Venous Insufficiency and Varicose Vein Remedies
Surgery May NOT Be Necessary
venous insufficiency (CVI) is a leg vein problem that causes many
years of increasing pain and disability for many thousands of
people, the majority of them women. Arteries bring oxygenated
blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Veins return oxygen-deficient
blood back to your heart. CVI occurs when the veins are unable
to pump enough blood back to your heart. CVI is commonly referred
to as chronic venous disease, or CVD.
What causes CVI?
Long-term blood pressure that is higher than normal inside your
leg veins is the most common cause of CVI. The blood flowing through
your leg veins must work against gravity to return to your heart.
Your leg muscles squeeze the deep veins in your legs and lower
extremities to help move blood back up to your heart. One-way
valves in your deep veins ensure that blood keeps flowing in the
right direction. When you relax your leg muscle valves close whereby
preventing the blood from flowing backward.
When you walk or exercise your leg muscles squeeze assisting the
flow of blood back to the heart. However, when you sit, stand
or relax for long periods of time, the blood in your leg veins
can pool and increase blood pressure. The veins in your legs can
usually withstand short periods of increased pressure but long
periods of pressure can stretch vein walls. Over time, in susceptible
individuals, this can seriously weaken leg vein walls and valves,
causing chronic venous insufficiency.
Other causes of CVI include deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and phlebitis.
Both of these conditions elevate blood pressure in leg veins that
can lead to CVI.
DVT occurs when a thrombus (blood clot) stops blood from flowing
freely through deep veins in the legs. Blood that builds up behind
a thrombus increases pressure on the vein walls and may stretch
vein values, whereby rendering them ineffective. Damaged vein
valves that no longer work efficiently may contribute to CVI.
Phlebitis is a condition where the superficial veins in the legs
becoming inflamed or swollen. This inflammation and swelling causes
blood clotting, which in a similar manner to DVT, can lead to
CVI can also results from a simple failure of the leg vein values
to hold blood against gravity, leading to slow movement of blood
out of the veins, resulting in thick, swollen legs.
Although CVI can affect anyone, individuals with a family history
of varicose veins are most susceptible. Other factors that can
increase the risk of CVI include pregnancy, obesity, smoking,
standing or sitting for long periods of time and not getting enough
exercise. Both age and sex are also factors that can increase
your risk of CVI.
may be helpful.
Supplements that promote vein strength and integrity can be beneficial
for individuals susceptible to CVI. Flavonoids (rutin) and horse
chestnut extract show the most promise for helping to control
the symptoms of CVI. Other vein strengthening supplements that
may also be helpful include butcher’s broom, gotu kola and
another group of flavonoids called proanthocyanidins.
Many trials that have studied the affects of flavonoids in relation
to CVI have used hydroxyethylrutoside (HR), a derivative of rutin
– a flavonoid believed to be helpful for strengthening capillaries
and managing venous edema (excessive accumulation of fluid in
the veins). A number of double-blind trials have shown HR to be
beneficial in helping to clear leg swelling as well as other signs
Oxerutins, another derivative of rutin, have been widely used
in Europe since the mid-1960s in connection with CVI but this
supplement remains hard to find in North America. Oxerutins were
specifically developed to treat varicose veins and related venous
problems. However, it is still not clear whether this particular
derivative of rutin is more effective than other bioflavonoids
used for these conditions. Oxerutins are closely related to the
natural flavonoid rutin, which is found primarily in citrus fruits
Two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies suggest that buckwheat
tea might also be effective against varicose veins and CVI, presumably
because of its rutin content.
Horse chestnut seed extract is widely used in Europe for chronic
venous insufficiency (CVI). Although traditionally recommended
for a variety of medical conditions, CVI is the only condition
for which there is strong supportive scientific evidence for the
benefit of horse chestnut seed extract. More than 800 individuals
have bee involved in double-blind, placebo-controlled studies
of horse chestnut for treating venous insufficiency. In one study,
using a crossover design, 212 participants were given either horse
chestnut or a placebo. Results of the 60 day study showed that
horse chestnut significantly reduced leg edema, pain, and heaviness
when compared to the placebo.
Analysis of the results of other double-blind and controlled trials
show that standardized horse chestnut seed extract, which contains
aescin, is effective for CVI. Most trials used capsules of horse
chestnut extract containing 50 mg of aescin and were administered
2 to 3 times a day. The primary effect observed in these trials
was a strengthening of capillaries, which lead to a reduction
While the exact mechanism responsible for horse chestnut’s
beneficial effects with CVI is unknown it is believed that the
herb’s primary active ingredient, aescin, plays a key role.
The prominent theory is that aescin reduces the rate of fluid
leakage from stressed and irritated vessel walls by preventing
the release of enzymes that break down collage and open holes
in capillary walls, and by forestalling other forms of vein damage.
Butcher’s broom is another herb that may be useful for individuals
with CVI. In Europe it has even been approved by Germany's Commission
E as a supportive therapy for chronic venous insufficiency. The
results of one double-blind study examined the effectiveness of
standardized butcher’s broom extract in 166 women with CVI.
Study participants were given butcher’s broom (one tablet
twice daily containing 36.0 to 37.5 mg of a methanol dry extract
concentrated at 15-20:1) or a placebo for a period of 3 months.
The results of the study showed that leg swelling decreased significantly
in the group of participants who were given butcher’s broom
when compared to the placebo group.
Other studies have also indicated that standardized gotu kola
extracts may be helpful for people suffering from CVI. Preliminary
double-blind, placebo-controlled studies indicate that gotu kola
extract may provided improvement in major venous insufficiency
symptoms, reducing swelling, pain, fatigue, sensation of heaviness
and fluid leakage from the veins.
A suggested dosage of standardized* horse chestnut is 300 milligrams
every 12 hours, for up to 12 weeks (containing 50 to 75 milligrams
of escin per dose). A dose of 600mg of chestnut seed extract per
day has also been studied.
The usual dosage of gotu kola is 20 to 60 mg 3 times daily of
an extract standardized to contain 40 asiaticoside, 29 to 30 asiatic
acid, 29 to 30 madecassic acid, and 1 to 2 madecassoside. When
using it for venous insufficiency, give gotu kola at least 4 weeks
to work. However, some researchers have suggested doses up to
120 mg per day.
*Standardization involves measuring the amount of certain chemicals
in products to try to make different preparations similar to each
other. It is not always known if the chemicals being measured
are the active ingredients. Horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE)
products are often standardized to contain 16 to 20 triterpene
glycosides calculated as escin (aescin) content. --
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trial of O-(s-hydroxyethyl)-rutoside in patients with chronic
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Bisler H, Pfeifer R, Klüken N, Pauschinger P. Effects of
horse-chestnut seed extract on transcapillary filtration in chronic
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