By Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D.
The bare leg season is now in full swing -- unless varicose veins have you covering up all summer long.
Here are natural remedies for those twisty veins that will restore the beauty of your legs and the
health of your body, no surgery necessary!
Many women develop noticeable and sometimes painful veins in their legs that resemble twisted rope, called
varicose veins. A milder form of this condition is known as telangiectasia, or spider veins. Varicose
veins result from faulty operation of the valves within the veins that help move blood from the arms and
legs back to the heart. When the valves become defective, blood pools in these areas, enlarging the veins
and producing bulges under the skin.
Depending on their severity, they can be painful, causing a heavy sensation in the legs that is often
worse at night, after exercise, or with ankle swelling, discoloration around the veins, and skin disorders
including eczema. More common in women than men, varicose veins can be due to hereditary predisposition,
pregnancy, obesity, menopause, prolonged standing, or straining associated with chronic constipation.
The Chinese perspective
Varicose veins, in the Chinese medical tradition, are due to weakness of the muscles and connective tissues of the body,
which are governed by the spleen network of the digestive system. With chronic weakness comes the pooling
of blood and energy, leading to these gnarled veins. My treatments focus on strengthening the spleen
network, supporting healthy digestive function, toning the muscles and activating movement of blood and
energy. You can use acupuncture, acupressure, and massage to stimulate blood circulation and target
certain veins; topical and herbal remedies will help reduce swelling and discoloration. Take these tips!
If you experience severe pain, bleeding, or lumps around the varicose veins you should see a vascular specialist
Press here for restored blood flow
In my clinical practice, I have had success using acupuncture with electrical stimulation along the vein
to help restore valve function. But you can use acupressure to help yourself.
Find the acupoint Foot Three Mile (St 36), located four finger-widths below the kneecap on the right leg.
Apply moderate pressure with your thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 5 minutes. Repeat on the left
Find the acupoint Three Yin Crossing (Sp 6). It's located four finger-widths above the inner anklebone,
in the depression near the bone, on the right leg. Apply steady pressure with your thumb until you feel
soreness. Hold for 3 minutes. Repeat on the left leg.
Exercise every day keeps the varicose veins away
I also recommend specific lower-leg exercises to keep the muscles and veins strong. Swimming and biking
(a stationary bike also works) are effective ways to strengthen your leg muscles without putting weight on
your legs. Try to fit in at least 30 minutes a day. Also, a morning daily stretching program can help.
Immortal Straightening the Leg: This is a Dao In qigong exercise that I recommend to my patients. When
performed for 10 minutes twice a day, it helps strengthen the muscles and promote blood circulation in
- Lie on your back with your legs straight, feet apart and arms straight alongside the body with palms turned up.
- Inhale and bend your left knee, folding your left leg into your chest. Interlace and clasp your fingers around the leg. Keep the rest of your body relaxed with your head on the floor.
- Exhale and make a circle with your foot at your ankle. Do this 5 times clockwise and 5 times counterclockwise.
- Inhale and straighten your knee so your leg is straight up, perpendicular to the floor.
- Exhale and slowly lower your straight leg to the floor, returning to the beginning posture.
- Repeat with your right leg.
Herbal healing for varicose veins
Another strategy is to target the local varicose veins with topical and oral herbal therapy to help reduce
the swelling and discoloration of the veins.
- Witch hazel used topically is a traditional remedy. Massage witch hazel cream twice a day into the
affected area, which can help reduce the expression of spider and varicose veins.
- The herb horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is helpful in reducing varicose veins. Available in
capsule form, a typical dosage of horse chestnut is up to 600 mg daily, but I recommend you consult your
acupuncturist for a more precise dosage.
- Hawthorn berry helps tone the cardiovascular system. Boil 1 cup of hawthorn berries in 4 cups of water
for 20 minutes, then strain and drink 3 cups a day for one month.
You can also find tea bags with hawthorn berry in it, all ready for the teacup.
Internal Cleanse is an
herbal tea blend, including hawthorn, which is formulated to help cleanse and purify the body.
- Grapeseed extract contains bioflavonoids called procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs), which are among the most
powerful natural antioxidants and free radical scavengers ever found. These PCOs benefit the circulatory
system by enhancing capillary and vein function, which helps the heart; they also reduce bruising, edema
from injury or trauma, varicose veins, and leg swelling. The only practical way to obtain enough grapeseed
is by taking in supplement form. 100 to 200 mg daily is the usual dosage.