Natural Varicose Vein CareAugust 21, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
There are several stages in the time line of any disease. Even before any symptoms are evident, there are physiological forces at work in the body that eventually bubble to the surface. Take varicose veins, for example. If you have a genetic predisposition for chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), you may not see the effects until well into adulthood. But that doesn’t mean that the forward march of this condition is inevitable and solely based on advancing age. If you understand the genetic blueprint that nature plans for you to follow, then you can proactively work to change that course. In the instance of CVI, this may be achieved by lifestyle modification and the selective use of nutritional supplements.
Several conditions with different names are all closely related: chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), hemorrhoids, “spider veins” and varicose veins. CVI basically describes the process by which the other three symptoms are developed. Specifically, dysfunctional valves in the legs prevent blood from flowing efficiently back toward the heart. This causes blood to accumulate in the lower regions of the body, which then leads to pressure build-up, damage and disfigurement of the capillaries and veins.
Apart from the aesthetic issues relating to CVI, there are other symptoms that can also be quite troublesome. A sensation of cramping, fatigue, heaviness, pain and swelling is quite common in the feet and legs. This is sometimes accompanied by itchiness and changes in pigmentation (skin color), thinning of skin and the possibility of blood clots and ulcerations. (1)
A natural, common sense approach can be employed to counter many of the genetic or lifestyle induced consequences of CVI. Exercising regularly, eating a whole food based diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding standing for prolonged periods of time and limiting leg crossing while seated are often recommended. But beyond that, there is a specific combination of natural substances that have proven their worth in the arena of CVI for more than 50 years.
The first scientific mention of butcher’s room (Ruscus aculeatus) that I found was published in 1951. Since then, many clinical trials have investigated its effects in improving conditions that are influenced by inadequate circulation. In 2001, a medical summary appeared in the journal Alternative Medicine Review. The authors of that piece present evidence that this little known plant may be helpful in managing edema (fluid retention), diabetic retinopathy, hemorrhoids, orthostatic hypotension, PMS and venous insufficiency. (2,3,4)
More recent studies have helped to solidify the role that butcher’s broom, along with a few supportive ingredients, can have in the natural management of varicose veins and more. Let’s examine several of the most current studies:
- In August of 2009, a paper was published in the journal Phlebology. It examined the effects of a popular nutritional “medication” which contains butcher’s broom, hesperidin (a flavonoid found in citrus fruits) and vitamin C. Over 900 patients with CVI were given this supplement for 12 weeks. Most of the participants were overweight (73%) and women (87%). Significant improvements were found in decreased ankle circumference (an indicator of swelling) and various measures of quality of life. (5)
- A June 2009 study utilizing the same three-ingredient pill (“Cirkan R” – containing 40 mg of butcher’s broom, 100 mg of hesperidin and 200 mg of vitamin C) provoked improvements in vein diameter. This led the authors of the study to conclude that, “These findings point to a positive effect of Cirkan(R), suggesting that venotropic drugs should be taken into account in the treatment of CVD (chronic venous disorder).” Similar results were demonstrated in a May 2008 trial in a group of 55 women with CVD. (6,7)
- Differing dosages of this holistic blend also appear to be effective. A 2007 study tested the impact of “Cyclo 3” (150 mg butcher’s broom, 150 mg of hesperidin and 100 mg of vitamin C) provided twice daily to a group of 124 patients with chronic venous insufficiency. At the beginning of the study, several symptoms were reported with the following frequency: cramps (74%), edema (82%), heaviness (85%) and pain (79%). After two weeks of treatment, these symptoms declined significantly: cramps (8%), edema (14%), heaviness (12%) and pain (20%). By the end of the 8 week trial, the “symptomatology” was reported as being “absent” – ie, the symptoms were gone. Decreases in blood pooling in the capillaries and reductions in “loop thickening” of the veins were demonstrated by a testing method called “capillaroscopy”. (8)
- A meta-analysis from 2003 evaluated the overall significance of the herbal/nutrient blend. 20 placebo controlled, randomized, double blind trials (the “gold standard” of scientific research) and 5 randomized studies were included in this review. The scientists determined that “Cyclo 3” consistently decreased cramping, fluid retention, heaviness, pain and paresthesia (burning, numbness and tingling) in patients with CVI. In conducting my own research, it appears that butcher’s broom may also be effective all by itself. But the evidence supporting its solitary use is limited at this time. (9,10,11,12,13,14,15)
There have been a few interesting developments of late that may help to explain the multimodal action of Ruscus aculeatus in supporting venous health. It appears that one of the primary components of butcher’s broom (ruscogenin) may be a potent anti-inflammatory which protects against harmful reactions within the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelium). It’s also interesting to note that the berries of this plant are rich sources of powerful class of antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These are phytochemicals that are abundantly found in red wine and supplements such as Pycnogenol (derived from the bark of French maritime pine trees). Anthocyanins are believed, among other things, to support the integrity of capillaries and veins. Perhaps this is why a few preliminary studies have also discovered great potential in Pycnogenol for the management of CVI. (16,17,18,19,20,21,22)
If you know that CVI “runs in your family”, consider addressing that risk preemptively. If that ship has already sailed and you’re currently dealing with varicose veins, then still do everything that you can to improve the situation. CVI is like many other conditions in that it generally gets worse as the years go by. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Use every tool at your disposal to improve the health of your circulatory system and the genetics you’ve inherited. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the changes you’ll feel and see.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: aging, Circulation, Pycnogenol
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutritional Supplements, Women's Health