Astringent Herbs, Hemorrhoids, Varicose Veins, Shepherd's Purse, Fumitory, Witch Hazel, Rosemary

HERB 201

“Astringent herbs have a binding action on mucous membranes, skin, and other tissue, which translates to an ability to shrink tissues and reduce secretions. Astringent actions are related to the presence of chemicals called tannins, so named because they are used in tanning leather."

Quote from pg. 244 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Astringent Herbs and Secondary Actions

  • Anti-inflammatory – Agrimonia eupatoria, Euphrasia officinalis
  • Antimicrobial – Achillea millefolium, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
  • Antispasmodic – Lycopus spp., Prunus serotina
  • Bitter – Achillea millefolium, Agrimonia eupatoria
  • Diuretic – Achillea millefolium, Agrimonia eupatoria, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
  • Nervine – Prunus serotina, Rosmarinus officinalis

Quote from pg. 248 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.


"Symptoms caused by hemorrhoids include bleeding, protrusion of tissue, and pain. Bleeding from the rectum must never be assumed to be due to hemorrhoids, but requires prompt and correct diagnosis, as it could be a sign of a serious problem."

"The problem [hemorrhoids] is a combination of both digestive and cardiovascular system issues. Thus, the treatment should include both blood vessel tonics and lower bowel support . . . The materia medicas of many cultures contain herbs with a reputation for effectiveness in the treatment of this common problem. In Europe, nothing matches the action of the aptly named pilewort (Ranunculus ficaria)."

"Avoidance or elimination of constipation is often the key to alleviating hemorrhoids. Thus, in addition to direct herbal treatment of the hemorrhoids themselves, the following must be addressed . . . Is the patient taking drugs that effect bowel motility . . . Are any digestive conditions present . . . Does the patient have a sedentary lifestyle . . . Is the patient under stress or suffering from depression". Quotes from pg. 289 and 290 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press."

Varicose Veins

  • "Varicose veins are a common problem that affects between 10% and 20% of the population. Incidence increases with age, and it is most common in people older than 50. In addition, varicose veins are four times more common in women than in men . . . The core problem is valve incompetency in the veins of the legs, which leads to dilation of the veins, loss of tissue tone, and some degree of reversal of blood flow."
  • "The herbal treatment guidelines given . . . For varicose veins must be applied in the context of the lifestyle issues discussed earlier. The focus of tonic support should be the cardiovascular system, but beyond that, a range of factors may be addressed, depending upon the individual’s needs. Consider musculoskeletal and connective tissue tonics if varicosity is accompanied by rheumatic problems. If the patient is pregnant, then appropriate uterine tonics are indicated."
  • "Flavonoid-rich plants have a major role to play in toning up the muscle walls of weakened veins. Traditionally, in Europe, Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) has been considered an effective specific. The seeds of this plant have long been used to treat venous disorders, including varicose veins. The saponin glycoside aescin inhibits the activity of lysosomal enzymes thought to contribute to varicose veins by weakening vessel walls and increasing permeability."
  • "Aromatherapy can help improve the general tone of the veins when used in a broad, holistic context. Cypress oil, for example, has a reputation for strengthening the veins in the legs. It may be added to a bath oil or blended in a carrier oil or cream in a 3% dilution and applied very gently over the affected area."

Quotes from pg. 312-314314 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press

How Astringents Work

"Astringent action is due to a diverse group of complex chemicals, called tannins or gallotannins, that have certain chemical and physical properties in common. All members of this group have phenolic characteristics, are soluble in water, and have molecular weights ranging from 500 to 3,000."

"Astringents have a role in a wide range of problems in many parts of the body but are of great importance in wound healing and conditions affecting the digestive system. In the gut, they reduce inflammation, improve symptoms of diarrhea, and are widely used in various diseases of digestion." Quotes from pg. 496-497 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Sheperd’s Purse – Capsella bursa-pastoril L. Medikus

"Shepherd’s purse may be used whenever a gentle diuretic is indicated – for instance, to alleviate water retention due to kidney problems. As an astringent, the herb proves effective in the treatment of diarrhea, wounds, nosebleeds, and other conditions. It traditionally was used to stimulate menstrual process, but is also of value in reducing excess menstrual flow."

Quote from pg. 535 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Fumitory – Fumaria officinalis DC.

"Fumitory has a long history of use for the treatment of skin problems, such as eczema and acne. Its acion is probably related to general cleansing mediated via the kidneys and liver. Fumitory may also be used as an eyewash to soothe conjunctivitis." Quote from pg. 552 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Witch Hazel – Hamamelis virginiana L.

"[Witch Hazel] can be found in most households in the form of distilled witch hazel. It is one of the easiest-to-use astringents for external use. As with all astringents, witch hazel may be applied in all cases of bleeding, internal and external. It is especially valuable for easing symptoms of hemorrhoids, and has a well-deserved reputation for the treatment of bruises, inflamed swellings, and varicose veins."

Quote from pg. 556 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis L.

"Rosemary is a circulatory and nervine stimulant. It has a toning and calming effect on digestion, especially when stomach upset is accompanied by psychological tension. Thus, conditions appropriate for treatment with rosemary include flatulent dyspepsia with headache or depression associated with debility. Applied externally, it helps ease muscular pain, sciatica, and neuralgia."

Quote from pg. 577 of: Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

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