At last! A natural remedy for varicose veins
11 / 06 / 2006
A few weeks back I was telling you about a book by Mark Stengler called The Natural Physician's Healing Therapies. Well, it's a blinding read... full of fascinating information and most of it new to me.
For example, I've never thought to cover the topic of varicose veins before. But when I read Mark's chapter on it, I thought: wow, this is a common problem that's rarely ever dealt with!
So I got in touch with the publishers, and they've kindly let me reproduce the whole chapter here for you. Over to you, Mark...
The Horse Chestnut Remedy for Varicose Veins
By Mark Stengler, N.D
Most patients who have varicose veins have read all about the possible remedies, and they've tried a number of pills and powders. So the question I'm most frequently asked is this: 'If you have to pick one supplement for varicose veins, which one would it be?'
The list of possibilities is fairly extensive. I've had good results with ginkgo, grape seed, bilberry, hawthorn, witch hazel, pycnogenol, and vitamin C. But at the top of my list is horse chestnut.
As the babyboom generation continues to age, conditions like varicose veins will receive more attention from the medical and natural health communities. This condition occurs when the miniscule valves in veins begin to weaken. Instead of supporting the flow of blood that's making a return trip to the heart, the tiny valves allow a backwash that results in pooling.
This leads to the engorgement of veins, especially in the legs where gravity is exerting a strong, downward pull.
Varicose veins are not harmful, but people occasionally have a problem with a related symptom called thrombophlebitis, where veins become painfully swollen and inflamed. With this condition commonly called phlebitis there's a risk of blood clot formation, a potentially serious situation.
Fortunately, the seed of horse chestnut produces a tonic effect on veins and, indeed, on the entire circulatory system. In addition, horse chestnut has natural antiinflammatoryproperties, so it's helpful for the treatment of swelling and edema, bruises, arthritis and backaches.
While the seeds are the seat of the horse chestnut's power, I don't recommend eating them. Before they're ready for human consumption, the seeds must be specially processed to remove harmful, naturally occurring components.
The roots of chestnut lore
As with many of today's popular herbs, horse chestnut has a rich history in Europe. As a matter of fact, the main active constituent that has been identified, called aescin, is a registered drug in Germany.
German doctors recommend it for edema and muscular injuries, and it's also given by injection for head trauma. Not surprisingly, the German Commission E a government body that holds responsibility for herb testing has approved horse chestnut for the condition called 'venous insufficiency', which simply means lack of blood flow through the veins. Commission E also endorses the herb for nighttime leg cramps, swelling and itching of the legs.
Horse chestnut is native to Asia, but can also be found throughout the United States and Europe. The seeds come from the fruit that is picked each September.
Horse chestnut has an interesting mechanism of action. The active constituent aescin helps strengthen the vein walls and valves, as well as capillaries, but preventing key enzymes from breaking the walls of capillaries. Research has shown that these enzymes are at much higher levels in people with varicose veins presumably causing a faster breakdown of capillary walls so aescin helps but the brakes on this process.
|Horse chestnut also improves circulation and reduces edema by promoting fluid drainage from the tissues into the capillaries. This is important, since excess fluid in the tissues accumulates around and in the veins - and when the veins become distended, they're a less efficient circulation
Finally, horse chestnut contains small amounts of a blood-thinning agent called coumadin. When blood becomes thinner, it flows more easily and swiftly, which helps explain why this herb helps to improve circulation and relieve congestion.
I recommend patients use a standardised capsule of horse chestnut at the same dosage used in clinical studies, which was 600 milligrams daily. This is equivalent to 100mg daily of the active constituent, aescin. Topical gels containing horse chestnut are also available.
What are the side effects?
Side effects are rare. A small percentage of people get digestive upset, and some patients have reported skin itching and headache. Since horse chestnut has a natural blood- thinning effect, be sure to check with your physician if you're in blood thinning medication or have any kind of bleeding disorder.
If you gave concerns about such conditions, you can always use the horse chestnut gel, applied directly to the surface of the skin (rather than taken internally).