No one wakes up one morning and says, “Hey, I think in another ten years, I’d like to have lots of bulging varicose veins!” It’s one of those things that creeps up on us, sometimes during pregnancy, sometimes not until later in life. Yet this doesn’t have to be an inevitable development because the beautiful horse chestnut tree offers safe, natural relief for varicose veins.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Unlike arteries which have their own built-in pulsing mechanism, our veins operate using a series of valves. Each heartbeat pushes blood through these one-way valves, which then close to prevent blood from moving backward through the vein.
The system works wonderfully unless the veins become weakened.
Weak veins allow blood to build up and pool in the edges of those valves – leading first to the appearance of spider veins and then to bulging varicose veins. (Hemorrhoids are also a type of varicose veins.)
Numerous factors can raise a person’s risk of developing varicose veins:
- sedentary lifestyle
- poor circulation
- frequent constipation
- long periods of standing (Certain occupations, like nurses and factory workers, are at a higher risk for varicose veins.)
How Does Horse Chestnut Relieve Varicose Veins?
Horse chestnuts contain aescin, which works within the body to strengthen and tone the venous walls, valves, and capillaries.
For unknown reasons, people who suffer from varicose veins have a high level of certain enzymes that weaken capillary walls, thus allowing blood to leak out into the tissue. Aescin in horse chestnuts blocks the function of these enzymes.
Horse chestnuts also contain Coumadin, a substance that researchers have identified as being a blood thinner. This is why the nuts are able to improve circulation throughout the body and to help keep blood moving instead of pooling in the veins.
Furthermore, horse chestnuts work to increase the body’s ability to move excess fluid from tissue into capillaries where it can be carried away and eliminated. This helps relieve edema and swelling related to sprains.
Horse Chestnut Oil & Salve Bring Natural Relief for Varicose Veins
While a horse chestnut tincture can be taken internally in small doses, a horse chestnut salve (or oil) brings soothing relief when applied topically. If used consistently, the salve will noticeably shrink bulging varicose veins and spider veins.
- Horse Chestnuts
- Olive Oil
- Double Boiler or Glass Cup/Jar/Bowl and Saucepan
- Measuring utensils to measure grams and milliliters
- Unbleached cotton cloth or unbleached paper coffee filters
Grind the Horse Chestnuts
Grind the dried nuts as finely as you can – in whatever way you can. According to herbalist James Green, a VitaMix blender with a metal pitcher is excellent for grinding nuts and barks into a coarse powder. I don’t have a VitaMix so I can’t speak on their effectiveness firsthand.
A high-quality coffee grinder is another good choice. I bought a cheap $15 coffee grinder and … it can’t handle chestnuts. I broke one of the blades and the entire plastic stabilizer thing inside the hopper. Oops.
I ended up taking a two-pronged approach to this particular batch of horse chestnuts. First I put them in a plastic bag, wrapped cloth around it … and ran over it several times with the minivan. It was working decently and had crushed about 1/8 of the chestnuts to a nice powder, but I felt foolish driving back and forth in my driveway and the plastic bag was getting holes in it.
I then pounded the cloth-wrapped bag with a 32-ounce hammer for a while. That did the trick.
Because it was hot outside, I didn’t want to spend a long time smashing the nuts so I separated the coarse powder I’d made from the larger chunks.
To do that, just pour about half a cup into a bowl or jar and shake it back and forth. Thanks to the “Macadamia Effect,” the powder will settle to the bottom and the large pieces will rise to the top.
Pick out the large pieces and put them in a separate container. Shake some more if you need to until you’re satisfied with the coarseness of what’s left in your jar.
Once I was finished crushing and separating my horse chestnut powder, I weighed it. Amazingly, I had exactly 100 grams. When making an herbal-infused oil, we use five parts oil (in milliliters) to one part herb (in grams), so I measured out 500 ml olive oil.
Then pour the crushed horse chestnuts into the oil and stir well.
Making an Herb-Infused Oil on the Stove Top
Because dried nuts are tougher and seem (to me) less willing to yield up their medicinal properties, I like to use a hot process for infusing the oil instead of the normal cool process. For this batch, I decided to go with the stove top.
