surgery, which often lasts for several hours and requires a lengthy stay in hospital. Calc Fluor tissue salts offer a non-invasive and safe method to treat and prevent the recurrence of varicose veins. Dosage: Adults (12 yrs and over): 4-8 tablets. Children (2-11 yrs): 2-4 tablets. All ages: Take 2 tablets 4 times daily. Sip the tablets through the day and take them fifteen minutes away from food. Precaution: Avoid coffee or mint as this may reduce the effectiveness of the remedy.

Lycopodium Clavatum

According to Michael Weintraub and colleagues, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial found that Lycopodium clavatum in lower dilutions is no more effective than placebo in CVI. A prior trial of similar design had found benefits on some measures. These findings on the whole suggest there is little to justify the clinical use of L. clavatum in a homeopathic practice in the treatment of symptomatic CVI. Allen found Lycopodium a very beneficial remedy. It is marked action on the constricted areas throughout the body and that is why he states “It will be understood that its curative action is mainly exerted upon the osseous and the cartilaginous fabrics, and upon flexor tendons”. This correlates with the development of varicose veins and the eventual discomfort and swelling. Symptoms such as “Erysipelatous inflammation, with extreme burning and itching; vesicular eruption; great thirst and constipation” may link in with its acute application for skin disturbance in CVI. Allen goes on to state “The general prostration, aggravation from 4 to 8 P.M. and disposition to take cold are decisive indications for Lycopodium”. These symptoms indicate the lethargic effect felt later in the day and the lack of strength or vitality that is a common feature of CVI. Eruptions to the skin are common to later stage varicosity and also the patient may have a disposition in taking cold due to the weakened state of the immune system. All in all, there has been mixed evidence supporting Lycopodium in CVI and further research is required.

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