Various international studies have found that between a quarter and half of all adults will have varicose veins at some point.
Varicose veins can be embarrassing, but in many cases, they can become painful. As the veins bulge with blood, they can cause edema – swelling – of the legs and feet. This can cause fatigue and slight or throbbing pain.
This doesn’t mean everyone with varicose veins experiences these symptoms. But as the problem gets worse, especially with aging, edema and pain can definitely become a challenge.
Even small “spider veins” can gradually turn into varicose veins. Especially when these are located in the lower extremities.
The reason for most cases of varicose veins is related to the health of the veins’ one-way valves. These valves are also sometimes called ‘pumps’ because they move upward to push blood up towards the heart. The heart will easily pump oxygenated blood down into the extremities (legs and arms). But getting the depleted blood back to the heart requires these pumps or valves within the veins to push the blood back up.
These little valves can become damaged just as arteries become damaged. Damage to these blood vessels can occur due to a build-up of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) which become oxidized. Once oxidized, they become free radicals.
These free radicals damage the blood vessel wall. This damage creates a build-up of plaque. This damage and plaque build-up also can damage the valves in the veins that pump blood back to the heart.
Another problem that can cause varicose veins relates to increased insulin resistance – related to type 2 diabetes. This can leave an increased supply of glucose in the blood. Glucose can also become oxidized. The oxidized free radical can in turn damage the vein valves.
Reversing varicose veins is possible with the right diet and healing strategies. It turns out that at least one of these tools can have a significant effect, however: Apple cider vinegar.
Apple Cider Vinegar tested against varicose veins
Cardiovascular researchers from Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal University Medical School investigated the possibility that externally applying Apple Cider Vinegar onto the skin over varicose veins might have a positive effect.
The researchers investigated this by testing 80 patients with varicose veins. The patients were diagnosed and separated into two groups. One group applied the Apple Cider Vinegar onto their skin twice a day for a month.
They accomplished this by elevating the extremity (usually the legs) by 45 degrees, then soaking a cotton wrap in Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). They then wrapped their leg or other region with the soaked clothe for 30 minutes. Afterwards they applied a moisturizer to the skin to prevent irritation.
The other 40 patients did not apply the ACV for the month. All 80 patients received the same testing before and after the treatment.
Significant changes for Apple Cider Vinegar group
As mentioned, 40 of the varicose patients applied the apple cider vinegar onto their skin. These 40 along with another 40 patients were examined prior to and after the 30-day period. The examinations included assessments for pain, swelling, cramping, itching, feeling heavy and fatigue. They were also tested for social anxiety related to how their skin looked.
Three patients had severe pain in the ACV group. After the application, none of those three had very severe pain. Thirteen patients had severe pain prior, and nine had severe pain after the month of ACV application. Sixteen patients had “disturbing” pain before the test period, and 13 patients had this type of pain afterwards. Those ten patients that had very severe, severe or disturbing pain before the treatment period all judged their pain as “slight” at the end of the study.
Also, the total pain perception score using the VAS standard (Visual Analog Scale) showed the ACV group’s pain went down from 41.9 to 35.67 – a drop of 6.23. The control group’s pain perception numbers also dropped, but by 4.13.
Of the six ACV patients who complained of significant cramping before the test period, only two had significant cramping after the study. And three less people had “sometimes” cramping. All of these had no cramping at the end of the study among the ACV group.
Of the four patients who had severe edema (swelling) in the ACV group, none had severe edema at the end of the study. Of the 25 that had slight edema in the ACV group, 19 had slight edema at the end, and the rest had no swelling at the end of the study.
Nine patients in the ACV group had itching before the study, afterwards, only two reported itching in the ACV group.
Four patients in the ACV group had very severe weight feeling in the beginning. Only one had this at the end. Twelve had severe weight feeling in the beginning and only five had this at the end.
The same type of changes were seen in this category. Three very severe in the ACV group ended with one. And eleven severe patients in the ACV group ended with four at the end of the study.
