Other Names: Spanish Chestnut, Buckeye, Common Horse Chestnut, Conqueror Tree
The sturdy, many-ribbed boughs and thick buds of the Horse Chestnut make it a conspicuous tree even in winter. The flowers are mostly white, with a reddish tinge, or marking, and grow in dense, erect spikes. There is also a dull red variety, and a less common yellow variety, which is a native of the southern United States.
The fruit is a brown nut, with a very shining, polished skin, showing a dull, rough, pale-brown scar where it has been attached to the inside of the seed-vessel, a large green husk, protected with short spines, which splits into three valves when it falls to the ground and frees the nut. Although horse chestnut is sometimes called buckeye, it should not be confused with the Ohio or California buckeye trees, which are related but not the same species.
Horse Chestnut as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts are the dried Horse Chestnut leaves, the oil extracted from the peeled fruit capsules (seeds) and dried chestnut seeds.
For centuries, horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers have been used for a variety of conditions and diseases.
Horse Chestnut is used to treat circulation problems, hemorrhoids, prostrate enlargement, and varicose veins. The seed extract has also been used for hemorrhoids.
Small studies have found that horse chestnut seed extract is beneficial in treating chronic venous insufficiency and is as effective as wearing compression stockings.
Unproven Uses: Eczema, superficial and deep varicose veins, leg pains, phlebitis, hemorrhoids, pains before and during menstruation.
In folk medicine, the leaves are used as a cough remedy, as well as for arthritis and rheumatism.
Horse Chestnut seeds are Approved by Commission E for:
- Venous conditions (chronic venous insufficiency)
Horse Chestnut seeds are used for symptoms of post-traumatic and post-operative soft tissue swelling. Further indications are painful injuries, sprains, bruising, pain syndrome of the spine, edema, rheumatic disease and varicose veins.
Homeopathic Uses: Homeopathic treatments include hemorrhoids, lumbar and low back pain, venous back pressure.
What Science Skeptics Say
Small studies have shown that horse chestnut seed extract is beneficial in treating chronic venous insufficiency and is as effective as wearing compression stockings.
There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of horse chestnut seed, leaf or bark for any other conditions.
Culinary Uses of Horse Chestnut
Homemade preparations of horse chestnut should not be used. Raw horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers contain esculin, which is poisonous.
When properly processed, horse chestnut seed extract contains little or no esculin and is considered generally safe. However, the extract can cause some side effects, including itching, nausea, or gastrointestinal upset.
Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded. One case of liver damage following intramuscular administration of an extract of the drug (origin details of the drug uncertain) is known.
Horse Chestnut leaf has a coumarin componant and may interact with warfarin, salicylates and other drugs with anti-coagulant properties.
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