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Ayurvedic Treatment for Varicose Veins

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Your body’s circulatory system has three types of veins: superficial, deep, and perforator. Superficial veins collect blood from tissues near the skin’s surface, while deep veins move blood from the legs back to the heart. Perforator veins connect the two. When blood flows in the wrong direction, it can collect inside veins, causing a twisted, gnarled, and swollen appearance. These bulging blue veins are known as varicose or spider veins. Varicose veins can form throughout the body but are most commonly found in the lower legs.1Varicose Veins. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Updated September 26, 2023. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/varicose-veins

Who Is Most at Risk for Varicose Veins?

Deep veins have one-way valves that control the direction of blood flow, sending blood toward your heart. When these valves become weak or damaged, they can trigger backflow and pooling of blood, leading to varicose veins.1Varicose Veins. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Updated September 26, 2023. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/varicose-veins

According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, spider veins affect up to 35% of the U.S. population, primarily women.2Hager E. Varicose Veins. Society for Vascular Surgery. Accessed February 1, 2024. https://vascular.org/patients-and-referring-physicians/conditions/varicose-veins#resource-182 In addition to gender, there are several risk factors3Aslam MR, Muhammad Asif H, Ahmad K, et al. Global impact and contributing factors in varicose vein disease development. SAGE Open Med. 2022;10:20503121221118992. Published August 25, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1177/20503121221118992:

  • Age
  • Family history of vein issues
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy or multiple pregnancies

Your profession may also play a role. One study found that nurses who stood for three hours (or longer) were nine times more likely to develop varicose veins than those who spent less time standing at work. The same study noted the odds of varicose veins were 27 times greater with each hour spent standing, upping the risk for workers constantly on their feet.4Shakya R, Karmacharya RM, Shrestha R, Shrestha A. Varicose veins and its risk factors among nurses at Dhulikhel hospital: a cross sectional study. BMC Nurs. 2020;19:8. Published February 3, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12912-020-0401-8

Varicose Vein Symptoms and Complications

Signs and symptoms of varicose veins typically include one or more of the following5Varicose Veins. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Updated September 26, 2023. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/varicose-veins:

Varicose veins on leg
  • Enlarged blue veins
  • Uncomfortable itching or burning around blood vessels
  • Skin color changes surrounding blood vessels in the lower legs
  • Leg swelling
  • General pain, achiness, or burning in legs
  • Heaviness in legs and feet
  • Nighttime leg cramping

While varicose veins are often considered a cosmetic issue, more serious problems can occur. Complications of severe varicose veins include intense leg pain, varicose ulcers, and blood clots.6Antani MR, Dattilo JB. Varicose Veins. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Published August 8, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470194 Early treatment may reduce the risk of blood clots and other health conditions.

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Conventional Varicose Vein Treatment

Medical treatments for varicose veins typically depend on severity. Conservative treatment options include compression therapy, lifestyle modifications, and medication. Surgery is an option7Gao RD, Qian SY, Wang HH, Liu YS, Ren SY. Strategies and challenges in treatment of varicose veins and venous insufficiency. World J Clin Cases. 2022;10(18):5946-5956. https://doi.org/10.12998/wjcc.v10.i18.5946; however, research shows veins often recur in just a few years.6Antani MR, Dattilo JB. Varicose Veins. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Published August 8, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470194,8Gad MA, Saber A, Hokkam EN. Assessment of causes and patterns of recurrent varicose veins after surgery. N Am J Med Sci. 2012;4(1):45-48. https://doi.org/10.4103/1947-2714.92905,9Wallace T, El-Sheikha J, Nandhra S, et al. Long-term outcomes of endovenous laser ablation and conventional surgery for great saphenous varicose veins. Br J Surg. 2018;105(13):1759-1767. https://doi.org/10.1002/bjs.10961

“Conventional treatment that involves laser or surgical removal rarely fixes varicose veins because the underlying cause is not being addressed,” says Virender Sodhi, MD (Ayurved), ND, a visiting professor at Bastyr University and CEO of Ayush Herbs, Inc. “These treatments may help temporarily, but the varicose vein will likely recur, which is why a more holistic, naturopathic approach is needed.”

