Publisher: Natural Medicine Magazine, Sept 2016
I was a ballet teacher for many years and have developed unsightly, painful spider veins. My legs feel heavy, often itches or burns. Is there any effective natural treatment option available. I do not want to have them surgically removed. E.M
JEANNE VAN ZYL Replies FOR THE COLLEGE OF NATURAL HEALTH
Spider veins are generally caused by excessive pressure in the blood vessels that circulates blood in the legs and back to the heart. Considering the impact of gravity, I assume that a high amount of pressure was placed on your legs as a ballet teacher, where it’s required that you stand for extended periods of time. Therefore, I have listed a few strategies below that aims to improve circulation, strengthen your blood vessels and relieve pressure from the capillaries in your legs.
Nutritional strategies for spider veins:
- Ginger is excellent for blood circulation and an anti-inflammatory food. Ginger should preferably be raw and organic and can be mixed with herbal teas or into meals (e.g.: stir-fry or soup). If you’re taking blood pressure / blood thinning medication, discuss ginger with your GP to make sure it’s safe alongside your medication.
- Cayenne pepper promotes circulation, strengthens capillaries and acts to expand blood vessels to thereby relieve pressure around the capillaries. How to use: Start with a ¼ tsp in a little bit of water (add fresh lemon juice and Himalayan salt for added benefits). Increase the dosage gradually until you reach 1 tsp, three times per day. Other foods and spices to promote circulation: garlic, turmeric and onions. Onions may be cut in half and applied topically to the spider vein region for a few minutes.
- Avoid table salt, which may cause swelling and inflammation in blood vessel walls and thereby aggravate the spider veins.
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant and required for the production of collagen and elastin – two of the major building blocks of blood vessels. Adequate vitamin C intake may therefore ensure that the capillary walls remain flexible, strong and resilient. Sources: cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, berries, avocados, lemons, pineapple, cayenne pepper and parsley.
- Vitamin E is another antioxidant that may protect against unwanted free radical damage to the capillaries. Sources: avocados, sunflower seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, hazelnuts and sesame seeds.
- A popular natural approach to spider veins is the topical application of apple cider vinegar: Soak a clean piece of cloth in raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and wrap it around your legs for 15-20 minutes (where the spider veins are present). If your skin is sensitive, dilute the apple cider vinegar with water and shorten the duration. Mix apple cider vinegar with lemon juice and raw honey in lukewarm water for an anti-inflammatory drink.
- Several herbs have shown to be very effective in addressing spider veins by improving circulation, combating inflammation and supporting integrity of the blood vessels: Horse chestnut, Gotu Kola, red vine leaf extract and Buther’s broom. However, before taking any herbal remedies, I suggest you work alongside a natural health practitioner to ensure there are no contraindications with your current medication or health status.
Practical strategies for spider veins:
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. If you sit during the day, take a ‘walk break’ every 30-45 minutes to relieve the pressure.
- Elevating your legs, with the feet preferably higher than your heart, is a quick and effective method to improve blood flow upwards.
- Dry skin brushing is very effective in improving blood circulation; make sure you do it in circular motions in the direction of your heart.
- Regular exercise assists in maintaining healthy circulation, especially cardio and leg toning exercises, e.g.: walking, swimming, cycling, dancing and Pilates.
- Compression stockings can be used to improve blood flow towards the heart. You can get a prescription from your GP to ensure you use the correct stockings that place the right amount of pressure on your legs.
- Avoid clothes that are too constrictive around your waist or legs, which may impede blood circulation.
- Mustard oil has shown to be beneficial for stimulating blood circulation and strengthening the capillaries. Warm the oil and rub it into your palms; gently massaging the oil around the spider veins for 5-10 minutes (not directly on the spider veins), in the direction of your heart.
The heaviness, itching and burning you experience are generally associated with the presence of spider veins; however, I do suggest that you have it checked out by your GP, just to eradicate any concerns of these symptoms being indicative of something more serious.
JEANNE VAN ZYL is a Dietary Educator and a Nutrition Lecturer at CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine in the UK and Ireland), which trains students across South Africa in a range of natural therapies. www.collegeofnaturalhealth.co.za