An update to this post has, at long last, been written! You’ll find it here. Comments on this post will no longer be attended.
Varicose veins run in my family. I had one near my knee already when I was in college, and over the years, especially while I was pregnant, I developed quite a few in my ankles and lower legs. One was so purple it was nearly black, about an inch long, and squishy. Sometimes I’d go through phases of putting witch hazel on my legs with a cotton ball, but it was off and on, and never really showed any particular improvement. In fact, somehow I came to the conclusion that you couldn’t reverse varicose veins, only prevent further damage. Wow, was I ever wrong!
Early this year, I decided it was time to get serious about coming up with a plan for these ugly veins. I was so sure that I couldn’t reverse anything that it didn’t even occur to me to take “before” pictures, but enough of my students and family have seen my legs to assure me that I’m not dreaming – this is serious improvement.
In addition to what I will list below, I would also still like to work with oak bark, and ocotillo. I’ll do that once the summer rush calms down somewhat (and report back!). But so far, here’s what I’ve done, and to amazing results!
First, I made a lotion. (Actually, first before I made a lotion, I made a bunch of other changes, like going gluten and dairy free, cutting way back on sugar, walking more, and sleeping better. But “first” in terms of starting to make a specific plan for my veins…) If you have never made a lotion before, don’t be intimidated – it’s easier than you think!** Making lotion is just the same as making mayonnaise, only it doesn’t taste as good on a hamburger. Also, this particular recipe is best for external use.
I usually start with the waters – in this case, the waters are going to contain quite a bit of alcohol, but that won’t affect the quality of your lotion any, it just might make it thinner or more “runny”. I use approximately:
1 part yarrow tincture
1 part horse chestnut tincture
2 parts witch hazel extract (I prefer extract that is not made with isopropyl alcohol. Mountain Rose Herbs sells a good one.)
Sometimes I also add a half a part aloe juice, and in my next batch I’ll try adding one or two parts oakbark extract.
Put all these ingredients in your blender, and get them good and mixed up. Then add the oils. I use calendula and plantain oils, in equal parts. Add the oils slowly until the blender starts making a glurping noise – it will start small and become louder and louder. Stop when you have added approximately as much oil as you had water, or when your lotion looks like mayonnaise. If you end up with a lotion that’s too thin, don’t worry – it’s still good! Just put it into a squirt-bottle marked “shake well”.
I applied this lotion generally only once a day (twice a day would have been better). After about 6 weeks, the squishy black vein had receded to just one small little dot, and the associated pain in my lower legs was reduced by more than 50% (both in rate of occurrence and severity).
About that time, after some chatting with Heather Nic An Fhleisdeir about her experience, I added a tea to my regimen. I drank about three cups of the tea daily.
Red Clover flowers
Yarrow (aerial parts)
For flavor, I sometimes also add goji berries, rose hips, a pinch of mint, and ginger. I set this up in a french press before I go to bed at night, so that it steeps and infuses overnight. I drink the whole press over the course of the following day. (If you are taking blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using Red Clover. If you don’t have an herbstore near you, you can get these herbs also from Mountain Rose Herbs.)
I maintained this protocol (lotion and tea) for about three more weeks (bringing my overall experiment to approximately 9 weeks): at the end of those weeks, the pain in my lower legs was almost completely gone, and my legs looked still better. At that point, which was let’s say, approximately early March, I got too busy to keep up my protocol. I ran out of lotion and didn’t bother to make any more for myself (I made several batches for other people – how hard would it have been to make some for myself?). I continued the tea off and on, but once a week or less. Since then, there has been no change: the progress I made in that time has held, and I can’t remember the last time I felt pain from the varicosities. I did make a new batch of the lotion for myself about two weeks ago, so we’ll see if I can be consistent and make even more progress!
During this time, my mother’s varicosities became bad enough that she decided to have surgery on them. However, there were a few months in between the point that she decided to do it, and when she actually could have it done. I made the lotion and tea for her, and she was reasonably consistent with it. Although she did still have the surgery, she was able to get through the waiting time with much reduced pain, and in fact, even to do some fairly heavy physical work to help repair a friend’s house. She has agreed to continue to use the lotion and tea after she has recovered from the surgery.
One note: varicose veins reflect a problem in the whole leg, not just in the lower parts. If you have varicosities that show up in your lower legs, it’s an indication that there’s also trouble in the larger veins in your thigh, even though you are less likely to be able to see that. Make sure to apply the lotion not only to your lower legs, but also up the thighs, in particular along the inner thigh, where the large saphenous vein is located.
**still nervous about making a lotion? feel like you have two left feet in the kitchen? that’s ok! you can also get these herbs all as tinctures and just combine them, using a cotton ball or your hand to rub the tinctures on your leg directly. putting alcohol on your legs every day may dry your skin, so do use some sort of good quality lotion, but you WILL get the medicine in, and that’s what really matters.
i like HerbPharm brand tinctures, which you can usually find in a healthfood store or Whole Foods if you have one, and if not, you can buy them online. just get a bottle each of: calendula, plantain, yarrow, horse chestnut (or stone root, or oak), and dump them into a jar. you can pour in some witch hazel as well. shake it up, and voila! you can even pour your mixture back into the little tincture bottles, and keep one in your purse, your office desk, your nightstand – so that you always have one handy wherever you are. that way, you don’t even need a cotton ball – use the dropper top to drop a bit on your leg, and rub it right in!
Join our newsletter for more herby goodness!
Get CommonWealth's freshest content delivered right to your inbox. You'll be first to hear about free mini-courses, podcast episodes, and offers.