Natural Healing: Prevent Varicose Veins

| July/August 2003

  • Gotu kola
  • Witch hazel

Varicose veins are swollen, bulging and twisted blood vessels. Perhaps you’ve noticed these blue, serpentine bulges appearing on your own legs. If you have, you know they can make your legs throb and feel heavy. Legs and feet may swell slightly, and overlying skin may itch. Though they’re most common in the legs, varicose veins can occur in almost any part of the body. Prevention can help keep the problem from occurring, and many treatments exist — with varying degrees of effectiveness. Herbs can help.

Here’s what happens: Leg veins have the Herculean task of returning blood to the heart, oftentimes working against gravity. When you move, leg muscles massage the vein, “milking” the blood upward. Normally, valves keep the blood from flowing backward. If a valve becomes incompetent, the blood does flow backward. The vein then dilates, which puts pressure on the valve below.

Anything that increases pressure in the legs raises the risk of developing varicose veins: obesity, pregnancy and activities that involve prolonged standing or heavy lifting. In addition to cosmetic considerations, varicose veins can raise the risk of inflammation of the vein (thrombophlebitis) and blood clots (deep vein thrombosis).

Prevention Suggestions

What can you do? For mild symptoms, support pantyhose, knee-highs or knee socks can help. Pharmacies or department stores often carry compression stockings made of light elastic. For more serious situations, doctors can prescribe special compression stockings, available from medical supply stores.

Other simple measures can reduce the pressure in your leg veins. For instance, you can avoid crossing your legs when sitting. If you have to sit for long periods, get up and move about every 30 to 45 minutes. If you are overweight, eating fewer calories and exercising more will help take off some of the pounds.

Eating plenty of fiber and drinking lots of water will help you avoid the straining (which puts pressure against leg veins) associated with constipation. When you have a chance to get off your feet, elevate your legs above the level of your heart. While you’re lying on your back, circle your feet at the ankles, then point and flex your feet.

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