(This is the first in a series of articles on some common physical changes women may experience, such as varicose veins or age spots, as they age and how these changes can naturally be reduced or minimized)
Our Aging Bodies
As we get older, our bodies start to show the wear and tear that we have put it through. We have control over some of these changes, but some we don’t.
Elements of aging include: age spots (also known as liver spots), skin tags, wrinkles, varicose veins and more.
This article will be focusing on varicose veins. Watch for future articles to feature other elements of aging.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that have pushed themselves outward, just below the skin. They are most commonly found on the legs and feet, yet can affect any vein in the body.
Most are harmless. They are just a cosmetic issue for some people.
For some, varicose veins can be painful or sore. They can also cause issues for blood circulation. That can bring on swollen ankles, itchy skin and achy limbs.
What Causes Varicose Veins
Veins are continually working against the forces of gravity as they push blood back to the heart. Veins must be kept healthy and strong to maintain this level of work.
There are “valves” in the veins that push the blood back to the heart. Valves and muscles work together to get the job done. So if the muscles weaken, so do the valves.
As the valves and muscles weaken, blood starts to pool in these areas, which leads to varicose veins.
A variety of things can cause the weakening of valves and muscles. Some of those include obesity, being sedentary (which causes muscles to weaken), standing for a long period of time, pregnancy, menopause, aging, genetics and walking.
The primary symptom of varicose veins is visibility. They become swollen, misshapen veins on ones legs. Some people will also have pain, heaviness and achiness near these veins.
Swelling can also occur in the lower legs and ankles after standing for periods of time.
In severe cases, the veins can bleed and ulcers may form.
Those Affected by Varicose Veins
According to WebMD, varicose veins can sometimes be genetic, and women are twice as likely to develop them over men.
About 23% of Americans are affected in some way.
Dealing with Varicose Veins
There are a number of things a person can do to help control and lessen the issue. The Mayo Clinic suggests exercise, elevating ones legs and wearing compression stockings.
Also, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight can help minimize or prevent them as well.
Surgery is an option for those where lifestyle changes aren’t improving the condition or there is just too much pain. More information on surgical procedures can be found here.
Using herbs and plants is another way to deal with this issue.
One can look to herbs and plants to help with varicose veins in a natural way.
A number of herbs that can be used to minimize the effects of varicose veins are known as astringents. They help by tightening the tissues and getting them back to their original state, as best they can.
Some of these herbs include:
Helichrysum (helichrysum italicum) is named after the golden yellow flowers of the plant, and comes from the Greek words helios meaning sun and chrysos meaning gold. A common name for it is Immortelle.
Helichrysum has many medicinal properties and is known for its restorative and rejuvenating properties. It helps heal scars and supports cell growth by encouraging the recycling of dead cells and stimulating production of new ones.
This yellow flower can also be used to help with inflammation and clears blood clots by liquefying/thinning them.
Helichrysum is an anti-oxidant as well.
Horse Chestnut (aesculus hippocastanum), also known as buckeye in some parts, or conker tree in Europe.
Horse Chestnut supports blood circulation, thus helping those with varicose veins. As an astringent, it helps to tone vein walls which, when slack or distended, may become varicose, hemorrhoidal or otherwise problematic.
Aescin, a constituent found in horse chestnuts, performs an antioxidant function and has a general vasoprotective role by protecting collagen and elastin (the two chief proteins that form the structure of veins).
White Oak (quercus alba) is a tree native to North America and was used by Native Americans for many conditions. Throughout history, it has been known as a symbol of strength and endurance.
White oak is an astringent, due to its high level of tannins, and helps with inflammation and skin conditions, such as varicose veins.
It is also an antiseptic, so helps control infection internally and externally.
White oak also contains quercetin, which helps in strengthening the capillaries and veins.
Did you know you can grind the acorns into a flour? Pretty cool!
Willow bark (Salix alba) has been used medicinally for over 5000 years. It is native to Europe and Central Asia.
The bark is known as being the original pain reliever because it contains salacin, which the body converts to salicylic acid. Thus if helps reduce fevers, pain and inflammation. It takes a little longer to work, but lasts much longer then aspirin and has less side gastronomic side effects due to the large amounts of tannins that protect the stomach.
The inner and outer barks have slightly different concentrations of compounds for different ailments.
Willow bark’s high concentration of antioxidants make it very beneficial for the health of the skin. It increases blood flow to the skin, which helps to reduce wrinkles and age marks.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a fairly common shrub found in North America. Native Americans used it to help treat skin irritations and tumors.
Witch hazel is a great skin treatment because of its astringent properties. It helps with stretch marks, wrinkles, acne, hemorrhoids and varicose veins. It is also good for itchy skin when dealing with chickenpox, eczema, bug bites and poison ivy.
Witch hazel’s ant-inflammatory properties also make it a go-to for diaper rash and sunburns. Regular application helps in healing the damaged skin quicker.
Daily use of witch hazel helps to kill bacteria living on the skin and supports cell growth. It also helps to remove excess oil from the skin.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) originated in Europe. It can now be found in many parts of North America. The Greeks used yarrow over 3000 years ago to treat wounds. The genus name, Achillea, honors the Greek hero Achilles; who reportedly used yarrow for himself and for his soldiers as a treatment for battle wounds. Yarrow was also commonly used during the Civil War to stop wounds from bleeding.
When used topically, yarrow is wonderful for helping with skin issues, such as rashes, hemorrhoids, varicose veins or broken wounds. It supports blood circulation, reduces blood stagnation and helps to tone vein walls with its astringent properties.
Herbal Products or DIY
One can make their own creams or ointments to help with varicose veins by using some of the herbs mentioned above. One place to purchase these herbs is at Mountain Rose Herbs.
If one can’t or doesn’t have the time to make a cream or ointment, I offer a wonderful cream for varicose veins that not only helps minimize them, but softens and hydrates the skin as well.
Another way to utilize herbs in controlling or minimizing varicose veins is by using tinctures topically. Put the tincture directly on the varicose veins and let dry on the skin, or use a cloth soaked with the tincture to lay directly on the veins for a period of time.
Using this natural method will take a little bit of time to see results, so one has to be patient. It took years for the varicose veins to appear, so they won’t disappear overnight.
More Coming Soon
Watch for future articles to feature more elements of aging, such as age spots (liver spots), wrinkles, skin tags, etc., and natural ways to deal with them.
“*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. It is also recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications.”