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Horse chestnut quick review
Botanical description: the horse chestnut tree is kown as Aesculus hippocastanum, woody plants from 4 to 35 m tall, and have stout shoots with resinous, often sticky, buds.
Active constituents: a complex mixture of flavonoids including saponins, quercetin, essential oils, plant sterols, starches and coumarins.
Health benefits : increases the strength and tone of the veins in particular, improves the tone of the veins, prevents blood from pooling in the legs and feet, reduces edema in the lower leg.

Dosage: recommended daily dose is 300 mg, standardized to 16-20% aescin (triterpine glycosides) for treatment of venous insufficiency.
Side effects : upset stomach and muscle spasms, headache, skin rash, dizziness, liver problems and kidney problems. Overdose leads to loss of consciousness, reddening of the face, diarrhea, enlarged pupils, severe thirst, visual disturbances, and vomiting.
 

Horse chestnut


Horse chestnut is the common name for some members of the Hippocastanaceae. The horse chestnut tree, Aesculus
hippocastanum, a native of the Balkan peninsula, is now cultivated in many countries for shade and ornament. Horse chestnuts are in an entirely different botanical family from the well-known sweet chestnut tree, Castanea vesca. Horse chestnut are woody plants from 4 to 35 m tall (depending on species), and have stout shoots with resinous, often sticky, buds. The bark is grayish-green or grayish-brown in color, and the tree limbs are thick and have corky, elongated, wart-like eruptions that appear from a distance like ribbing. Flowering starts after 80-110 growing degree days. The tree produces fruits that are made up of a spiny capsule containing one to three large seeds, known as horse chestnuts. The interior of horse chestnut bark is pinkish-brown, with fine lines running its length. The husk has scattered soft spines in some species, spineless in others, and splits into three sections to release the nut. The fruit is a rich glossy brown to blackish-brown nut 2-5 cm diameter, usually globose with one nut in a green or brown husk, but sometimes two nuts together in one husk, in which case the nuts are flat on one side; the point of attachment of the nut in the husk shows as a large circular whitish scar. The active components of the seed are known collectively as aescine. This is a complex mixture of flavonoids including saponins, quercetin, essential oils, plant sterols, starches and coumarins. Horse chestnut is also known as Aesculus hippocastanum, Cellu-Var, Variclear, Reparil, Varicare, Varicosin, VeinAway, Venastat, and others.
 

Active constituents of horse chestnut


The active ingredients of horse chestnut seeds are triterpene saponines collectively known as aescine. This is a complex mixture of flavonoids including saponins, quercetin, essential oils, plant sterols, starches and coumarins. Aescin promotes circulation through the veins. Aescin fosters normal tone in the walls of the veins, thereby promoting return of blood to the heart. By protecting these key vessel proteins, veins and capillaries stay strong and maintain their structural integrity when exposed to stress. The horse chestnut seeds also contain tannin, flavones, glycosides, aesculin and fraxin, crude protein, a fatty oil, ash and water.
 

Medicinal uses and health benefits of horse chestnut


The unique actions of horse chestnut are on the vessels of the circulatory system. Horse chestnut seeds increase the strength and tone of the veins in particular. Horse chestnut has been used topically to cosmetically improve the appearance of varicose veins. It has an anti-inflammatory effect and also improves the tone of the veins, preventing blood from pooling in the legs and feet. Venous insufficiency, or varicose vein syndrome, can be effectively treated by the seeds of the horse chestnut. Horse chestnut is also effective in relief of swelling or inflammation of joints, tendons, and muscles and hemorrhoids, by strengthening and toning the body's veins, as well as actually lessening swelling and fluid retention in the body, the hemorrhoid. Horse chestnut has been used orally to improve symptoms of fatigue, and pain, nighttime cramping, itching and swelling in the legs. Orally it has been shown to reduce edema in the lower leg.

 

Dosage and administration of horse chestnut


The usual recommended dose is 300 mg, standardized to 16-20% aescin (triterpine glycosides) for treatment of venous insufficiency (lower leg swelling, fluid accumulation, leg pain and heaviness). Gels or creams containing 2% aescin can be applied topically three or four times per day for hemorrhoids, skin ulcers, varicose veins, sports injuries, and trauma of other kinds.
 

Side effects, precautions, interactions


Internal use of horse chestnut seed extracts standardized for aescin at recommended amounts is generally safe. Common side effects associated with the use of commercial horse chestnut products may include upset stomach and muscle spasms. Less common side effects are headache, skin rash, dizziness, liver problems and kidney problems. Excessive intake of horse chestnut seed can be dangerous. Symptoms of overdose include loss of consciousness, reddening of the face, diarrhea, enlarged pupils, severe thirst, visual disturbances, and vomiting.