Nicola Parker, of Health and Herbs, Morecambe, writes about improving circulation to prevent varicose veins.
With summer on the horizon and winter threatening to outstay its welcome, I thought I’d bring up a topic that usually goes unmentioned during British winters: legs!
While they may still be hidden by thick layers of winter clothing, our legs are usually the first victim of poor circulation.
Circulation refers to the cycle of blood that flows from our heart, around the body and back to the heart again.
Ensuring proper blood flow to and from the heart helps to prevent varicose veins, itchy legs and swollen ankles, as well as keeping our hands and feet cosy, warm and healthy.
Varicose veins and purple thread veins are a sign that the blood vessels in the legs have weakened.
Gravity is a powerful force to contend with, so the veins must remain strong in order to work against it.
They are filled with small valves that open and close, sending blood upwards section by section.
If these valves become weak, blood leaks from one section and gathers in the section below, causing this part of the vein to swell and enlarge until it is visible through the skin.
If this damage is widespread, the feet and/or ankles may become swollen as gravity wins the battle and drags fluid downwards.
As fluid is pulled downwards your legs will start to feel heavy, tired and achy.
To help your veins, keep your legs up while sitting down.
Use a couple of pillows under your feet at night to make gravity work for your veins rather than against them.
Working your muscles stimulates blood flow back up the legs so try to move about and take breaks from prolonged periods of sitting.
Varicose veins can be unsightly and cause itching, swelling and heavy, aching feelings in the legs.
Left untreated they can lead to complications like eczema, sore, discoloured skin and even ulcers.
The key herb we use in our shop and clinic is horse chestnut.
Horse chestnut contains aescin.
Studies have found that it may be aescin (a part of the horse chestnut) that is responsible for taking inflammation out of the veins, stopping them itching and looking swollen.
Aescin has also been shown to help protect and repair the walls of the blood vessels, encouraging toning and healing to improve blood flow back up the leg.
In our shop we recommend Vena-products, available as a gel or as a tablet.
Venagel is wonderful for people who are already on lots of medication and are trying to avoid adding tablets to their regime.
The gel is marketed for ‘tired heavy legs’ but we recently tried it on a lady whose legs were prone to swelling.
She had been offered a water pill by her doctor but hadn’t got on well with the medication previously so this time she wanted to try something different.
She admitted to feeling a heavy, dragging sensation in her legs but was more concerned with the swelling rather than the discomfort.
After suggesting she try the Venagel she returned after a few weeks to report a marked improvement, in how her legs looked and in how they felt.
While the gel is useful, there are certain places you can’t use it.
Weak veins in the legs cause the problems I’ve already discussed.
But weak veins internally can cause haemorrhoids (piles) which can make the most basic of bodily functions horrendously uncomfortable.
If you suffer with piles, ensure your diet is high in water and fibre.
This helps keep stools soft and easy to pass, as constipation is nobody’s friend.
A recent visit to our shop was made by a lady who wished to ask advice for her rather embarrassed grand-daughter.
The young lady was having such pain on using the bathroom that she had to bite down on a towel to be able to bear it.
Too embarrassed to ask for help herself, grandma came to the rescue and we recommended the Venaforce tablets.
Within two weeks grandma was back for another pot, reporting delightful results and a very grateful and pain free grand-daughter.
So if you suffer with weak veins that are currently hidden by winter layers, it’s not too soon to start preparing them for summer shorts by looking after your circulation.