Social appearance anxiety
The ACV application group’s anxiety levels dropped from 5.21 to 4.15 – a drop of 1.06. Meanwhile, the control group’s levels dropped by only 0.27.
Why did the Apple Cider Vinegar have this effect?
Apple cider vinegar has been in use by natural doctors for at least 2,000 years. For example, Hippocrates prescribed Apple Cider Vinegar with Honey for a number of conditions.
Apple Cider Vinegar contains acetic acid, a number of polyphenols, pectin from the apples, along with carotenoids. ACV also has antibacterial properties. And because acetic acid helps promote the growth of probiotics, ACV is good for the gut.
There are also a number of studies that have shown Apple Cider Vinegar to be healthy. For example, a study from Sweden’s Lund University – of 12 healthy people – found that vinegar with a meal reduced blood glucose and insulin response. It also increased satiety.
Also, a mice study found that Apple Cider Vinegar reduced oxidative lipids and increased cardiovascular health. This was also found in another study on diabetic rats a few years earlier.
Another study that analyzed cells in the lab showed that ACV reduced the oxidation of LDL. This is significant, because as mentioned above, excessive oxidized LDL will damage the valves in the veins. By reducing this oxidation of LDL, there is less damage, possibly allowing the valves to become healed.
Again, one of the main components of Apple Cider Vinegar is acetic acid. This is produced by bacteria and yeast as they colonize within a batch of vinegar. Research has also shown acetic acid-producing bacteria within our gut also increase cognitive health.
Illustrating this, a study from Tokyo’s Kyorin University School of Medicine found that acetic acid increases cognition among middle-aged and elderly people. The researchers discovered that supplemented probiotic bacteria that produces acetic acid increases working memory along with recall.
Cognitive health is vitally connected with the health of the tiny veins and capillaries of the brain. This again brings us to the connection between LDL oxidation and the acetic acid from Apple Cider Vinegar.
Discover: Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Other natural varicose vein strategies
There are several other natural products said to help varicose veins. These include:
• Horse chestnut (topical and internal)
• Butcher’s Broom (internal)
• Mustard oil (topical)
• Aloe vera (topical)
• Green clay (topical)
• Citrus peel (internal)
Again, the likely component of most of these healing agents is their ability to reduce LDL oxidation damage. Some, like the citrus and the horse chestnut, are also thought to encourage healing of the vein valves. Dietary strategies can also help accomplish this.
Derya Atik, Cem Atik, and Celalettin Karatepe, The Effect of External Apple Vinegar Application on Varicosity Symptoms, Pain, and Social Appearance Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2016, Article ID 6473678, 8 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/6473678.
Ostman E, Granfeldt Y, Persson L, Björck I. Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Sep;59(9):983-8.
Hiroyuki Fukami, Hideki Tachimoto, Mikiya Kishi, Takayuki Kage, Yasukazu Tanaka, Yoshihiko Koga, Takuji Shirasawa. Continuous Ingestion of Acetic Acid Bacteria: Effect on Cognitive Function in Healthy Middle-Aged and Elderly Persons. Anti-aging Med. 2009 Vol 6;7,p60-65. http://doi.org/10.3793/jaam.6.60
Lu HJ, Breidt F Jr, Pérez-Díaz IM, Osborne JA. Antimicrobial effects of weak acids on the survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7 under anaerobic conditions. J
Food Prot. 2011 Jun;74(6):893-8. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-10-404.
Shishehbor F, Mansoori A, Sarkaki AR, Jalali MT, Latifi SM. Apple cider vinegar attenuates lipid profile in normal and diabetic rats. Pak J Biol Sci. 2008 Dec 1;11(23):2634-8.
Nazıroğlu M, Güler M, Özgül C, Saydam G, Küçükayaz M, Sözbir E. Apple cider vinegar modulates serum lipid profile, erythrocyte, kidney, and liver membrane oxidative stress in ovariectomized mice fed high cholesterol. J Membr Biol. 2014 Aug;247(8):667-73. doi: 10.1007/s00232-014-9685-5.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.