If you’ve ever had hemorrhoids or varicose veins you know how miserable they can be. Well, hemorrhoids ARE varicose veins, and new studies are showing that natural herbal remedies are better for addressing varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency than drugs.
Varicose veins are a sign of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI develops when the veins in the legs are unable to pump blood back to the heart sufficiently. Veins contain one-way valves that keep the blood from flowing in the opposite direction, toward the foot. But if the valves wear out, blood leaks backward and pools in the veins of the leg. Eventually, the veins will weaken and stretch, becoming varicose veins.
In a healthy person, when the leg muscles contract they squeeze the deep veins of the legs, assisting in blood circulation. Blood clots can lead to CVI when they block venous blood-flow or when the clot damages the valves in the veins. Varicose veins can sometimes indicate a blockage in the deeper veins called deep vein thrombosis.
Certain medications can help minimize varicose veins, but they often result in side effects, some of which are serious.
Studies are indicating that natural remedies can help alleviate varicose veins and CVI, and improve quality of life.
1. Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) has been the subject of more than 30 clinical trials demonstrating its effectiveness in managing chronic venous insufficiency.
A recent 12-week, multi-center study of 917 Mexican patients with CVI found that a dietary supplement containing Butcher’s broom significantly improved the symptoms and quality of life of the patients.
The patients were mainly women and 78% of them were overweight or obese. According to the questionnaires they filled out, all their symptoms significantly improved over the 12-week course of taking the supplement. There was also a big improvement in ankle circumference, which is measured because edema—swelling—is a common symptom of CVI.) 1
An earlier study in which patients with chronic venous insufficiency were treated with Butcher’s broom also produced positive results. CVI patients were studied using a clinical, etiological, anatomical, physiological classification (CEAP) symptom scale. At the end of eight weeks, capillaroscopy—a diagnostic examination of capillaries—was also done.
Treatment consisted of two capsules per day of 150 mg of Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) and 100 mg of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) for 8 weeks.
A total of 124 patients were studied, 109 of them women, with an average age of 52. When the study first started 79% of the patients were experiencing pain, 85% heaviness, 74% cramps, and 82% edema. Their symptoms decreased to 20%, 12%, 8% and 14%, respectively, within two weeks, and all symptoms were gone by the end of the 8-week treatment. These results are remarkably impressive. It is the first time that tissue and fluid changes were observed in chronic venous insufficiency through capillaroscopy following pharmacological intervention. 2
2. Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) contains the active constituent aescin, the extract that is responsible for alleviating venous insufficiency.3
In a meta-analysis of five clinical studies of treating CVI patients with horse chestnut, one trial specifically evaluated its effect on varicose veins. Four clinical trials in patients with chronic venous insufficiency and the study of patients with varicose veins demonstrated the effectiveness of hose chestnut through the objective measure of reduction in lower leg edema and the subjective alleviation of leg pain, heaviness, and itching.
In the varicose vein study, 39 patients took 1-2 tablets (20 mg aescin each) three times daily and also applied a two-percent aescin gel topically twice daily for eight weeks. Fifty-eight percent of the patients reported good results with the combination treatment. Blue skin discoloration, pain, edema, and leg heaviness were significantly improved at the end of the treatment period compared to baseline.
The herb was safe, well tolerated, and acceptable to all patients, and the researchers are convinced that horse chestnut offers a real alternative in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate venous insufficiency.4
Caution: Horse- chestnut may interact with anticoagulants and antidiabetics, and caution is advised in patients taking these drugs. 5
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. They can be dark purple or blue, and look twisted and bulging. Varicose veins are commonly found on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg. They develop when valves in the veins that allow blood to flow toward the heart stop working properly. As a result, blood pools in the veins and causes them to get larger.
Varicose veins affect one out of two people over age 50, and are more common in women than men. Hemorrhoids are a type of varicose vein. Spider veins are like varicose veins, but they are smaller.6
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Guex JJ, Enriquez Vega DM, Avril L, Boussetta S, Taieb C. Assessment of quality of life in Mexican patients suffering from chronic venous disorder - impact of oral Ruscus aculeatus-hesperidin-methyl-chalcone-ascorbic acid treatment - 'QUALITY Study'. Phlebology. 2009 Aug;24(4):157-65.
Aquilar Peralta GR, Arevalo Gardoqui J, Llamas Macias FJ, Navarro Ceja VH, Mendoza Cisneros SA, Martinez Macias CG. Clinical and capillaroscopic evaluation in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency with Ruscus aculeatus, hesperidin methylchalcone and ascorbic acid in venous insufficiency treatment of ambulatory patients.Int Angiol.2007 Dec;26(4):378-84.
Lorenz D, Marek ML. The active therapeutic principle of horse chestnut (Aesculus bippocastanum). Part 1. Classification of the active substance. Arzneimittelforschung 1960;10:263-272. [Article in German]
Suter A, Bommer S, Rechner J. Treatment of patients with venous insufficiency with fresh plant horse chestnut seed extract: a review of 5 clinical studies.Adv Ther.2006 Jan-Feb;23(1):179-90.
Methlie CB, Schjott J.[Horse chestnut--remedy for chronic venous insufficiency]Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen.2009 Feb 26;129(5):420-2.
1. MedlinePlus Health Topics. Varicose Veins.