Varicose veins is one of the most common circulatory disorders and refers to a condition of swelling of the veins in the legs and feet. This is a result of damage or dysfunction of the valves in the veins, which prevents blood from flowing smoothly. Although largely a cosmetic condition, varicose veins can often cause swelling to the extent that the region is affected with aches and pain, causing considerable discomfort. In addition to the characteristic swelling and pain, you will also most likely notice discolouration. In severe cases of varicose veins, a vein may actually rupture, leading to the development of varicose ulcers that require treatment. Fortunately, you don’t have to depend on pharmaceutical treatments that are fraught with side effects or resort to surgery. Ayurveda offers a number of natural treatments that can help provide varicose veins relief.
It is often hard to connect modern diseases with specific conditions that are described in classical Ayurvedic texts. However, the symptoms of varicose veins most closely resemble the conditions of Siragata Vata as described in the texts of Acharya Charaka. It also has strong similarities to some other conditions mentioned in classical texts, such as Sira Granthi, SiragataVata and Vatarakta. No matter the terminology used, it is clear that the condition was known to ancient Indian physicians who not only described it, but also described its pathology and treatment. Varicose veins in this Ayurvedic context is believed to be a result of vitiation of all the doshas, including Rakta, Mamsa and Meda Dhatu. Of course, the most valuable insights are with regard to the Ayurvedic treatment of varicose veins using natural methods and herbal medicines.
As a circulatory disorder, the condition was more common in courtiers and others who spent extended periods standing or inactive. Ayurvedic physicians recognized this and understood that regular exercise can improve circulation, aiding blood flow from the legs and it can also lower blood pressure, which otherwise exacerbates varicose veins. Low impact exercises that are gentle on the legs and calf muscles are ideal and can include yoga, as well as activities like swimming, walking, or cycling.
Healthy digestion and nutrition are regarded as the foundation of good health in Ayurveda, so it’s no surprise that healthy eating is also regarded as important in the management of varicose veins. It is advisable to limit your intake of high sodium or salty foods as they can cause water retention and increase blood pressure, making varicose veins symptoms worse. Instead, your diet should focus on whole foods, especially foods with high potassium and fibre content, such as fresh fruits, leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Abhyanga or massage therapy is regarded as one of the most effective ways to relieve varicose veins and is usually administered with Ayurvedic massage oils containing herbs such as Nirgundi. The practice has been shown to help lower blood pressure in some patients, which can help manage the condition, as high blood pressure in the veins can contribute to varicose veins.
Herbs play an important role in the Ayurvedic treatment of varicose veins and the most notable herb in this regard is Gotu Kola. Research suggests that supplementation with the herb can help to strengthen weak veins and it can also relieve venous insufficiency. Similarly, herbs like Guduchi and Manjistha are also known to help provide relief from varicose veins symptoms and are commonly used in Ayurvedic medications to improve circulation and treat varicose veins.
In addition to the home treatments and remedies for varicose veins listed here, it is also advisable to make lifestyle changes that will help reduce pressure on the legs. Some such practices can include sitting with the legs elevated, maintaining healthy body weight, spending less time standing for long periods and staying active not just with exercise. If you still have trouble finding relief from varicose veins, seek help from an Ayurvedic physician as treatments like Basti Karma – a medicated herbal enema, are also proven to be effective even when dealing with complications like venous ulcers (4).
This article is reviewed by Dr. Ashwini Konnur