Horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum, is a tree that originated in the Balkans. It was introduced into the UK in the 16th century. The tree produces prickly fruits that contain one or two inedible nuts. This tree can live up to 300 years. Horse chestnut is in a completely different family from the sweet chestnut tree. Horse chestnut contains a poison called esculin that can kill a person if it is eaten raw. The nut can be processed so that the good constituents can be separated from the bad ones.
Horse chestnut was historically used to help heal horses and cattle of respiratory illnesses. It also had many uses for human diseases. A tea made from horse-chestnut was used in Turkish alternative medicine to help pass kidney stones and for an upset stomach. It is still used in Turkish alternative medicine today.
In today’s world horse-chestnut is used mostly for vein health in the legs. Horse chestnut extract contains 16% to 20% of a constituent called aescin. This is useful for varicose veins and hemorrhoids. It also prevents and reduces inflammation in the body.
Other uses for horse-chestnut extract include eczema, cough, arthritis and joint pain. It also helps swelling of the legs, and itching. The bark can be used for malaria and dysentery. Using the raw seed, bark, flower or leaf can lead to death. Do not use if you are pregnant or nursing. Don’t try to use it on your own. Consult with your health care professional if you want to use this extract.