Horse Chestnut Seed Extract: The Scientific Solution to Varicose Veins
By: Bruce Schennum M.A.

Ten million Americans suffer from varicose veins. Millions more have "chronic veinous insufficiency", which leads to leg swelling and pain. In the past, leg wraps and surgery were the only medical treatments for these conditions. But now an herb - Horse Chestnut Seed Extract (HCSE)- is being used to treat these problems. The results: reduced leg swelling and dramatic improvement in vein health.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are swollen and twisted veins, often blue in color, that are close to the surface of the skin. In addition to being unsightly, these veins can bulge and throb. Varicose veins are most common on the calves and ankles, but can occur anywhere on the body. Hemorrhoids are a type of varicose vein.

Fully 10% of women over 65 suffer from varicose veins on their legs. Another 7% have hemorrhoids. Women are three times as likely to develop this condition than men. Why? Hormonal changes during menopause is one factor. However, even young women suffer from varicose veins more often than men in their age group.

All leg veins contain one-way flap valves, which are designed to prevent the blood from flowing backwards. Between heartbeats, to combat the pull of gravity, these valves close. When one or more of these valves fails to function correctly, some blood flows back down the leg and distends and overfills the veins under the skin.

Over time, the pressure caused by this build-up of blood causes veins to stretch and bulge. The blood also flows backwards into capillaries causing spider veins and purple discoloration.

Horse Chestnut Seed Extract - Natural Healer for Varicose Veins

The traditional treatments for varicose veins include leg wraps and, if the problem worsens, surgery. New research now shows that Horse Chestnut Seed Extract (HCSE) can shrink swollen veins, reduce leg swelling and prevent edema. In one study, 5000 patients were treated for chronic veinous insufficiency with HCSE. All symptoms investigated - tiredness, tension, leg swelling, itching and edema - either improved markedly or disappeared completely.1 In another study, patients suffering from edema (fluids collecting in the leg and causing swelling) were able to reduce leg swelling by using HCSE.2 Side effects in both studies were minimal.

Another study measured the extent to which HCSE limited the "capillary filtration coefficient." That means the HCSE prevented fluid from leaking out of veins and capillaries and thus reduced leg swelling.3 How does Horse Chestnut work? According to French scientist Marcel Guillaume, it has three major effects on the veinous system. First, it diminishes capillary permeability - reducing edema. Second, it constricts vein valves, allowing them to close completely and prevent the backward flow of blood. Third, it has general anti-edema properties and has been shown to decrease the formation of lymphatic as well as vascular edema.

Nutrients for your Veins

Veins are frail and delicate structures. Valves in the veins can be easily damaged by free radicals. Therefore, antioxidants - particularly flavonoids and proanthocyanadins - are vital to the maintenance of healthy veins. In one study, 110 patients took 90 mg of Pycnogenol a day. 77% showed clear improvement. 93% had some symptomatic improvement. Grape Seed Extract is another supplement rich in the flavonoids and proanthocyanidins beneficial to veins.

Many nutritional practitioners also recommend anti-inflammatory herbs for leg swelling and varicose veins. Among the most frequently recommended nutrients: bromelain, boswellia serata, and quercetin.

Although many medical doctors are unfamiliar with the benefits of Horse Chestnut Seed Extract and other nutrients to promote leg vein health, the word is spreading. HCSE is now prescribed by physicians in Germany, France and a number of other European countries. Studies about the herb are appearing regularly in major medical journals. It appears inevitable that HCSE will soon become an important therapeutic herb in the U.S. -- good news for the ten million Americans with varicose veins.

1Horse Chestnut Seed Extract - an effective therapy… of chronic veinous insufficiency. Fortschr Med. May 30, 1996.
2Medical edema protection… A placebo controlled double blind study. VASA. 1992. P. 188-92.
3Effects of HCSE on transcapillary filtration in chronic veinous insufficiency. Dtsch Med Wochenscher. Aug. 29, 1986.

Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

Some of us are at greater risk than others of developing varicose veins. Risk factors include:

  • A family history of varicose veins
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormonal changes at menopause
  • Activities that require standing for a long time.
  • A history of vein disease such as thrombophlebitis.

Although a job or hobby that requires standing for prolonged periods will not cause varicose veins, it will tend to make them worse in those who already have minor problems.

Self-Care Tips for Varicose Veins

To relieve and prevent varicose veins, try the following tips:

  • Don't cross your legs when sitting
  • Exercise regularly. Walking is a good choice.
  • Keep your weight down.
  • Avoid standing for long periods of time. If you are required to stand, shift your weight from one leg to another.
  • Wear elastic support stockings
  • Don't wear clothing that constricts your legs, groin or waist.
  • Eat high fiber foods, fresh fruits and vegetables. (constipation contributes to poor leg vein health.)
  • Cut your salt intake
  • Exercise your legs. From a sitting position, rotate your feet at the ankles in both directions using a circular motion. With legs extended, point your toes at the ceiling and then at the floor. Lift your feet and gently bend your knees back and forth.
  • Elevate your legs when resting
  • Get up and move about every 45 minutes when working or driving.