Grapes have been used in folk medicine since the time of the ancient Greeks to treat a wide variety of health problems from bleeding and inflammation to cancer and smallpox. Clinical research is finding grapes and grape seed extract contain potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may verify some claims for the fruit’s ability to promote healthy blood vessels and treat varicose veins.
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Varicose veins are the most common vein disorder, affecting 60 percent of Americans, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, although they’re more likely to affect women. Symptoms include unsightly dark blue blood vessels in the legs and feet, an aching or burning feeling your lower legs and swelling in the ankles and feet. Varicose veins are caused when veins become enlarged and twisted due to aging or pregnancy and prevent blood from moving effectively, even flowing backward and pooling in your veins. Complications can include blood clots and skin ulcers.
Benefits for Varicose Veins
Red or purple grapes are considered the healthiest varieties of the fruit, with seeds from these grapes containing high levels of vitamin E, flavonoids and linoleic acid. Grapes and grape seed extract also contain the potent antioxidant compounds known as oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes, or OPCs, which may reduce leakage in veins and swelling in the legs at dose of 720 milligrams of grape seed extract per day. However, no studies have evaluated whether grape seed extract can make varicose veins disappear completely or prevent new ones from developing.
A double-blind study conducted in France in 1981 on 50 patients with varicose veins found that 150 milligrams daily of a commercial grape seed extract worked more quickly and its effects lasted longer than the prescription drug diosmin in reducing the pain, burning, tingling and swelling of varicose veins. A separate French study of the same commercial grape seed extract found that grape seed OPCs at a dose of 100 mg three times per day significantly improved heaviness, swelling and leg discomfort from chronic venous insufficiency, a similar condition to varicose veins. Over a period of one month, 75 percent of the treated patients improved substantially. Research published in “Minerva Cardioangiolica” in 1999 showed that grape OPCs caused itching and pain to disappear in leg venous insufficiency in 80 percent and 53 percent of patients studied, respectively.
The University of Maryland Medical Center does not recommend grape seed extracts for children nor for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Taking grape seed supplements in combination with blood thinners such as warfarin could increase bleeding, and taking grape seed with vitamin C may raise blood pressure. Other side effects are mild and include a dry, itchy scalp, hives, dizziness, headache, elevated blood pressure, indigestion and nausea.