Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) tree is native to Southeastern Europe and Asia. It is also known as the conker tree. It makes multiple shiny brown seeds that should not be eaten due to their poisonous nature but can be ground and processed carefully to make an excellent medication. The seeds of horse chestnut are mainly used in preparing medications. Aescin is the most important constituent. Triterpene saponins and flavonoids are the other important constituents.
Poor Vein Health (Varicose veins and Venous insufficiency)
The horse chestnut is an excellent remedy for toning up the veins (wall). When veins become sore and damaged, they tend to leak. Horse chestnut draws back the fluid into the veins and heals the leaky veins. Swelling and congestion of the veins is reduced and there is less inflammation in the veins. Varicose veins can be treated well with horse chestnut and venous insufficiency is also managed with this herbal remedy. Patients take a standardized capsule or tablet of horse chestnut extract, or take it in the form of a medicated lotion, gel or ointment that is gently rubbed over the areas most affected by varicose veins, or swelling due to venous insufficiency.
Studies (Barts hospital, London) have shown that horse chestnut is just as effective as using compression stockings on individuals with obvious varicose veins. The seeds are mainly used in preparing the medication for varicose veins.
Horse chestnut can be applied as a gel, ointment or lotion to treat hemorrhoids, which are enlarged veins circling the rectum. It has anti-inflammatory properties and so the veins are soothed as well as shrunken. It should not be used on hemorrhoids that are open or ulcerated, as too much medication can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the open sores.
Leg Cramps and Deep Vein Thrombosis
Leg cramps come mainly from swollen tissue in the veins of muscles of the legs. Putting on horse chestnut gel, lotion or cream will decrease the congestion of the leg muscles and relax the veins. It can even be used for treating deep vein thrombosis, but should only be done under medical supervision as this is a serious condition. It can also be used to cut down the risks of deep vein thrombosis during long flight travel.
Horse chestnut can be used to treat frostbite. It reduces the inflammation seen in frostbite. It can be applied topically or taken internally to heal the skin damage caused by frostbite. When used internally, inflammation of the mucous membranes in the gastrointestinal tract occur rarely.
Arthritis and Rheumatism
It is commonly used in France as a treatment for rheumatism. An oil is extracted from the conkers and is applied topically over stiff joints and sore muscles. The high anti-inflammatory properties of horse chestnut extract is useful to relive pain and swelling of arthritis.
Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
The leaves of the horse chestnut tree can be made as a decoction. It is used for those who have pertussis or whooping cough, where it is very successful in controlling the cough and chest congestion. It is also helpful in treating other respiratory conditions.
It is taken as a tablet containing 90-150 milligrams of standardized extract. It is also taken along with Butcher’s broom for treating certain conditions. It should not be used during pregnancy and breast feeding unless recommended by a skilled healthcare practitioner. The herb is not suitable for children as it causes digestive irritation. The seeds are the most commonly used part of the plant; however a decoction of the bark is used as well.
1. Barnes, Joanne, Linda A. Anderson, and J. D. Phillipson. Herbal Medicines. London: Pharmaceutical, 2007. 363-66. Print.
2. Chevallier, Andrew, and David Keifer. Herbal Remedies. New York: DK Pub., 2007. 56-59. Print.
3. Kraft, K., and Christopher Hobbs. Pocket Guide to Herbal Medicine. Stuttgart: Thieme, 2004. 77. Print.