Can Ayurvedic Treatment Help Varicose Veins?
An ancient holistic practice born in India, some sources claim that ayurvedic medicine can cure varicose veins. But is that true?
Many alternative therapies tout their ability to cure the pain and swelling of varicose veins. One of those remedies is Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient practice that originated in India centuries ago and is still popular today.
Ayurvedic medicine revolves around a holistic philosophy of bringing mind, spirit, and body into balance to fight disease. It’s based on three life forces, or doshas, that affect bodily functions. The doshas are vata (air and space), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water). According to ayurvedic philosophy, when the doshas misalign, or one is stronger than another, you may experience illness. The purpose of ayurvedic medicine is to balance those elements with a combination of diet, medicines, and massage to promote good health. But can this treatment help cure varicose veins?
Ayurvedic Medicine and Varicose Veins
In ayurvedic philosophy, the vata dosha is said to be the most powerful. It controls your mind, breathing, blood flow, heart function, and digestion. Staying up late, fear, grief, and eating too soon after a meal can disrupt vata and result in anxiety, asthma, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and skin problems. According to ayurvedic medicine, vata has the most influence on varicose veins.
Pitta dosha impacts your digestion, metabolism, and appetite. Consuming spicy foods — a practice ayurvedic strongly discourages — upsets the pitta dosha. High blood pressure, heart disease, Crohn’s disease, and infections are linked to an imbalanced pitta dosha. Lastly, kapha dosha controls muscle growth, strength, weight, and immunity. Sweet and salty foods, as well as sleeping during the day, can disrupt the kapha dosha and possibly lead to asthma, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
To bring the doshas into balance, ayurvedic medicine recommends a variety of treatments that include dietary rules, medicines, and massage, among other therapies. Dietary rules dictate avoiding bitter-tasting foods like leafy green vegetables, spicy foods like radishes and chiles, and astringent foods that have a dry taste in the mouth such as legumes, grains, and some fruits.
Ayurvedic medicines include products that contain plants, animal byproducts, minerals, and metals. Its massage therapy is known as abhyanga. During an abhyanga session, warm herb-infused oil is soothed over the body.
One ayurvedic medicine purported to treat varicose veins is gotu kola, an herb grown in India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. It’s similar to parsley, and is available as a tea, capsule, or tincture. In regards to varicose veins, gotu kola is said to strengthen the vein walls by increasing the production of collagen and elastin. However, no scientific evidence backs up this claim.
Other ayurvedic therapies range from leeches applied to the skin around varicose veins. The leeches produce a substance that thins the blood and therefore is believed to promote healthy blood flow.
A small sampling of studies on the effect of ayurvedic treatments on varicose veins and related vein disorders suggest minimal benefits. A 2013 case study focused on one 61-year-old individual who suffered from a venous ulcer on the leg. After treatment with ayurvedic medicines and enemas (another practice supported by ayurvedic practice), the wound showed significant improvement. In 1998, a study found leech therapy improved swelling and sores associated with varicose veins. However, that study was based on a cohort of only 20 subjects.
In 2011, a study concluded that abhyanga massage lowered blood pressure in 20 participants. Varicose veins and hypertension are related, so lowering blood pressure could prevent swollen veins. Again, the study was based on a small sample size.
Conversely, another case study done in 2018 reported ayurvedic treatments did not cure varicose veins in a 54-year-old subject. The man subsequently underwent endovenous laser ablation to eliminate his enlarged varicose veins.
The lack of scientific research and the small number of participants in these studies indicate ayurvedic medicine may not be a viable treatment for varicose veins. Further, the Food and Drug Administration notes many ayurvedic medicines contain harmful metals such as lead and mercury.
As with any alternative therapy, proceed with caution and check with your doctor before starting ayurvedic treatments. Currently, the only proven method to eliminate varicose veins is one of several safe, minimally invasive procedures performed by a vein specialist.
Get the Right Treatment for Your Varicose Veins
Center for Vein Restoration offers a full selection of varicose vein treatments, from at-home remedies to in-office, same-day procedures. Our vein specialists will discuss each one with you and help you choose the one right for you. Contact us for more information.