You’ll need to use a double boiler or a bain-marie, which is basically just a make-shift double boiler. I have a double boiler, but I like to dirty up as few things as possible so I always use my Pyrex measuring cup as the “bowl” inside a pot of water.
Fill your pot 1/4 to 1/3 of the way with water and set your measuring cup or bowl into the water. If your “bowl” is going to touch the bottom of your pot, you may want to lay a folded washcloth in the bottom of the pot first. This reduces the chance that your glass bowl/cup will clatter around and break.
Turn on a low-medium heat. Since every stove top is different, you’re going to need to monitor the temperature of your oil-herb mixture to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. The ideal temperature is 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit. A lower temperature won’t be able to draw out the herb’s essence, while a higher temperature may burn the oil or destroy the medicinal qualities of the herb.
I use an instant-read thermometer, but a candy thermometer will work also.
After ten minutes, I checked the temperature – the water was at 110 degrees, but the oil was just at 82 degrees. After 20 minutes, the oil had risen to about 105 degrees, so I turned the heat down to just above the Low setting.
Of course, your stove top will be different and you’ll need to adjust accordingly. I kept checking my oil every 10-15 minutes for the the first hour and then less often once I was sure the temperature wasn’t going to go too high. Give the chestnuts a good stir every time you check the temperature.
Maintain an oil temperature of about 110-120 degrees for two hours.
In becoming the medicine maker for your family, you get to decide what methods work best for you and how you feel you can achieve the best results. Trial and error will teach you more than any book or website!
Remember too that the herbalists of old didn’t have fancy thermometers or thermostat-controlled warming systems. Yet they were extremely skilled and could effectively nurse their families through most any illness.
When your horse chestnuts are finished “cooking,” allow the oil to cool somewhat and then strain through a cloth or unbleached paper coffee filter. Warm oil is easier to filter than cold.
Squeeze your cloth or paper filter to get out as much oil as possible. Strain a second time if necessary, then discard the spent chestnuts.
Now you have an effective and soothing horse chestnut oil that can be applied topically 1-2 times a day. If you’d like to make it less messy and easier to apply, though, turn your oil into a horse chestnut salve instead. You’ll just need to add beeswax – get the full instructions to make an herbal salve here.
Essential Oils for Varicose Veins
If you want to add essential oils to your salve or herbal oil, these blends are excellent for circulation and offer natural relief for varicose veins:
- 2 drops each Helichrysum, Lavender, and Rose
- 3 drops Yarrow, 2 drops Chamomile, 1 drop Virginia Cedarwood
- 3 drops each Frankincense and Myrrh
- 3 drops Orange, 2 drops Lemon, 1 drop Lime
- 3 drops Clary Sage, 2 drops Geranium, 1 drop Rosemary
- 3 drops each Peppermint and Eucalyptus
- 3 drops Cypress, 2 drops Juniper Berry
For each ounce (28 grams) of oil, add no more than 6 drops essential oil.
Once your horse chestnut oil or salve is finished, it can be massaged gently onto varicose veins and spider veins or applied to hemorrhoids. Horse chestnut is also helpful for:
- legs and ankles that are tired and puffy after a long day standing
- restless leg syndrome (apply just before bed)
- the swelling of sprains
Apply horse chestnut oil or salve 1-2 times each day.
Whether your concern is shrinking varicose for health reasons, relieving the discomfort of hemorrhoids, or getting rid of spider veins for purely cosmetic reasons, natural relief for varicose veins can be as simple (and enjoyable) as gently massaging horse chestnut salve over the affected areas each evening.
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This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.
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Bruton-Seal, Julie and Matthew Seal. Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies. Skyhorse Publishing, 2009.
Gallagher, Jen. “Essential Oils for Varicose Veins?” Essential Oil Goddess. Web.
Green, James. The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. Crossing Press, 2000.
Green, James. The Male Herbal. Crossing Press, 2007.
“How to Make Homemade Oils Infused with Herbs.” Healing from Home Remedies, 2015. Web.
Loren. “6 Essential Oil Based Remedies for Varicose Veins.” Essential Oil Sanctuary, 31 May 2015. Web.
Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don’t Know. Prentice Hall Press, 2010.