In my series on chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), I’ve dug through the medical research for the best natural options at your disposal. As usual, all are supported by evidence. One quick note: never treat phlebitis or leg ulcers by yourself without close supervision by your doctor. Here, in part two, I’m focusing on one remedy in particular; the best one available. Its name: horse chestnut.
Of three natural therapies for CVI, only one is sold in the U.S., so it’s the only one that needs mentioning: horse chestnut. The seeds of this herb hold the active ingredient saponin (a.k.a. aescin), which can boost circulation in the veins. U.K. researchers recently reviewed all the studies on horse chestnut’s effectiveness on CVI. Here is what they found:
— Horse chestnut treatment improved CVI symptoms. In six of seven studies, people taking horse chestnut had significantly less leg pain than the placebo group.
— In five of six studies, leg volume was reduced in the horse chestnut group as compared to control.
— In one study, horse chestnut treatment was just as effective as a conventional “compression” device.
Look for horse chestnut extracts with 16% to 20% “aescin” content. A safe dosage is 300 milligrams, taken two to three times a day. You can also apply gels or creams with two percent aescin three or four times a day for skin ulcers and varicose veins. Horse chestnut is considered safe for adults at these doses, over the short term. It’s possible you may experience stomach upset, calf spasm, headache, dizziness, nausea, or itching. With the creams, it’s possible you may get irritated skin.
If you have liver or kidney disease, you need to consult your doctor before taking horse chestnut, because renal (kidney) toxicity can occur when using high doses. Though there has been liver toxicity after a patient received an intramuscular injection of a horse chestnut product, there are no reports of similar events with oral products. If you have diabetes, there is an increased risk of this diet supplement lowering blood sugar levels. If you take blood- thinning drugs, there is a possible increased risk of bleeding if you also take this herb. For all, consult a doctor first.
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