©2007 Publications International St. John's wort also reduces inflammation and is used externally and internally to treat varicose veins.

Swollen veins: If the term doesn't sound comfortable, it's because swollen veins often aren't. Varicose veins and hemorrhoids are two examples of swollen veins.

Swollen, or varicose veins, can result from a number of factors -- some avoidable, such as being overweight, and some unavoidable, such as swollen veins resulting from physical actions such as lifting. No matter what the cause, a number of herbal remedies exist to treat the discomfort of varicose veins.

About Varicose Veins

Unlike arteries, which carry blood away from the heart, veins carry blood to the heart, often against the force of gravity. Small valves in some veins assist in the process. Any pressure on the legs will strain the veins in the lower extremities and the valves within them.

Conditions that cause leg pressure include obesity, pregnancy, heavy lifting, and lengthy standing or sitting. Blood pools, veins swell, and thus the familiar blue varicose veins are born.

Although the veins in the rectal area don't have valves, they can still swell from these causes, forming hemorrhoids. Straining during bowel movements, a common practice when you're constipated, and pregnancy both increase pressure on the rectal veins.

Herbal Remedies for Varicose Veins

Butcher's broom, St. John's wort, and witch hazel are particularly helpful in relieving the ache and discomfort of varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Butcher's broom contains compounds called ruscogenins. These substances decrease inflammation while constricting the vein. Taken internally, 100 mg ruscogenins -- usually a whole herb extract -- taken three times per day is beneficial. German researchers verify that this herb helps to tighten, strengthen, and decrease inflammation in veins, helping blood flow up the legs. A compress of butcher's broom may be applied externally.

St. John's wort also reduces inflammation and is used externally and internally for both ailments. Use it externally in salves, oils, or tinctures, rubbing them into the affected area. Drink infusions of St. John's wort to provide nutrients and compounds that will nourish the stressed veins. This herb should be used fresh or freeze-dried, as it loses its medicinal properties if air-dried.

Witch hazel, the famous astringent herb, is full of tannins, gallic acids, and essential oils. While you can take it internally as tea, it is best to make a strong decoction for use as a compress. When applied to hemorrhoids, witch hazel reduces pain and swelling. It also tightens and soothes aching varicose veins and reduces inflammation.

When applied externally, lavender, too, will reduce inflammation and help heal these enlarged vessels. Yarrow, horse chestnut, calendula tincture, and chamomile are also helpful used topically.

Flavonoid-rich foods help reduce the risk of developing varicose veins and hemorrhoids because of their strengthening action on the veins. These compounds reduce fragility and tone the muscles that line the walls of the vessels. Blue, red, and purple foods, such as berries, cherries, and plums, are rich in flavonoids, as are some herbs such as St. John's wort, hawthorn, linden flowers, and bilberry.

Rosemary not only strengthens and protects vessels with its antioxidants, but also improves circulation, thus helping to alleviate both varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Use liberally in foods, and make a liniment to apply topically.

Keeping circulation and weight control in mind can help prevent swollen veins. And, whether seeking to prevent or treat varicose veins with a compress, herbal remedies involving herbs such as rosemary and witch hazel may offer help and, hopefully, relief.

Eric Yarnell, N.D., R.H. (A.H.G.) is a naturopathic physician and registered herbalist in private practice specializing in men's health and urology.  He is an assistant professor in the botanical medicine department at Bastyr University in Seattle and is president or the Botanical Medicine Academy.  He is the author of several textbooks including Naturopathic Gastroenterology, Naturopathic Urology and Men's Health, and Clinical Botanical Medicine; He writes a regular column on herbal medicine for Alternative and Complementary Therapies.  This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.