Horse Chestnut

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Horse Chestnut Fruits

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Horse Chestnut Tree

Horse Chestnut

The medicinal herb Horse Chestnut as an alternative herbal remedy - Horse chestnut trees are native to the Balkan Peninsula (for example, Greece and Bulgaria), but grow throughout the northern hemisphere. Although horse chestnut is sometimes called buckeye, it should not be confused with the Ohio or California buckeye trees, which are related but not the same species.Common Names--horse chestnut, buckeye, Spanish chestnut

Latin Names--Aesculus hippocastanum

What Horse Chestnut Is Used For

  • For centuries, horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers have been used as an herbal remedy for a variety of conditions and diseases. *Horse chestnut seed extract has been used as an herbal remedy to treat chronic venous insufficiency (a condition in which the veins in the legs do not efficiently return blood to the heart). This condition is associated with varicose veins, pain, ankle swelling, feelings of heaviness, itching, and nighttime leg cramping.
  • The seed extract has also been used for hemorrhoids. How Horse Chestnut Is Used Horse chestnut seed extract standardized to contain 16 to 20 percent aescin (escin), the active ingredient, is the most commonly used form. Topical preparations have also been used.

What the Science Says about Horse Chestnut

  • Small studies have found that horse chestnut seed extract is beneficial in treating chronic venous insufficiency and is as effective as wearing compression stockings.
  • There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of horse chestnut seed, leaf, or bark for any other conditions.

Side Effects and Cautions of Horse Chestnut

  • Homemade preparations of horse chestnut should not be used. Raw horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers contain esculin, which is poisonous.
  • When properly processed, horse chestnut seed extract contains little or no esculin and is considered generally safe. However, the extract can cause some side effects, including itching, nausea, or gastrointestinal upset.
  • Tell your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including horse chestnut. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care

News About Horse Chestnut

Finding Hope in Horse Chestnut Trees

By Suzan Bellincampi

“How could you not be hopeful if you’ve got a tree around?”

That was the inspirational question once asked by documentary filmmaker Ross Spears, who clearly knew the power of trees. It is a poignant question, when viewed in the context of the story of a young girl who found hope, beauty and happiness against the backdrop of war and fear in the company of a very special tree. During the Holocaust, while hidden from German police in a secret annex to a house in Amsterdam, Anne Frank would look through an attic window that was not blacked out and marvel at the nature she could see: birds, the sky, and a horse chestnut tree.

Anne Frank wrote of this tree in her diary multiple times. The first was in February, 1944, when she recorded this experience with her sister: “The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew...and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak.”

That spring, Anne observed the change in the tree outside her window, “Our chestnut tree is in leaf, and here and there you can already see a few small blossoms.”

A month later, she documented the arrival of its flowers, noting it “is even more beautiful than last year.”

The tree became a friend to visit and a source of pleasure in her confined life. “Nearly every morning,” she wrote, “I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”

The horse-chestnut tree so loved by Anne outlived her and remained in the courtyard of her home, which eventually became a museum. Her cherished tree remained a symbol of hope, and a reason to believe in it. This tree was one of the oldest horse-chestnut trees in Amsterdam, having lived more than 170 years until 2010, when it unfortunately fell.

As it aged and began to decline, officials at the Anne Frank House took the chestnuts and germinated them, with the intention of spreading the surviving saplings and the story of the tree and Anne Frank across the world. It worked spectacularly. Specimens from this tree have found homes at the 9/11 Memorial, the Clinton Presidential Library, two Holocaust centers, the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, several schools, and even the nearby Boston Common.

In late spring, as they did in Anne’s 15th year, horse-chestnut trees bloom. We see the same species that she admired so many years ago. Horse chestnuts are not a tree native to the Island, but have become very popular, and are easily found in backyards, community parks, and along rural roads and city streets. These trees leaf out early with pale green leaves and then showcase their upright crown (or panicle) of white flowers. Every year, they will continue to renew joy in life (and hopes for its improvement), because of their role in giving comfort and even joy to a young girl in the most difficult of situations.

American author Nora Waln once wrote, “Trees give peace to the souls of men.” This sentiment was certainly intended to include the souls of innocent young girls. We can only hope that it was true for Anne, and always will be true for the rest of us.

