Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a large deciduous tree native to parts of Southeastern Europe and Asia. It is known for its distinctive palmately compound leaves and clusters of flowers that bloom in spring, producing spiky fruits containing seeds known as horse chestnuts or conkers. The tree is also commonly known as a Conker Tree.

Active Ingredients in Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnuts contain several triterpene glycosides, with aescin predominating in the seeds (conkers). Coumarin glycosides aesculin, fraxin and scopolin, and their corresponding aglycones; aesculetin, fraxetin and scopoletin, are also found, along with flavonoids such as quercetrin. Allantoin, leucocyanidin, tannins and the plant sterols; sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol, have also been identified.

The whole extract made from the horse chestnut is probably superior to the isolated aescin. This is a commonly overlooked mechanism of most herbs. The combination of the entire plant components synergistically can often produce superior results as compared to a refined, isolated active ingredient of the herb.

Aescin and Aesculin Compared

Aescin and Aesculin are both compounds found in various plant species, including Horse Chestnuts, but they differ in their chemical structures and properties.

Aescin is a mixture of several related compounds collectively known as saponins.
It is primarily found in the seeds (conkers) of the horse chestnut tree.
Aescin is known for its potential pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, venotonic and vascular-protective effects.
It is commonly used in herbal medicine for conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
Aescin is believed to work by reducing inflammation and improving blood circulation in the veins.

Aesculin is a glycoside compound found in various plant species, including Horse Chestnuts, as well as in other plants such as Buckeye and Quassia.
It is primarily found in the bark and seeds of the Horse Chestnut tree.
Aesculin has been studied for its potential pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
It is not as well-known or extensively studied as aescin, and its specific mechanisms of action and therapeutic applications may vary.
Aesculin is sometimes used in herbal medicine, but its use is less common compared to aescin.
Aesculin can be toxic in certain circumstances, particularly if ingested in large quantities or in its raw form.
Aesculin itself is not highly toxic, but it can be metabolized in the body to form Esculetin, which has been associated with potential toxicity.
Ingesting large amounts of aesculin-containing plant parts, such as raw Horse Chestnut seeds or bark, can lead to symptoms of toxicity, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, liver damage. Therefore, it is essential to avoid consuming raw Horse Chestnut seeds or bark and to use standardized extracts or preparations that have been processed to remove toxic compounds before use.

Health Benefits of Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnuts have been traditionally used in herbal medicine for their potential health benefits. They contain a compound called Aescin, giving them anti-inflammatory and vaso-constrictive properties.

Utilized extensively throughout Europe, Horse Chestnut seed extract is commonly taken in small doses internally in herbal supplements, and in topical creams. It can support vascular health, leg vein health, toning and protecting blood vessels and other vascular problems including ankle edema related to poor venous return.

Horse Chestnuts are particularly beneficial for conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), varicose veins and hemorrhoids. They are also effective in treating a wide range of venous diseases including hardening of the arteries, phlebitis, leg ulcers and frostbite.

Anti-inflammatory Effects of Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut is an astringent, anti-inflammatory herb that helps to tone the vein walls which, when slack or distended, may become varicose, hemorrhoidal or otherwise problematic.

Horse Chestnut to Reduce Fluid Retention

Horse Chestnut reduces fluid retention by increasing the permeability of the capillaries and allowing the re-absorption of excess fluid back into the circulatory system.

Treating Pain with Horse Chestnuts

Horse Chestnuts are analgesic due to the active compound called Aescin, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to alleviate pain. They have been used to treat chest pains. They have also been used in the treatment of rheumatism and neuralgia.

Horse Chestnut Can Strengthens Veins

Veins that are either weak and/or under chronic stress are more likely to fail and therefore more likely to allow leakage of fluid from the vessels into the tissue space leading to swelling. Fluid accumulation is more common in the legs and far more likely in individuals who stand for extended periods of time. Prolonged standing and obesity can increase pressure within leg veins causing weak veins to swell, leak and deteriorate into varicose veins.

Extracts of the Horse Chestnut seeds are the source of a saponin known as aescin, which has been shown to promote normal tone in the walls of the veins, thereby improving circulation through the veins and promoting the return of blood to the heart.

Aescin also performs an antioxidant function and has a general vasoprotective role by protecting collagen and elastin, the two chief proteins that form the structure of veins. By protecting these key vessel proteins, veins and capillaries stay strong and maintain their structural integrity when exposed to stress.

Additional Health Benefits of Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut has been taken internally for leg ulcers and frostbite, and applied externally as a lotion, ointment or gel. Most studies have looked at the plant’s use internally. But there is some evidence that applying an ointment to the affected area may also help.

In France, an oil extracted from the seeds has been used externally for rheumatism. The topical preparation has also been used to treat phlebitis.

Trial studies suggest that horse chestnut may also be of value in treating lung conditions of infarction, embolisms and thrombosis. Horse Chestnut seeds are also decongestant, expectorant and act as a venous tonic.

Horse Chestnut Research

Randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown that Horse Chestnut can reduce oedema (swelling with fluid) following trauma, particularly those following sports injuries, surgery, and head injury. A clinical study compared Horse Chestnut extract to compression stockings and a placebo for varicose veins.

Both the herbal medicine and the stockings significantly reduced oedema of the lower legs compared to placebo. Feelings of tiredness and heaviness, pain and swelling in the legs were alleviated by the extract, in comparison to placebo. In addition, common symptoms which accompany lower leg swelling; such as leg pain, heaviness and fatigue, are typically reduced in individuals taking horse chestnut seed extract.

Another study out of West Germany, reported in the early 1980s, showed one commercial Horse Chestnut product affected both the collagen content and architecture of the varicose vein and helped make the veins more normal.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Horse Chestnut Herb Notes / Side Effects

Raw horse chestnut seeds are toxic and should not be consumed due to their high levels of Aesculin (not to be confused with the beneficial compound Aescin). Aesculin can cause nausea, vomiting and other adverse effects. The seeds must be processed to remove the toxic compounds before use in herbal preparations.

Horse chestnut should be avoided by anyone with liver or kidney disease, taking anti-coagulant therapy or who is pregnant or breast-feeding.

Topically, horse chestnut has been associated with rare cases of allergic skin reactions. Circulation disorders and trauma associated with swelling are usually the signs of a serious condition; please consult a health care professional before self-treating with horse chestnut.

As with any herbal remedy, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using horse chestnut products, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Latin Name

Aesculus hippocastanum

Common Names

Atkestanesi, Buckeye, Castagno D’India, Castanheiro Da India, Castano De India, Castano De Indias, Castogno D’India, Chataigne De Cheval, Common Horse Chestnut, Eschilo, Horse Chestnut, Ippocastano, Marronnier D’Inde, Paarde Kastanje, Rosskastanie, Seiyo-Toti-No-Ki, Spanish Chestnut, T’ien-shih-li, Wilde Kastanje

Properties of Horse Chestnut

Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, analgesic, astringent, decongestant, expectorant, febrifuge, tonic, vasoprotective, venous tonic.

Horse Chestnut is Indicated for:

Chest pain, chronic venous insufficiency, frostbite, hemorrhoids, hardening of the arteries, improving connective tissue tone, leg ulcers, lung conditions (embolisms, infarction, thrombosis), lymphedema, neuralgia, oedema, phlebitis, rheumatism, sprains and other injuries, swollen ankles, varicose veins, varicose eczema, venous stasis.

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