Ayurvedic Treatment of Varicosis (Varicose Veins)
Varicosis, or varicose veins, caused by weakened valves in the veins of the legs, refers to a condition in which the veins of the legs become varicose, i.e. they appear swollen and bulging and can be discerned beneath the surface of the skin. Varicose veins may be dark in color or may retain their original color, ranging from a light purplish-red to an almost navy blue. They are nearly always painful. In case of prolonged varicose veins, they could be accompanied by skin peeling and skin ulcers may be seen to develop.
Varicose veins are caused due to excessive pressure brought to bear on the legs or the abdomen. These are brought on by advancing age, obesity, pregnancy, hormonal changes and a host of other factors, which may include genetic or epigenetic factors as varicose veins often run in families. Standing for long periods of time increases pressure on leg veins and promote varicose veins.
Some deficiencies in the diet may cause the loss of elasticity of the veins, which may make them varicose. Standing for protracted periods, engaging in physical activity that puts more strain on the legs, wearing constrictive clothing and total lack of exercise can gives rise to varicosis
Symptoms include veins that look dark blue or purplish red, swollen, and twisted under the skin. Some people do not have any symptoms. Mild symptoms may include: heaviness, burning, aching, tiredness, or pain in the legs. Symptoms may be worse after long periods of immobility and include swelling of the feet and ankles and itching directly over the vein. More serious symptoms include leg swelling, calf pain and skin changes, such as color changes, dry, thinned skin, inflammation, scaling and open ulcerous sores, or bleeding after a minor injury.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, Varicosis is a condition betokening a vitiation of vata dosha (particularly vyana vayu) in the rasa and rakta dhatus and extending into their upadhatus. Consequently, treatment efforts are directed toward pacifying vata dosha and may include dietary, medicinal, yogic and other measures.
Dietary measures: In general and with respect to the client’s constitution, a vata-pacifying diet regimen is usually implemented. Such a diet should include whole food grains instead of processed or polished ones. Whole grains should be strongly emphasized, with wheat and millet seen as especially beneficial. Fresh fruits are very much needed, since vitamin C deficiency is a prime contributing factor to the severity of varicose veins. Thus, Amalaki and other citrus fruits high in this vitamin should be had in good amounts. The diet should be protein-rich and should include an egg daily and a glassful of milk, along with legumes and other protein-rich foods (although red meat should be avoided). To aid in the digestion of a high protein intake, garlic, onion, ginger and pineapple should also be consumed daily (but other pungent tasting foods and condiments should be avoided). For non-vegetarians, fish should be included in the daily diet. A generous amount of water should be consumed daily, with a minimum of 3 liters of water daily recommended for a 150 lbs. Adult male with a moderate activity level.
Yoga asanas & physical exercise: Useful postures include Virasana (hero pose), Sarvangasana (shoulder stand, should be practiced for 10 minutes daily if possible), Kapotsana (pigeon pose – alternative lying posture), Bhujangasana; (cobra pose), Shavasana (corpse pose), Halasana (plough pose), and Pawanmuktasana (wind-relieving pose).
One particularly beneficial maneuver is to have the client elevate their legs while lying on their back. This should be done 4 or more times daily for 20 minutes. Exercise the feet by pointing and flexing (forward and backward). I like to suggest clients move their feet as if they were using them to sign their name (this will provide a requisite balance of directions and movements).
Simple exercises like walking, swimming, cycling and stretching the legs while sitting on a chair also help. Avoid excessively vigorous exercise and after any exercise take a brief period of relaxation. Avoid bathing in overly-cold water.
Herbal medication: Useful Ayurvedic herbs include Amalaki, Arjuna, Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Guduchi, Guggul and Shatavari – and most especially, notwithstanding the fact that it not of Ayurvedic provenance, HCSE (Horse Chestnut Seed Extract) taken orally as well as a topical application.
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): The indigenous Indian herb, Brahmi is perhaps the best Ayurvedic treatment for varicose veins. It provides the necessary nutrients required for the proper toning of the veins and makes them less tortuous. Ayurveda prescribes the Brahmi as the drug of choice for the treatment of varicose veins. Brahmi is used for four continuous weeks to get permanent benefits. (Dosage: 2 to 6 g. daily). Brahmi (Bacopa monniera) is taken in conjunction with some mineral supplement like Jasad bhasma. This bhasma has three benefits – (i) it is a rich source of the mineral zinc, (ii) it helps in healing and blood clotting through the formation of collagen and (iii) it helps in the concentration of vitamin E in the blood. Other popularly prescribed medicines taken with Brahmi are Chandraprabha vati, Nagarjunabhra rasa and Punarnavadi guggulu, among others.
Garlic (Allium sativum): Among its many advantageous properties, garlic also has effects in the treatment of varicose veins. Garlic can break down the protein content in the body and distribute it evenly. This increases the protein supply to the lower limb region. (Dosage: 6 to 15 g. daily)
Ginger (Zingiber officinale): Like garlic, ginger too breaks down and distributes the protein in the body. (Dosage: 1.5 to 5 g. daily)
Onion (Allium cepa): Onion helps in the proper assimilation and distribution of protein in the human body. It gives inner strength. Chomping on one onion everyday can help to solve the problem of varicose veins permanently.
Horse Chestnut Seed extract (HCSE, Aesculus hippocastanum): Horse chestnut extract is in widespread use in Europe in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and varicose veins. It has been repeatedly shown to diminish leg pain and improve circulatory function in individuals with this problem. It is as effective as support stockings are at removing fluid from the lower legs and is a synergistic cardiovascular support nutrient that enhances your circulatory structure and function (Dosage is standardized to 50-100 mg twice daily)
Available in India is a proprietary multiherbal formulation marketed under the name Pilex and manufactured by Himalaya Pharmaceuticals, but its availability outside of India is limited.
There are some Ayurvedic oils available for local application to seek temporary relief. These are Prasarini taila and Chandanabala taila. Mahanarayan oil (whose main plant ingredient is Shatavari) is aid to be particularly useful, as is both Brahmi oil and Carrot Seed essential oil (mixed usually with some carrier oil). Sahacharadi oil is also said to be of great benefit.
Great care must be taken never to massage any oil directly on the varicose veins, as it would increase pressure on them. A simple application is sufficient, without any pressure being exerted. For external treatment, apply oils very gently over the affected veins. Massage the affected leg – avoiding the vein - against the direction of the hair.
In addition to all of the foregoing, any measures that can be taken in terms of one’s lifestyle to generally pacify vata dosha – e.g., avoiding stress, ensuring a sound night’s sleep, and adhering to a regular daily schedule – will all assist the sufferer in overcoming varicosis.
Article provided by William Courson, BVSA, Dpl. Ayur., C.H. an Ayurvedic Practitioner, faculty member and the College Dean of Institutional Development at Sai Ayurvedic College & Ayurvedic Wellness Center.