Bulging or web-like veins aren’t something you want to show off in shorts, but if you’re among the 60 percent of Americans (mainly women) who suffer with varicose or spider veins, that’s what you’re faced with every time the weather gets warm. To make matters worse, varicose veins can be extremely painful and often cause itching, burning, or throbbing in the legs.
Varicose and spider veins develop when tiny valves in the vein get stretched as a result of obesity, pregnancy, genetics, age, leg injuries, or even prolonged standing. When this expansion occurs, blood can’t flow back to the heart and instead pools in the veins, causing them to dilate. Varicose veins appear gnarled and enlarged; spider veins, a milder version, are more threadlike and don’t cause as much pain or discomfort.
Conventional fixes include laser therapy, compression stockings, and surgical removal of the veins. But natural, noninvasive treatments also work and are less expensive. Exercising regularly; eating a low-sodium, high-fiber diet; and not standing or sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time all help reduce swelling. Along with these lifestyle changes, try the following five herbs and supplements recommended by Susan Lark, MD, a California women’s health specialist, and Rita Louise, ND, who practices in Dallas.
Varicose and spider veins have excess amounts of fibrin, a fibrous protein that clots blood, says Lark. Bromelain—a digestive enzyme extracted from pineapple—breaks down fibrin and promotes better circulation.
Take: 350 to 450 mg a day, between meals.
Also known as box or knee holly, this type of lily has long been used to treat varicose and spider veins. A compound called ruscogenin in the herb strengthens collagen in blood-vessel walls and reduces inflammation.
Take: 150 mg three times a day.
Horse chestnut seed
The circulation-boosting compound aescin found in horse chestnut seed– extract prevents the breakdown of vein walls, reducing swelling, pain, and itching associated with varicose and spider veins, according to a 2008 study.
Take: 250 mg horse chestnut seed–extract (standardized to contain aescin) twice a day.
This essential nutrient helps promote the growth of collagen and elastin—connective tissues that keep vein walls strong and flexible—Louise says.
Take: 500 to 1,000 mg three times a day.
In a 2007 study in the Journal of Vascular Research, scientists concluded that vitamin K deficiency can cause varicose veins. There are two kinds of vitamin K: K1 is found in green leafy vegetables and is good for blood clotting; K2 is synthesized by bacteria in the gut and is good for bone and artery health. Lark recommends supplementing with both.
Take: 100 to 200 mg of K1 and 90 mg of K2 daily