First found growing naturally in regions of Asia and north Greece, today the horse chestnut tree is cultivated in many areas of Europe and North America. Many of the parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the seeds, leaves, and bark, have been used medicinally. However, it is now believed that only the seeds of the Horse Chestnut offer proven medicinal value.Active constituents and Benefits Horse Chestnut
Horse chestnut seeds are the most commonly used plant part for making medicinal remedies and herbal preparations. The seeds of the horse chestnut contain a chemical saponin known as aescin, which in clinical studies has been reported to promote increased blood circulation. Aescin purportedly is able too promote blood circulation through the veins by increasing the tone in the walls of the veins, whereby enabling blood to flow unrestricted. Its ability to promote blood circulation has made horse chestnut a popular treatment, both topically and internally, for both chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins.
More recent studies indicate that aescin (extracted from horse chestnut seeds) may also possess anti-inflammatory effects useful in reducing edema, swelling caused by excess fluid, as result of injuries. As a topical application, aescin is also popular in Europe for treating sprains. Additionally, poultices of the seed have been used in connection with skin ulcers and skin cancer, although there are no studies to confirm the effectiveness of this application.
Historically, leaves of the horse chestnut plant have been used medicinally to relieve cough, to reduce fever, and to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. But again the medicinal value of horse chestnut leaves has not been proven.
The horse chestnut herb contains additional substances that contribute to its medicinal effects. These include flavonoids, sterols, and tannins.Dosage and Application
A commonly recommended dosage of the horse chestnut seed extract is an amount delivering 40 to 120 milligrams of aescin daily. Since the strength of commercial preparations may vary, we suggest following the instructions on the manufacturer's label of the package.Possible Interactions
It is recommended that horse chestnut not be taken in conjunction with any other medications that thin the blood (coumadin, trental, aspirin, heparin) without medical supervision. We know of no major side effects associated with horse chestnut supplementation.
However, high doses of Horse Chestnut seed can be harmful. Symptoms of overdose include diarrhea, loss of consciousness, enlarged pupils, reddening of the face, visual disturbances, severe thirst, and vomiting. If you suspect an overdose, seek qualified medical attention immediately. Supporting LiteratureGuillaume M. and Padioleau F. Venotonic effect, vascular protection, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenging properties of horse chestnut extract. Arzneim-Forsch Drug Res 1994;44:25-35.