Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
The horse chestnut or buckeye tree is a beautiful deciduous shade tree that can grow to a height of 120 feet. Large leaves show off panicles full of white flowers with a red spot on them. After flowering, the tree produces a green fruit contained in a spiky capsule. Once the capsule is ripe and is removed, you are left with a beautiful shiny reddish-brown nut. Native to Asia, the chestnut tree now grows all over Europe and North America.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Horse chestnut seed extract is used in Europe to treat chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which includes swelling of the leg, varicose veins, leg pain, skin ulcers and itching. Studies show significant decrease in symptoms when using chestnut seed extract. Chestnut is a diuretic and will help relieve edema. Traditionally, it has also been used as a cough remedy and to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatism and arthritis.
Externally Horse chestnut has been used to treat hemorrhoids, wounds, sprains and strains. Poultices can be applied to skin ulcers and skin cancer.
Other Uses Horse chestnuts are used in Britain to play a children's game called conkers. They were also used during World War II to provide starch to produce an acetone solvent to use for military armaments. Chestnuts used to be used in Europe to whiten flax, hemp, wool and silk. The juice is soapy and can be used to wash linens and other fabrics, as well as for fulling cloth. This tree is used as a Bach flower remedy known as White Chestnut or Chestnut Bud. The shiny nuts are sometimes used as beads for jewelry.
Bark, fruit The bark and fruit are used medicinally.
Children and diabetics should avoid taking horse chestnut. Injections of this herb are not recommended due to severe allergic reactions. Side effects include anaphylactic shock, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, weakness, confusion, poor coordination and twitching of the muscles, paralysis or coma. Dermatitis may occur on the skin when using a topical application. Chestnut may lower blood sugar or increase bleeding.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take horse chestnut. This herb may interact with some prescription medications like blood thinners and anti-inflammatories. It may interact with herbs like ginkgo biloba, garlic and saw palmetto.
Preparation and Dosage
For adults, horse chestnut may be taken orally in doses of 300 mg every 12 hours for up to 12 weeks. Topically, a gel can be applied as needed for bruising.