Interest in natural, alternative, or homeopathic remedies has skyrocketed in recent years. When it comes to varicose veins, we encourage patients to ask lots of questions and explore all treatment options. However, it is essential that you get reliable, scientifically backed information.
Google “remedy for varicose veins” and you will find everything from expensive creams to pantry products touted as a cure-all. But how effective are these treatments, really?
Can apple cider vinegar cure varicose veins?
Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy for varicose veins. It is recommended as either a topical treatment used twice a day or as a beverage to be consumed.
One small study1 did show that apple cider vinegar may help ease some varicose vein symptoms such as cramps, pain, leg fatigue, and heavy leg (video). sensations. However, this study had a very limited sample size with only 120 participants. Plus, patients were instructed to elevate their feet for 30 minutes in the morning and evening as they applied the apple cider vinegar. Since leg elevation is known to help with varicose vein symptoms, there is no way to know if the apple cider vinegar had any beneficial effect of its own.
If you feel relief by applying apple cider vinegar to your varicose veins, it likely won’t do you any harm. Just watch out for skin irritation because some people are allergic and in rare cases it can cause chemical burns. When drinking apple cider vinegar, be aware that it can lower blood potassium which can be dangerous, especially if you already have hypokalemia (low potassium). Finally, apple cider vinegar can have negative interactions with diabetes medications, certain heart disease drugs, and diuretics, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking it.
Is horse chestnut good for varicose veins?
Horse chestnut is an herbal remedy recommended for the treatment of varicose veins. The extract is generally taken in pill form. Never eat raw horse chestnut, though, because it contains a poisonous substance called esculin.
A review of randomized controlled trials2 on the effectiveness of horse chestnut in treating varicose veins concluded that it does help alleviate both the subjective symptoms—such as the feeling of tiredness, itching, and cramps—and the objective ones, such as decreased leg volume. In this regard, horse chestnut may be as effective as compression stocking at treating the symptoms of varicose veins.
Before you take horse chestnut, it is important to understand that it has blood thinning properties. As such, it can increase the likelihood of bleeding and bruising. If you are already taking blood thinners (including aspirin), be sure to consult your doctor before adding horse chestnut extract to your regimen.
Moreover, there is no reliable evidence that horse chestnut will reduce the appearance of varicose veins when applied to the skin.
Can varicose veins be cured by massage?
Another home remedy that is recommended for varicose veins is massage. Suggested techniques include self-massage, lymphatic massage, and reflex massage.
While there is evidence to suggest massage can be useful in relieving pain and swelling associated with varicose veins, great care must be taken. That is because the veins have been stretched and are more susceptible to tearing and bleeding. So never massage directly over a varicose vein.
Varicose veins can also increase your odds of forming blood clots. Certain massage techniques, such as percussion, can dislodge a clot leading to serious health concerns. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a vein study done by your doctor beforehand.
If you choose to enjoy massage to relieve symptoms associated with your varicose veins, be sure to work with a qualified massage therapist who understands what techniques will be the safest for you.
Why home remedies don’t cure varicose veins
While home remedies can help with varicose vein symptoms such as pain, swelling, itching, and heaviness in your legs, not one of them is a cure. These remedies only provide temporary relief because they fail to treat the underlying cause.
Varicose veins are caused by a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (video). Inside your veins are tiny, one-way valves that keep blood moving toward your heart. When these valves become weak or damaged (either from age or injury) the blood refluxes (flows backwards) and pools inside the vein. That’s how the veins become twisted and enlarged, they are overloaded with blood.
Home remedies do not repair the damage to your vein valves; therefore, they cannot cure your varicose veins.
Reason to be cautious when taking home remedies for varicose veins
While most home remedies recommended for varicose veins are unlikely to cause you harm, it’s important to remember that “natural” doesn’t mean “safe.” Horse chestnut is a perfect example. If you were to eat the bark, flowers, or leaves of the plant, it could kill you. It’s only when the seeds have been processed to create an extract that it is safe to consume.
“Natural” supplements can also interact with other medications you take, rendering them ineffective or causing harmful side effects. So always consult your doctor and read all the information included with your prescriptions.
The only proven effective treatment for varicose veins
The only proven effective treatment for chronic venous insufficiency—the cause of varicose veins—is called venous closure. This minimally invasive technique involves closing the damaged vein from the inside. Your body will then reroute blood flow to nearby, healthy veins, stopping blood from pooling in your legs.
Venous closure is a routine procedure that can be done in your doctor’s office during your lunch hour. It causes minimal discomfort and has an uncomplicated recovery. Best of all, most people will see their varicose veins completely disappear once they have fully healed from treatment.
If you’d like to learn more about your varicose vein treatment options, the experts at Dekalb Vein Center are here to help. Schedule your appointment today to consult with vein specialist, Dr. Ian Katz.
- Atik, Derya et al. “The Effect of External Apple Vinegar Application on Varicosity Symptoms, Pain, and Social Appearance Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2016 (2016): 6473678. doi:10.1155/2016/6473678
- Marlena Dudek-Makuch, Elżbieta Studzińska-Sroka. “Horse chestnut – efficacy and safety in chronic venous insufficiency: an overview.” Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia, Volume 25, Issue 5, 2015, Pages 533-541, ISSN 0102-695X