Health Benefits of Horse chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum

(Health Tips)

Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) is a large deciduous, rapidly-growing tree that can reach a height of 36 meters. It is native to the countries of the Balkan Peninsula, but because of its large, showy fower clusters the tree is cultivated worldwide for its beauty. Flowers are white or pink with a small red spot. Leaves are large, consisting of either fve or seven leafets and the fruit is round with a thick, green, spiny husk containing a glossy brown seed (chestnut or conker). While the common name for the tree is horse chestnut, it is also known as buckeye, and like other buckeyes, is a member of the Hippocastanaceae family, rather than the chestnut family (Castanea). Te name, horse chestnut, is believed to be derived from the brown conkers that look similar to chestnuts and because a horseshoe shaped mark (complete with spots resembling horseshoe nails) is left on the twig when the leaves drop of in autumn.

Historically, the seed extract was used as a treatment for many ailments, including rheumatism, rectal com-plaints, bladder and gastrointestinal disorders, fever (frst written account in 1720), hemorrhoids (as early as 1886), and leg cramps.Currently, horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) is widely used in Europe for chronic venous insuffciency, hemorrhoids, post-operative edema, and topically for clearing skin conditions. In the United States, HCSE is gaining wider acceptance as an efective therapy for venous disorders and edema, based on the publication over the last two decades of numerous randomized controlled trials in prominent, peer-reviewed journals.

Nutrient content

The primary active constituent found in horse chestnut seed extract is aescin. Aescin is actually a mixture of triterpene saponins present in two forms, α and β, which are distinguished by their water solubility and melting points. Other constituents include biofavonoids (quercetin and kaempferol), proanthocyanidin A2 (an antioxidant), and the coumarins fraxin and aesculin.In 1960, Lorenz and Marek determined the anti-edematous and vasoprotective properties observed after administering an extract from the horse chestnut were due exclusively to aescin. Of the two forms of aescin, β-aescin is the active component in the saponin mixture and the form found in most HCSE pharmaceuticals used for venous insufciency.

Aescin from HCSE has been shown to have anti-edematous, anti-infammatory, and venotonic properties hat may be attributable to decreased vascular permeability,Post-Operative Edema ,Varicose Veins,Venous Stasis Ulcers,Hemorrhoids and Inner Ear Perfusion.

Side Efects and Toxicity

HCSE is associated with relatively few side effects and is generally considered to be safe when given at recommended dosages.Recently reported adverse events are gastrointestinal symptoms, dizziness, headaches, and itching. Gastrointestinal side efects are more often associated with high doses of HCSE.In the case of topically applied aescin, rare incidences of acute anaphylactic reaction have been reported.Lesser skin sensitivities to topical HCSE are characterized by redness and itching at the site of application.

Herb to Know: Horse Chestnut

By Kris Wetherbee

Genus: Aesculus hippocastanum

• Zones 6 to 9

With a beauty all its own, this majestic ornamental tree is a powerful magnet for hummingbirds and humans alike.

A stroll through any well-landscaped park can be inspiring, but if you happen upon a horse chestnut tree displaying its showy panicles of pink flowers with white polka dots in late spring, the experience can be breathtaking.

The horse chestnut — a European native — belongs to a genus of about 15 species of deciduous shrubs and lofty trees. The common, or European, horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) can grow 70 to 100 feet tall with a dense canopy of foliage that casts deep shade. The smaller red horse chestnut (A. xcarnea) — so named for its reddish-pink blooms — is smaller in stature, but still grows to 30 to 40 feet.

Palmate leaves form the backdrop for beautiful blooms that adorn the tree like hundreds of foot-tall candelabras, dispensing nectar for nearby hummingbirds. Inside the prickly seedpods — round, leathery greenish fruits known as conkers — are several inedible glossy seeds emerging from their pods in fall. The fresh, bitter seeds are toxic unless properly processed.

Herbalists use horse chestnut externally to treat painful joints, strains and sprains as well as internally for coughs, colds and congestion. Historically, the bark, leaves, flowers and seeds all were used, but today, extracts are processed from the seeds only. The seeds contain antioxidants; anti-inflammatory compounds, such as rutin; and the phytochemical aescin, used to treat vascular conditions, such as chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Note: Used internally, horse chestnut is a powerful herb and should be used under the supervision of a qualified herbalist or medical professional.

Effective communication with public key for amenity tree management

By Lindsay Cohn

If you could Photoshop your face, you'd likely edit out any broken capillaries, those unsightly red spots that show up on our cheeks, chin, and nose area. Here's how to do that in real life.

What are broken capillaries?

Broken capillaries or spider veins, officially called telangiectasia, are tiny thread-like veins that we see on the surface of the skin. "When the walls of these blood vessels widen and narrow suddenly, they may become permanently damaged—and dilated, making them more visible," says Mark H. Schwartz, MD, FACS, a New York City plastic surgeon and Clinical Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. When the vessels don't heal properly, they can end up look like tiny blood spots or a network of fine tree branches.

