Varicose veins -- Causes & Treatments

Varicose veins obviously affect a lot of people and in many cases can eventually become painful or unsightly enough to need to take action. Surgical stripping of the veins is one option but it obviously does nothing to treat the cause of the distended veins and more than a few people go on to have worse problems in their legs after surgery because the deeper veins that remain have to work even harder. Support stockings can be a good short-term option but they don't suit everyone and some people find them impossible to get used to. In any case, if we are going to find a more lasting solution, the question has to be asked 'what is being done to treat the cause?'

In this article I discuss what I see as the two main contributors to varicose veins; pelvic pressure and sticky blood, and what to do about the causes of each of those in turn. I also give an account of my positive experience with using the herb Horsechestnut for varicose veins.

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Pelvic pressure: causes & treatments

Pelvic pressure is what happens when 'something' in your pelvis or your lower abdomen puts pressure on the large blood vessels that supply blood to and from the legs thereby causing blood to pool and eventually give rise to the classic swelling of a varicose vein. The following are the four main causes of pelvic pressure and, whilst a person may have more than one cause at a time, it is usually pretty obvious as to what is the main issue that needs the most attention...

Carrying excess weight

Carrying too much weight is a major cause of varicose veins. It is noticeable that the ones who are especially badly affected tend towards the apple shape, i.e. having quite slim legs but holding most of their weight around their middle. If this is the case then the detailed and practical advice written up about the metabolic syndrome will likely be exactly what is needed to lose the excess weight as well as cure the varicose veins; read more here.



Many women get varicose veins in the latter part of pregnancy, some get the tone of the veins back after delivery but for others that's when the problem starts and then gradually gets worse. Pregnancy has an end in sight so the best advice is to do what your body is probably already asking you to do in no uncertain terms; put your feet up as much as you can! If your veins do not come back down once the pressure is off your pelvis then one of the other factors here will be affecting you and needs attention.


Structural misalignment

Poor posture on standing or sitting and also misalignment of the low back or the pelvis are issues that really need professional involvement to accurately diagnose and treat.
How you might know if this was the core issue would be that there would almost certainly be other symptoms as well as the varicose veins showing you that this was where you needed to put your attention.

These symptoms are likely to include low back pain, pain running down the legs (sciatica), painful periods or just pain in general in the pelvic area. Who to go to is always a tricky prospect. There are good, great and indifferent chiropractors, osteopaths, sports doctors etc. just as much as there are good and bad therapists in every field, including herbalists! If you do not know for certain who is really good in this area to help you then most of the advice I have written up on 'how to find a good herbalist' will equally help in finding a good physical therapist - it is written up here.


Abdominal bloating

Bloating in the abdomen is another major cause of varicose veins. Distinct from simply being overweight, this is when the belly has a taut, distended quality. People know when they have a bloated gut, it's really uncomfortable and if this is happening then by far the two most common causes for it are either chronic food intolerance - an important subject written up in detail here, or a chronic low grade infection in the gut - written up in its own article here. Both those articles give practical suggestions on how to treat these issues and I've certainly seen in practice many times how dealing with such causes of pressure can a) reduce a swollen 'pregnant' looking belly down several sizes in a manner of weeks and b) eventually help to cure varicose veins.


Sticky blood: causes and treatments

I always look at a drop of blood from my patients through a powerful microscope and it can clearly be seen that many people who have bad varicose veins also had really sticky blood. Thick or 'sticky' blood is itself caused by numerous factors; obvious ones are a lack of water but it can just as well be caused by not moving the body adequately through the day or indeed by having one of the modern world's most common but unseen problems, liver congestion.

An example of non-sticky blood


Most people need to drink at least 6 cups of water a day but this is variable according to our constitutions and a good rule of thumb is how often a person needs to go the toilet. More than once an hour is too much, less than once in two hours is too little. Urine should be light in colour and virtually free from odour if you have been drinking enough.

Drinking plenty of water helps us to not overeat, keeps our skin looking better, helps our brain function better and helps prevent sticky blood! One of the best ways to establish a good hydration habit is the visual-cue of putting a glass-jug of water somewhere such as the kitchen bench or office desk and then aiming to empty it by the mid-afternoon. Some people find it helpful to add some lemon slices, mint or other green herb leaves for both beauty and flavour.

Some people do actually drink plenty of water but still tend to sticky blood and, in such cases, the free and frequent use of both Garlic (more on this extraordinary food/herb here) and Ginger (more here) has been seen to shift the balance back to free-flowing blood.


Lack of movement

There is no doubt that varicose veins are far more prevalent in people and cultures where there is plenty of sitting and standing but not much walking but this is such an obvious cause for varicose veins that it is an easy one to overlook! Even if a person intrinsically understands this it is obvious that movement and exercise comes naturally to some people but not at all to others. This is often because the expectation of what good exercise should be is not really something that they personally enjoy or want to do and there is really no long-term chance for sustainability in doing something you simply don't like. The fact is that different kinds of exercise suits different kinds of people. At the bottom of this article I give a link to the great subject of constitutional health that goes into all this, including what kinds of exercise suit each of the four different constitutions.


Liver congestion

Liver congestion is strongly related to varicose veins and for many people this can be the main underlying issue. In medical terms the way in which liver congestion causes varicose veins is from what is known as ‘portal congestion’. This is where the blood that normally flows back through the liver, through the ‘portal vein’ becomes heavy and impaired through the liver itself being burdened by its constant work. The result is a back flow of blood with pressure and eventually swelling and distension on the blood vessels further back down the line.

One tell-tale sign that you have 'portal congestion' is the presence of haemorrhoids that are not just due to straining. Another sign is a yellowing in the eyes and a strong feeling of lethargy after eating. Have a look at your own tongue in the mirror. If it has a thick white to yellow coating on the back half then you probably need to do some blood cleansing. You can read more on this important subject in the article what is detoxification? here.

If someone does need to decongest their liver then Nature has some great help to do it. For example three of the best herbs I have seen time and again to help with this are Celandine, Dandelion and Burdock root. Whilst taking such remedies it will help the whole process go much smoother and faster if you follow a cleansing diet for a good month or so at the same time -- such as is written up here.


Horsechestnut for varicose veins

I lastly want to talk about one special herb. As discussed above, you need to be doing something to treat the cause of the problem to be aiming for a long-term cure but that said --
a) You will likely want to be able to do something to speed your improvement and
b) Even if you treat the cause to thereby prevent further varicose vein development you may still need to use a strategy to repair those veins that have already become damaged and distended.

I have had a great many good results in my own practice with the use of Horsechestnut for the treatment of varicose veins and so, for some time now, have felt confident to suggest it as a treatment which will have a high likelihood of helping.

Horsechestnut has ingredients called flavonoids within it that make it effective at strengthening weakened blood vessels. You can read more about this fascinating herb including some of the research that has proven how it can help varicose veins here.

Horsechestnut is a very strong herb and you have to be careful not to overdo it or you can get some symptoms of nausea. In any case I don't think that especially high doses are needed for a good result but rather it needs to be taken consistently and patiently for at least a month before deciding if it might be doing some real good.

There are many commercial products of this herb available and if someone is confident of the authenticity of their supply source then any preparation that provides around 600mgs a day of high quality Horsechestnut should be sufficient to see it working.

Aesculus hippocastanum (Horsechestnut)

Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general as well as helping you to treat and prevent varicose veins. Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences and, to demonstrate how it works in this area it has to be said that the chances of you having a problem with varicose veins are greatly increased if you are one of the damp constitutions; the cool & damp Bears or the hot & damp Tigers! There is a brief introduction to this great subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd