Natural Health with Megan Sheppard: Horse chestnut supplements and cruciferous vegetables

Megan Sheppard offers some natural solutions. 

My daughter, 17, has just started working at a hairdressing salon. She loves her job, but has very painful legs at the end of the day. The women in our family suffer from varicose veins, and she already has the beginnings of spider veins behind her knees. Do do you know of anything that she can do to help with the pain and prevent the veins from getting worse?

One of the best things she can do when she gets home at the end of her workday is to lie with her back flat on the floor with her legs up against the wall. She will need to make sure that her buttocks are as close to the wall as possible, then swing her hips so that the backs of her legs and heels rest fully against the wall. Hold this pose for anywhere from five to 15 minutes.

This is a very relaxing pose to do and is actually used in yoga where it is called viparita karani (also known as legs up the wall posture). It is one of the simplest inverted poses and may help with a number of health conditions.

It assists in reducing swelling in the legs and feet, draining fluid build-up and reversing the effects of gravity after standing all day. This will also help with tired muscles and you can even use it to ease sore hips or lower back if you prop a support underneath your buttocks (a firm cushion or rolled towel will do).

Inverted poses like this are also soothing for the nervous system, so are fabulously calming, and are even reputed to balance blood pressure and improve digestive function. Your daughter will also benefit from getting plenty of soluble fibre in her diet, as refined and low-fibre foods are linked with varicosity, including haemorrhoids. If there is not enough fibre in the diet stools tend to be smaller and harder, causing more strain as they are difficult to pass. Constipation and straining weaken the vein walls, putting pressure on the intestinal membranes.

Along with sufficient fibre, she needs to make sure that she drinks enough water during the day. Fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, and natural soluble fibre supplements such as psyllium husks will all help protect her circulatory system.

One final recommendation: locate some herbal horse chestnut supplements for both the inside and outside.

A. Vogel has created Venaforce Horse Chestnut tablets and Venagel Horse Chestnut gel to help with spider and varicose veins. The tablets cost €23.99 for 60, and the gel costs €16.75 for 100ml. Both products are available online from or you can find them in health stores. Do not take horse chestnut together with aspirin or other anti-coagulants.

My naturopath has told me to eat more cruciferous vegetables, but I am getting a little tired of broccoli and cauliflower. I don’t like Brussels sprouts or kale, and would like to add a little more variation. Which other vegetables can I eat?

Fortunately, there are a number of cruciferous vegetables to choose from besides kale and Brussels sprouts —cabbage, (including savoy cabbage and Chinese cabbage), bok choy/pak choy, daikon radish, watercress, horseradish, shepherd’s purse, mustard greens, turnip greens, Romanesco, rocket or you could even try the cross between broccoli and cauliflower, broccoflower.

Cruciferous vegetables get their name from their flowers, as all bear four petals in the shape of a cross. They are a wonderful source of organic sulphur, antioxidant nutrients, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and even protein.

One of the main reasons why cruciferous vegetables regularly feature in health articles is their cancer-protective properties. The phytochemical compounds known as glucosinolates can help to stop the growth of breast, cervical, and prostate cancers. If you eat your brassicas raw then you also help to reduce bladder cancer risk.

The other way you can introduce some variety is to vary how you prepare them — steam, stir fry, ferment, or eat raw. I suggest you avoid boiling until they lose all colour (both for taste and nutritional value).

Do you have a question for Megan Sheppard? Email it to or send a letter to:


Irish Examiner,

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NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.


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