What causes them?

Capillaries burst for a variety of reasons, most commonly, genetics, sun damage, rosacea, trauma to the skin, and aging. "That long list just proves that we don't really know why they happen in any one case," Dr. Schwartz says. If your parents have a ruddy complexion (caused by more vessels closer to the skin), it's probable that you will too. Years of sun exposure along with that can cause capillary damage: "As more ultraviolet rays pound the dermis, elastin fiber weaken and blood vessels migrate closer to the skin, becoming more superficial, which in turn makes them more visible," explains Bobby Buka, MD, board certified dermatologist, founder of Bobby Buka Dermatology, and Assistant Professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. People with rosacea, a condition where the skin is reddish and flushed, are more likely to experience spider veins, according to Dr. Schwartz. The body reads rosacea as damage and triggers inflammation to try to heal it, but inflammation itself becomes problematic. And as we age, our skin is less able to bounce back from these minor sources of damage. "Older individuals are more likely to have broken blood vessels since the skin is thinner and weaker, and the collagen is not replaced as rapidly as in younger skin," notes Dr. Schwartz.

You can help prevent broken blood vessels

Obviously you're stuck with your genes, but there are lifestyle habits that make capillaries more vulnerable to breakage. "The best way to avoid broken capillaries is to understand the causes that we can control," Dr. Schwartz says. Repeated skin trauma, from aggressive scrubbing, exfoliating, and pimple-popping, plus environmental factors, such as sunburn, windburn, and extreme temperatures, are common contributors to broken capillaries.

Protect your skin from environmental damage

Inflammation can exacerbate rosacea, increasing the likelihood of having visible capillaries and ruddiness, or that overall reddish complexion. Experts agree that the best way to keep rosacea from flaring up is by using moisturizer and sunscreen daily. "While neither will repair existing spider veins, the combination will help to prevent future damage to blood vessels from environmental hazards such as sunburns and irritation," says Dr. Schwartz. When it comes to sunscreen, always opt for broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher. For moisturizer, Dr. Buka recommends soothing, ceramide-based emollients, like First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer, to keep skin from getting chapped. (Here are dermatologists' rules for proper moisturizing.) And make sure to be especially diligent when you're outside in extreme temperatures (think hitting the slopes in the winter), when you'll want to reach for a heavy duty skin protectant, like Chuda Healing Hydrating Cream (a cult favorite in Russia), or for a budget pick, Aquaphor Healing Ointment.

Avoid vasodilators

Heat, caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods can cause vessels to fill with blood, which makes capillaries look more pronounced, according to Dr. Buka. While these vasodilators, or things that dilate blood vessels, aren't the cause of broken capillaries, they certainly can accentuate any underlying redness. Do you know the seven foods (and drinks) that can trigger a flare-up of rosacea?

VBeam laser treatment

Experts agree that the VBeam laser is the gold standard for treating visible capillaries. As Dr. Buka explains, every color has an absorption spectrum, a frequency of light absorbed by that particular color. The VBeam laser emits a frequency of 595 nanometers of ultraviolet light—and that frequency is absorbed by the color red, and only red. "That means that tan or brown parts don't notice the frequency of light," Dr. Buka adds. The light energy is then converted into heat in the skin. A blood vessel heated super fast will explode, whereas blood cells heated more slowly will shrivel and disappear over time. Higher heat will likely leave a bruise for five to seven days, but will likely require only one treatment. Lower heat won't leave a bruise, but may require follow-up treatments. Talk to your doctor to determine the proper course of treatment for you, according to Dr. Buka.

BBL laser treatment

Another option for broken capillaries, and the go-to choice for Dr. Schwartz, is Broad Band Light Therapy (BBL). Like VBeam, it uses laser light, but unlike Vbeam, it can emit multiple wavelengths—the 560 nanometer wavelength is the one most commonly used for vascular lesions. This presents pros and cons. "The BBL laser has the advantage of being able to treat other skin lesions, including brown spots, acne, and overall texture and tone if used repeatedly," says Dr. Schwartz. "But the frequency of light isn't as cleanly picked up by the color red as the VBeam, so some brown pigment can get absorbed if you turn it up too high. For this reason, patients typically require a few sessions," explains Dr. Buka. Read up on the myriad benefits of laser treatments.

Steer clear of electrodessication

For many years, electrodesiccation, also known as electrocautery—in which a fine needle tip penetrates the skin to cauterize broken blood vessels—was the most primary treatment for broken capillaries. Since then, lasers have proven to be a safer and more effective option. "This old-school method can leave scars and damage the surrounding tissue," notes Dr. Buka.