Ayurvedic Medicine and the Three Doshas

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian healing practice centered on uniting the mind, body, spirit, and senses in a highly holistic, personalized way.10Partwardhan B. Bridging Ayurveda with evidence-based scientific approaches in medicine. The EPMA Journal. 2014;5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1878-5085-5-19 While Ayurvedic medicine is undoubtedly complex, doshas provide a roadmap to an individual’s overall health. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha:

  1. Vata dosha: Maintains electrolyte balance, waste product elimination, and the smooth movement of substances in and out of cells
  2. Pitta dosha: Regulates body temperature and optic nerve coordination; manages hunger and thirst
  3. Kapha dosha: Provides lubrication to joints for proper functioning

Vata is responsible for catabolism (processes that release energy), pitta regulates metabolism (biochemical reactions that produce energy), and kapha controls anabolism (processes that use energy). A central aspect of Ayurvedic medicine is maintaining balance among the doshas.11Jaiswal YS, Williams LL. A glimpse of Ayurveda—the forgotten history and principles of Indian traditional medicine. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016;7(1):50-53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme

Ayurvedic Treatment for Varicose Veins

Ayurvedic oils and herbs with mortar and pestle

“Varicose veins are a mechanical defect, where poor emptying in the liver causes pooling of venous blood,” explains Dr. Sodhi. “All of the doshas [in Ayurveda] are involved in treating varicose veins; however, major issues are primarily due to a pitta imbalance.” According to Dr. Sodhi, the liver is the seat of pitta. When the liver becomes congested, blood can collect in the veins.

Ayurvedic medicine focuses on restoring balance in the doshas and identifying the root cause(s) of vein issues. Remedies seek to reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation, and, ultimately, reverse the condition.12Aggarwal BB, Prasad S, Reuter S, et al. Identification of novel anti-inflammatory agents from Ayurvedic medicine for prevention of chronic diseases: “reverse pharmacology” and “bedside to bench” approach. Curr Drug Targets. 2011;12(11):1595-1653. https://doi.org/10.2174/138945011798109464

Herbal Remedies

Close-up of lower leg massage

The pitta dosha has two primal elements: fire and water. Dr. Sodhi recommends activities to quell the fire and balance pitta, such as walking, deep breathing, yoga, weight training, and even anger management. He cautions against a lack of or too much exercise, which can lead to varicose veins.

“Copper-deficient patients tend to get varicose veins, so addressing that issue may be necessary,” says Dr. Sodhi, who also recommends herbs. “Ayurvedic herbal remedies that support the liver include Eclipta alba (false daisy), milk thistle, alma, and horse chestnut.”

A 2013 review found that gotu kola (Centella asiatica), an herb in the parsley family, significantly improved symptoms such as leg heaviness, pain, and swelling.13Arribas-López E, Zand N, Ojo O, Snowden MJ, Kochhar T. A systematic review of the effect of centella asiatica on wound healing. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(6):3266. Published online March 10, 2022. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19063266. PubMed PMID: 35328954; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8956065. Gotu kola is available in various forms, including herbal supplements, tinctures, teas, juices, and ointments.

Ayurvedic massage incorporates hot herbal oils to improve blood circulation, regulate blood flow, and heal damaged veins.

Dietary Changes

Along with herbs, massage, and oils, diet and lifestyle are foundational in Ayurvedic treatment for varicose veins.

Dr. Sodhi begins with nutrition, as a poor diet can lead to trouble with liver drainage. “Liver congestion can be caused by several factors, including a diet high in fried foods, foods that are constipating, and too much alcohol or caffeine,” he says.

“Nutrition is very important to restore balance and heal varicose veins,” adds Dr. Sodhi, “beginning with fiber-rich foods like veggies, whole grains, fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds.” These foods may help prevent constipation, a risk factor for varicose veins.

Another consideration is food temperature. “It’s important to avoid heating foods like red meat, alcohol, and very spicy foods because fiery foods will exacerbate a pitta imbalance,” notes Dr. Sodhi.

Adopting a Balanced Lifestyle for Optimal Vein Health

The Ayurvedic approach to varicose vein treatment focuses on detoxifying the liver, strengthening veins, reducing inflammation, boosting metabolism, enhancing blood flow, and repairing damage. Combining diet and lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, and other natural treatments may help problematic veins heal.

“Conventional treatment of varicose veins has a poor track record when it comes to resolving [varicose veins] because it does not address the underlying cause or causes from a comprehensive, holistic standpoint,” says Dr. Sodhi. “If you are considering using an Ayurvedic approach, be sure to choose a qualified practitioner who is well-versed in Ayurvedic therapies.”

Footnotes

This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

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