If you’re a woman and you’ve had a baby, you may find that you have trouble with varicose veins. The tendency toward varicose veins is hereditary. My grandmother had them, my mom had them, and I’ve always struggled with them. Typically they’ve not bothered me outside of pregnancy but every once in a while they flare up. Standing or sitting for long periods of time can aggravate them and make them painful. What to do?
Well, I’ve found some different strategies and techniques over the years that have helped. One of the most basic is to elevate your legs above hip level. But if they are really bad, that might not be enough. Maybe one of the following strategies will help you. Pay attention to the contraindications to the herbs listed below if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Note: Nothing suggested below is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions regarding the best treatment options if you suffer from varicose veins.
Always do a skin test on a small area before applying any of these remedies to the skin to test for any allergic reactions or irritation.
1. Diluted Cypress Essential Oil. I’ve used this with good success for years. Cypress increases circulation to a particular area of the body. I dilute about 15-20 drops of cypress essential oil into 2 ounces of carrier oil. Do your research as to the dilution ratio you should use. I like the Education page at Hopewell Essential Oils for this information. Create an account and log in to access this information. When applying oils, always apply and massage from the affected area up towards the heart. Do not apply below the vein you are trying to treat as you want the blood in the vein to be able to move back up towards the heart and not pool backwards in the vein which could cause a clot. Avoid Cypress if you have any allergies to any of the plants in the Cedar or Juniper plant families.
2. Diluted Helichrysum Essential Oil. Always dilute any essential oil in a carrier oil (I like olive oil). Apply to the varicose veins in the same way described for Cypress above. Helichrysum is expensive, so Cypress is a very effective and affordable alternative.
3. Avoid hot, apply cool. Heat can worsen varicose veins. Avoid hot baths. Instead take cool baths or use cool compresses. Use ice packs for 20 minutes a day on the affected areas.
4. Witch Hazel. This extract is an astringent and helps tone tissues. It can help strengthen and tone the walls of the vein so that they are more likely to hold their shape and not weaken causing the blood to pool in painful pockets.
5. Infused Witch Hazel Liniment or Herbal Poultice or paste. Make your own liniment by infusing witch hazel with herbs that improve circulation to make it even more effective. Or make a poultice or paste of dried herbs to apply directly to the skin. Liniments and poultices are for external use only.
Choose from some of the herbs below to make an herbal paste or use them to infuse into your witch hazel. You can choose a single herb or a medley of them based on what you have on hand. Instructions for using herbs in paste form are given below. Be sure that you do your research for contraindications for any medical conditions that you may have.
Cayenne Pepper – Cayenne increases circulation. You can make a paste with it by adding a little water, apply it to small area of the affected vein (do a skin test first to check for irritation and cayenne can cause redness due to the heat it brings to the skin), and cover the area with a band aid or gauze bandage.
Turmeric – This herb is an anti-inflammatory. Just like cayenne, a paste can be made from turmeric and applied to the skin. Be careful though. Turmeric stains EVERYTHING yellow and it won’t come out. It will stain your skin, clothes, and bedding. Be sure to cover the area well to avoid ruining your clothes or other cloth covered surfaces.
Black Pepper – Increases circulation like cayenne pepper. Infused into witch hazel or blend and apply as a paste directly to the skin.
Sage – This plant is part of the mint family and acts as an astringent toning the veins. Infuse into which hazel or use powdered sage as a paste. Caution: Do not use or use minimally if you are breastfeeding as it can dry up your milk supply.
Hawthorn – Use hawthorn berries and flower as an infusion. Hawthorn is considered a cardiovascular tonic. It opens blood vessels and improved circulation. Can also be used as a tea.
Yarrow – This herb in the Aster/Sunflower family supports circulation and heals and tones tissues. Infuse into witch hazel or drink as a tea. Caution: Do not use yarrow in large amounts during pregnancy. Avoid if you have any seasonal allergies to ragweed or any other plants in the sunflower family.
Two ways to make an Infused Witch Hazel Liniment:
A. Slow Countertop Method: If you are making this remedy for future use and you have the time, place your powdered or dried herbs into a jar. Fill the jar 1/3 full with plant material and 2/3 with witch hazel. Leave about 1 inch of headspace at the top. The herbs will expand as they absorb the liquid. Shake daily for 2-3 weeks. Strain into a clean jar using a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Should be shelf stable for a long time if all the plant material is strained well.
B. Quick Stove-Top Method: When you need relief right away, fill the jar with plant material as described above and place the jar on top of a small washcloth in a small sauce pan filled with water. Turn on the heat and let the water come to a simmer. Once you see bubbles, turn off the heat and let the jar sit until cool. Strain off the herbs into a clean jar using a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Apply as described below.
Applying the Liniment:
To apply the liniment, brush onto the skin using a wide, clean, dry paint brush, makeup brush, or even pastry brush. Let it dry and apply several more layers. This is called a soft cast. Cover with a gauze bandage or cotton cloth to avoid it rubbing off on your clothing or furniture. Leave on overnight or longer to allow it to soak into the skin, reapplying as needed. Be aware that cayenne or turmeric can stain the skin and clothes.
After a long summer road trip, the herb infused witch hazel gave me overnight relief from a painful varicose vein in my leg that was aggravated from long hours sitting in the car.