A health trend that’s thousands of years in the making, the use of herbs and essential oils as means of treatment for a wide range of conditions has been on the rise. With origins dating back to traditional practices—and alongside growing skepticism of pharmaceutical and medical approaches—the market for herbal medicine has been growing in the US, with 7.7 percent growth in sales seen in 2016. Impressively, sales of such supplements in the country have climbed to over 7 billion US dollars a year.
For sufferers of varicose veins, some companies and herbal practitioners have advised the use of essential oils as a means of taking on and easing symptoms. The biggest question, of course, is whether it actually works. And the answer is a little murky; research is lacking when it comes to many of these kinds of remedies. It’s therefore important to take a closer look at what essential oils are, the claims made about them for vein problems, and what the medical field says about them.
Defining Essential Oils
Essential oils are distillations of natural oils found in a range of plants; each type retains the fragrance of its source, and, the thinking goes, its medicinal properties. For varicose veins sufferers, a number of herbs are believed to help with circulation. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Clary Sage
Herbal stores, and even the shelves of organic grocery stores, will carry these, though some people may go so far as to seek out herbalists for consultations about use.
Application & Dosage
Primarily, herbal remedies for varicose veins work topically, through contact on the skin. In most cases, herbalists will recommend lavender essential oil for this issue. There are several ways that these can be applied to the region:
- Compress: A warm or cool compress with essential oil applied to the varicose veins for periods of 15 minutes at a time is one recommended approach. This compress is made by soaking a rag in five drops of essential oil in about a one liter of water. Often, it’s also recommended that patients elevate legs during application.
- Carrier Oil: Another approach involves combining 30 drops of the active essential oil with three tablespoons of what’s called a “carrier oil.” The latter is often something like jojoba oil, almond oil, olive oil, or coconut oil, and helps dilute and activate the main ingredients. Once this is mixed together, the patient can directly apply the solution.
Weighing The Existing Evidence
While, on the one hand, it may be hard to argue with such time-tested methods—if certain herbs have been used for thousands of years, how could they not work?—there seems to be little actual evidence for the use of essential oils for varicose veins. In large part, this may be due to western medicine’s skepticism of traditional remedies; however, it’s notable that no herbs are recommended means of treatment, nor have they been evaluated by governmental agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
That said, there is some limited, indirect evidence in the scientific literature.
- Lavender for Leg Ulcers: Leg ulcers, or sores and lesions in the legs that refuse to heal, are often associated with varicose veins. One study, published in 2012 in the American Journal of Dentistry, found a distinct but moderate therapeutic effect for application of lavender essential oil. Noting some antibacterial problems, a distinct but limited improvement was seen with this herbal approach.
- Pain Management: Surveying the state of research surrounding medical applications of lavender, a review article published in 2013 noted a significant pain-managing effect for lavender in varicose vein cases. While easing symptoms is not quite the same as solving the core problem, it can certainly be helpful in managing cases. The study did note, though, that much more work is needed in assessing lavender essential oil.
In general, then, the consensus is that these may be helpful, but more work is needed to truly assess the effect of herbs on varicose veins.
Finding What Works
At the end of the day, varicose vein sufferers may have to try many different types of approaches to their condition. The good news is that there are a range of options available for these cases, with medical treatments constantly becoming better and more precise. Whatever track is taken, it’s important to keep an open mind and stay active; the sooner you start managing varicose veins, the sooner you’ll be able to step forward free of this condition.
If you or a loved one is struggling with varicose veins, talk to a Patient Care Manager at Hamilton Vein. The experts at these Texas-based outpatient clinics pride themselves in offering effective, minimally-invasive treatments for this condition. Learn more about what they do by calling their Houston location at (281) 916-5660, the Austin clinic at (512) 710-1114, or San Antonio at (201) 405-4707 today!
- US Sales of Herbal Supplements Increase by 7.7% in 2016. (2017). herbalgram.org. Retrieved 4 June 2018, from http://cms.herbalgram.org/press/2017/USSalesofHerbalSupplementsIncreaseby77percentin2016.html?ts=1528136978&signature=15407eae12
- Essential Oils for Varicose Veins: Do They Work?. (2018). Healthline. Retrieved 4 June 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health/essential-oils-for-varicose-veins#research
- Alteia, DT. (2012). Topical lavender oil for the treatment of recurrent aphthous ulceration. – PubMed – NCBI . nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 4 June 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2255
- Koulivand, P., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the Nervous System. Evidence-Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine, 2013, 1-10. doi:10.1155/2013/681304