Question: I am starting to suffer from varicose veins. Is there any way this unsightly condition can be avoided?
Answer: The problem of varicose veins runs the gamut from a harmless cosmetic annoyance to an almost life-threatening situation. Varicose veins usually manifest as prominent, swollen, blue-to purplish-color veins in the lower legs. These veins are rarely painful and rarely constitute a genuine medical problem. But for the elderly, swollen veins can become engorged with blood, leading to infection and a situation we call phlebitis, which can then lead to cellulitis, an infection of the tissues around the veins. At times, these infections can become chronic, severely interfering with the patient’s quality of life.
Furthermore, this same process can take place in other parts of the body, wherever the venous blood flow becomes sluggish, and can lead to engorged, swollen veins. Examples of this include hemorrhoids, which could be referred to as varicose veins in the rectal area. Clearly, an understanding and solution to the problem of venous blood flow is needed in order to help these sufferers.
In the chapter on heart disease in my book The Fourfold Path to Healing, you know that I presented a view of the circulation at variance to the usual views expressed in conventional medicine and physiology. That is, rather than seeing the motive force for the movement or circulation of the blood in the heart, I point out that the true force that “pumps” the blood is the generation of osmotic pressure at the cellular level. This osmotic pressure is generated primarily through the creation of water from the metabolism of food. The food that is the most efficient at generating water are the fats for the simple reason that fats possess copious amounts of hydrogen that can combine with oxygen in the process of cellular metabolism.
Furthermore, the more saturated the fat, the more hydrogen it contains, and therefore the more water generated from its breakdown. The osmotic pressure generated in the veins through the creation of new water in the cells is the motive force for “pushing” the blood uphill in the veins. This continual osmotic pressure generated provides a continuous push up the hill towards the heart, and this prevents the blood from falling back down the hill, creating downward pressure on the veins. When the circulation is sluggish, varicose veins eventually develop, a situation in which this downward pressure pushes out and eventually breaks the walls of the veins.
Rudolf Steiner, when describing the mechanism of circulation of the blood, referred to the force that moves the blood as a kind of “primary streaming” akin to the force that causes the sap to move up the tree from the soil to the crown of the tree. This primary streaming is an integral part of any living being; Steiner called it the etheric or life force, the force that counteracts gravity and that is the essence of the difference between the living and non-living world.
Varicose veins therefore develop out of two co-existing situations. First, there is insufficient osmotic pressure generated in the cells, resulting in a weak upward flow. This is often caused by insufficient or poor quality fats in the diet, or the inability to metabolize these fats into water. Second, there can be a weak primary streaming force in the person, a situation that often gets worse as the person ages. In a sense, as we age our basic “vital” force gets weaker, the very force that “pushes” the blood up our veins and the sap up the trees. This can be the result of a myriad of causes, some of which must be addressed in a true therapy for varicose veins.
Two other issues must be addressed in a comprehensive therapy for varicose veins: the tendency to infections and a progressive weakening of the walls of the veins.
In order to increase the osmotic push in the veins, the first part of the therapy is to ensure adequate good quality saturated fats in the diet. This should include the whole nourishing traditional dietary approach, with particular attention on including liberal amounts of butter and coconut oil in the diet. Coconut oil not only provides saturated fats, but the lauric acid in coconut oil has the added benefit of an anti-microbial element.
In order to help with the digestion of fats, the diet should include lacto-fermented vegetables, particularly sauerkraut, and bone broth, which is a general digestive tonic.
The blood vessel walls are nourished by certain food factors, especially foods that contain tannins, and rutins, a family of compounds in the vitamin C co-factor group. These factors are found in many green vegetables, fruits and tannin-rich herbs. These can be included in the diet and used medicinally.
The best studied herb for varicose veins is horse chestnut, an herb that contains a rutin-like compound called aesculin, which is a specific nutrient that strengthens the blood vessel walls–the tannins in the horse chestnut “tan” the blood vessels, just like they tan a hide, which means they shrink and strengthen the walls. The preparation I like is Horse Chestnut complex from Mediherb, which is a mixture of Horse Chestnut and other tannin-rich herbs. The dose is 2 tablets twice per day for at least one year if significant symptoms are present.
Finally, the most rutin rich food source is probably buckwheat greens. The best supplement for this is the Standard Process product Cyruta Plus, given at the dose of 2 tablets three times per day.
In order to help strengthen the vital force, perhaps the best therapy is regular vigorous movement of the lower limbs. This can be a regular walking program, yoga, spatial dynamics exercises, rebounding or any activity that tones and activates the muscles in the legs. This should be done on a daily basis to see optimal benefits.
This intervention should prevent further development of varicose veins and, if followed faithfully, even help them regress.
If signs of redness and infection are present, the legs should be elevated most of the day, hot compresses with a solution of Epsom salts should be applied 1-2 hours per day, and Echinacea, 2 tablets three times per day should be added to the therapy. In many cases, antibiotics can be avoided through these interventions.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2006.