Horse Chestnut for Veins and Circulation

By Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

July 29, 2012

Horse Chestnut for Veins and Circulation

How Veins in Legs Work

Arteries deliver oxygenated blood from your heart to the rest of your body. A network of veins returns deoxygenated blood to your heart, which sends it to your lungs to pick up more oxygen. Your legs have three types of veins that work together to pump blood "uphill" against gravity to get it back to your heart. Superficial veins lie close to your skin.

You also have perforating veins, which connect your superficial veins to your deep veins. Your deep veins lie in groups of muscles and are the main workhorses that pump the blood back up to your heart. The flow of blood upwards is driven by pressure within the system (the push factor), muscle contractions (the massage factor), and valves that prevent blood that is moving up from going back down (the backflow factor). Another issue is the structural integrity of the veins and valves themselves.

Your veins are much thinner than your arteries, as the blood flowing through them is under much less pressure. As you age your veins lose tone, which causes them to stretch out too easily (like skin that is wrinkling or not so elastic anymore). Veins also develop little gaps in their structure and leak fluids too easily. This creates a tendency for fluid and pressure to build up in your legs (indicated by sock mark lines or noticeably swollen ankles or lower legs). If you lack muscle fitness or activity then the massage factor isn’t working right, which is part of the reason blood moves upwards, again causing lower leg pressure and the tendency to increase overall blood pressure. On top of that, your backflow prevention valves in your veins may lose fitness, which means they don’t close all the way and blood tends to leak back downhill.

Horse Chestnut Extract and Chronic Venous Insufficiency

The horse chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) produces a seed that is used as a dietary supplement extract. Horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) is a rich source of a nutrient called aescin (also escin), which is believed to be its biologically active compound.

Horse chestnut extract works in multiple ways to support the health of your capillaries and veins1. It is a direct tonic substance for veins and valves, a source of nourishment that enhances their structure. It has been shown to close small gaps in veins2 that allow fluid leakage. In addition to its structural support for veins and valves it has a regulating function relating to both capillaries and veins that involves ion channels and the flow of calcium in particular. Its actions are unique and fascinating.

On the one hand, horse chestnut seed extract relaxes the endothelial lining of capillaries3, enhancing friendly nitric oxide production, and reducing inflammation4. This generally supports appropriate pressure or push coming from the arteries (healthy blood pressure). It also helps seal up capillaries that leak too much water into the tissues.  On the other hand, while assisting the structural integrity of veins and valves, horse chestnut seed extract increases the pressure in veins so they can pump blood more efficiently against gravity (as opposed to the relaxing effect it has on capillaries). It also helps improve flow through the closely related lymphatic system --another pressure system that can get backed up and cause circulation problems. This is a unique combination of beneficial actions that are helpful to lower leg circulation.

As a dietary supplement horse chestnut is synergistic with other supplements that support cardiovascular integrity, such as grape seed extract, hawthorn, resveratrol, DHA, pomegranate, polymethoxylated flavones, and tocotrienols; each nutrient adds its own unique benefits to a support plan for cardiovascular integrity and improved function.

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