Natural Treatments for Varicose Veins

Remedies That May Help

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

The word "varicose" comes from the Latin word "varix", meaning "twisted". Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that are usually bluish purple. Small, one-way valves in veins ensure blood only flows towards the heart. In some people, these valves become weakened and blood collects in the veins, causing them to abnormally enlarge.

Varicose veins are most common on the legs because leg veins must work against gravity. Standing increases pressure on leg veins. Varicose veins are a common condition in the United States. Up to 25 percent of women are affected and up to 15 of men are affected.

a person with varicose veins and a health care provider holding their leg

Gilaxia / Getty Images


Things You Might Not Know About Varicose Veins

Natural Treatments

So far, scientific support for the claim that any remedy can treat varicose veins is fairly lacking.

1) Horse Chestnut Extract: The herb horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is one of the most widely used alternative medicine remedies for varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency (a related condition). The active constituent in horse chestnut is a compound called aescin. 

In 2006, researchers with the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed studies involving the use of oral horse chestnut extract in people with chronic venous insufficiency and found an improvement in the signs and symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency with the horse chestnut extract compared with the placebo. Horse chestnut extract resulted in a significant reduction in leg pain and swelling compared with the placebo.

The researchers concluded that based on the evidence, horse-chestnut extract has potential as a short-term treatment for chronic venous insufficiency. None of the studies, however, evaluated whether the extract could reduce the appearance of varicose veins. Whole horse chestnut is considered unsafe by the FDA and may lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, convulsions, circulatory and respiratory failure, and even death. Tea, leaves, nuts, and other crude forms of the horse chestnut plant should also be avoided.

2) Grape Seed and Pine Bark Extracts: Grape seed extract (Vitis vinifera) and pine bark extract (Pinus maritima) both contain oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs), antioxidants that appear to strengthen the connective tissue structure of blood vessels and reduce inflammation.

Preliminary studies suggest that OPCs help people with varicose veins. Grape seed extract should not be confused with grapefruit seed extract. The most commonly reported side effects are digestive complaints such as nausea and upset stomach.

People with autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease, should not take pine back or grapeseed extract unless under a healthcare provider's supervision because of its effects on the immune system. The safety of pine bark and grapeseed extracts have not been established in pregnant or nursing women or children.

Pine bark or grapeseed extracts should not be combined with medications that suppress the immune system or with corticosteroids, unless under medical supervision.

3) Butcher's Broom: A plant in the lily family, Butcher's broom ( Ruscus aculeatus) is also known as box holly or knee holly. It contains ruscogenins, constituents that proponents say strengthens collagen in blood vessel walls and improves circulation.

Side effects of butcher's broom may include digestive complaints such as indigestion or nausea. People with high blood pressure or benign prostate hyperplasia should not take butcher's broom without first consulting a healthcare provider. The safety of butcher's broom in pregnant or nursing women or children has not been established.

Butcher's broom should not be taken with medication for high blood pressure, benign prostate hyperplasia, or MAO inhibitors unless under medical supervision.

4) Reflexology: Reflexology is a form of bodywork that focuses primarily on the feet. One small study compared reflexology with rest in 55 pregnant women. Reflexology significantly reduced leg swelling.

Pregnant women should consult their healthcare provider before having reflexology. Some sources say that reflexology should not be done during the first trimester.


  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause.
  • Being overweight increases the pressure on veins.
  • Prolonged sitting or standing restricts circulation and puts added pressure on veins.
  • Chronic constipation
  • Genetics
  • Aging

Although in some people, varicose veins can be a cosmetic concern, in other people, they can cause swelling and uncomfortable aching, heaviness, or pain or be a sign of heart disease or circulatory disorders. If left untreated, varicose veins may lead to serious complications such as phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), skin ulcers, and blood clots.

At any time, if varicose veins become swollen, red, or tender and warm to the touch, or if there are sores, ulcers, or a rash near the varicose vein, see your healthcare provider.

Using Natural Remedies

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements, but if you're considering the use of any remedy or alternative medicine for varicose veins, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating any condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tafur AJ, Rathbun S. Varicose VeinsVascular Medicine: A Companion to Braunwalds Heart Disease. 2013:639-651. doi:10.1016/b978-1-4377-2930-6.00054-9.

  2. Pittler MH, Ernst E. Horse chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;11:CD003230. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003230.pub4

  3. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Horse Chestnut.

  4. Standard N. Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide - E-Book An Evidence-Based Reference. St Louis: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2010.

  5. Tachjian A, Maria V, Jahangir A. Use of Herbal Products and Potential Interactions in Patients With Cardiovascular DiseasesJournal of the American College of Cardiology. 2010;55(6):515-525. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2009.07.074.

  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Varicose Veins.

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.