The sturdy horse chestnut tree produces a shiny brown nut that has been used medicinally to treat inflammation and other ailments. The horse chestnut tree is unique, with sturdy erect trunks, ribbed boughs and thick buds. It gets its name from marks found on its branches that resemble horseshoes.
Horse chestnut trees originated in northern India and Greece but are now cultivated throughout Europe. A variety of the tree is known as buckeye in the United States.
The horse chestnut has been used as a traditional remedy for arthritis, rheumatism and the management of varicose and hemorrhoids. The seeds are toxic, and many methods have been used to rid them of toxicity. The herb is more popularly used in Europe.
The useful constituents of horse chestnut are derived from the seeds and bark of the Aesculus tree. Aescin seems to provide some weak diuretic activity and may decrease the permeability of venous capillaries.
It also has a tonic effect on the veins and prevents collagen breakdown by inhibiting glycosaminoglycan hydrolases. Sterol content may have some anti-inflammatory activity. The toxic glycoside, aesculin, is a hydroxycoumarin with potential antithrombotic activity; however, the toxin is removed during preparation.
Horse chestnut is available as capsules and as creams made from an aescin/cholesterol complex, in products such as Arthro-Therapy, Cell-U-Var Cream, Varicare, Varicosin, Venocare Ultrajoint Response, and Venastat.
Horse chestnut is used to treat chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, tiredness, and tension, and leg pain, swelling, and edema.
The extract is used as a conjunctive treatment for lymphedema, hemorrhoids, and enlarged prostate.
Horse chestnut has been used as an analgesic, anticoagulant, antipyretic, astringent, expectorant, and tonic. It has also been used to treat skin ulcers, phlebitis, leg cramps, cough, and diarrhea.
For symptomatic treatment of chronic venous insufficiency: Dosage is 250 mg by mouth every day, up to three times a day. Some sources recommend taking 450 to 750 mg every day to decrease symptoms, and then decreasing dose to 175 to 350 mg every day
Tincture formulation: Dosage is 1 to 4 ml by mouth three times a day.
Side effects of horse chestnut include GI irritation (especially with immediate release products) toxic nephropathy, calf cramps, itching, and skin cancer (topical skin cleansers).
Use with anticoagulants may increase anticoagulant effects with increased bleeding and bruising. Increased hypoglycemic effects may occur when horse chestnut is used with antidiabetics and insulin. Aescin binds to plasma proteins and may displace drugs that are proteinbound.