Grape Seed Extract for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

grape seeds
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Grape seed extract is a natural remedy often recommended for chronic venous insufficiency. Some proponents of grape seed extract suggest that the antioxidants found in grape seeds can help fight chronic venous insufficiency by strengthening the blood vessels and improving circulation.

Grape seed extract is also touted as a natural remedy for several other conditions related to the heart and blood vessels (including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol).

Chronic venous insufficiency, a condition that occurs when veins fail to efficiently send blood from the legs back to the heart, may lead to problems like varicose veins, ankle swelling, pain, itchiness, and nighttime leg cramping. Chronic venous insufficiency is often treated with compression stockings, lifestyle changes (such as avoiding long periods of sitting or standing), and/or surgery.

Benefits of Grape Seed Extract 

To date, few scientific studies have tested the effectiveness of grape seed extract in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency. Although several clinical trials published in the 1980s and 1990s found that grape seed extract helped improve several symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency (such as itchiness and nighttime cramping), there is a lack of more recent research on the potential benefit of using grape seed extract in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency.​

For a 2016 report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, investigators sized up the available research on the use of phlebotonics (a class of medicines used for vascular disorders) in treating chronic venous sufficiency. The reviewed studies included one clinical trial that involved the use of grape seed extract. In their analysis of study results, the report's authors concluded that there was not enough evidence to support the use of grape seed extract in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency.

Caveats

Due to a lack of research, the effects of long-term use of grape seed extract are currently unknown. Grape seed extract may trigger a number of side effects (including itchy scalp, dizziness, headache, hives, indigestion, and nausea).

There's also some concern that taking grape seed extract may increase your blood pressure. If you have (or are at risk for) high blood pressure, seek medical advice before using grape seed extract.

It's important to keep in mind that dietary supplements are largely unregulated and haven't been tested for safety. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of many supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has often not been established.

Look for a product that contains a seal of approval from a third-party organization that provides quality testing. These organizations include U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness, but it does provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, grape seed extract supplements can be purchased in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements. In many cases, the grape seeds used to create grape seed extract are obtained from wine manufacturers.

Using Grape Seed Extract for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Due to a lack of supporting research, grape seed extract cannot currently be recommended as a treatment for chronic venous insufficiency.

If you're considering the use of grape seed extract in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating chronic venous insufficiency with grape seed extract and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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  1. Martinez-Zapata MJ, Vernooij RW, Uriona Tuma SM, et al. Phlebotonics for venous insufficiency. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;4(4):CD003229. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003229.pub3

Additional Reading
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Grape Seed Extract: Science and Safety." NCCAM Publication No. D370. Last updated July 2010.

  • Natural Standard Database. "Grape seed (Vitis vinifera, Vitis coignetiae)." 

  • Zhang Y, Shi H, Wang W, Ke Z, Xu P, Zhong Z, Li X, Wang S. Antithrombotic effect of grape seed proanthocyanidins extract in a rat model of deep vein thrombosis. J Vasc Surg. 2011 Mar;53(3):743-53.