Try a topical treatment

As far as topicals go, vitamin A creams (Tretinoin) may be helpful with broken capillaries, since they can boost collagen quantity and quality in the skin. This in turn can minimize the appearance of broken capillaries, explains Dr. Schwartz. If you're struggling with broken capillaries, you might want to consider adding a skin-strengthening serum to your daily routine. Odacite Ap+P Serum Concentrate harnesses the power of apricot and palmarosa to fight inflammation, improve microcirculation, and strengthen fragile capillary walls. Tammy Fender Capillary Strengthening Blend is formulated with chamomile, neroli, and rose and carrot seed oils to heal and reinforce weakened capillaries.

Consider a natural remedy

While you won't see the same degree of results as with a laser, natural solutions can be quite effective at reducing the appearance of dilated capillaries and keeping new ones from popping up. Vitamin E, grape seed extract, arnica, and horse chestnut seed extract are among the most popular formulations.

Effective communication with public key for amenity tree management

By Gavin McEwan

High-profile tree-felling cases demonstrate need for public to believe they are being listened to.

With an escalating debate over the fate of trees in a Tooting Bec Common in south London (see below) only the latest of several recent high-profile cases, tree care professionals have an increasingly demanding role in advising decision makers and in attempting to avert disputes.

London Tree Officers Association chairman John Parker says: "Setting up a campaign or a petition used to be difficult but now with social media it's really easy, which is good and bad. It's easy to be outraged now. I have dealt with a case where a petition against some trees being felled raised 7,000 signatures, but one or two thousand of those were from Canada. It's great that people have the opportunity to have their say but it can make life harder."

Being in the middle of such disputes can put tree managers under additional strain. "They already have to be the first line between the public and the council. Effectively they have to speak to people before they start their petitions. But this is adding to an already increasing workload and tighter budgets."

Drawing the distinction between communication and consultation, he says: "There is more consultation now, which is good. It can iron out differences early. If you explain your reasoning, and let people have their say, they are more amenable. You don't want the problem to arise when the tree surgeons turn up outside their house. But there's a danger of experts losing authority. People say: 'There's nothing wrong with that tree, I've Google'd it.' There's also a limit to how many people you can consult. Residents, yes, but what about the people who work there or pass through every day?"

Ultimately, some questions over the fate of trees will remain subjective, with no consensus among professionals, adds Parker. "Ten tree experts might give you 12 different opinions. There may not be a clear right and wrong answer."

According to the Arboricultural Association: "Any advice given by tree experts must be well-thought-out, balanced and impartial if it is to have any credibility. The presentation of a balanced argument by decision makers, taking due consideration of any conflicting opinions, will then go a long way towards attaining credibility with the public and professionals alike for any judgement made on important tree management considerations."

The rise of social media "means concerns that may once have remained local now have the potential to reach national or even international audiences", it notes. "As a consequence local authority decisions are under increasing scrutiny and this emphasises the need for effective consultation with the local population. The single most important thing is that stakeholders, including the public, believe that they are being listened to and that all arguments are properly considered before irreversible decisions are made."

Wandsworth Horse chestnuts

In the latest felling row, intervention by local MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has intensified a stand-off in south London between Wandsworth Borough Council and residents over the local authority's plan to fell more than 70 mature horse chestnut trees forming an avenue in Tooting Bec Common.

The plan has drawn more than 5,000 signatures in an online petition. Allin-Khan claims that many nearby residents were not consulted and has called for "a review into the way the council conducts its consultations" to ensure they "give an honest representation of community feeling".

Both sides have brought in arboricultural experts to support their case. A report published in March last year by Kim Gifford of Gifford Tree Services concluded on the basis of a PiCUS Sonic Tomograph study of the trees that "the general condition of the avenue is in a dilapidated state", with "compaction around most root systems and evidence of waterlogging along the whole avenue" and "nearly all" of the trees suffering from bleeding canker.

The report concluded: "It may be appropriate to consider complete avenue replacement within the near future to restore the long term amenity value to the area." But in a pro bono report commissioned by the Friends of Tooting Common group and published in March this year, independent tree consultant and Horticulture Week columnist Jeremy Barrell described the avenue trees as "at the top end of the benefit delivery spectrum because they are big, experienced by many people daily and have the potential to be retained into the long term".

Can you eat conkers?

By Alice Johnston

Ah, autumn. Season of crunchy leaves, chilly winds and conker fights.

Conkers can look so appealing sometimes. That shiny brown carapace, their firmness, the fact that they look as if they would taste good roasted on a fire…

It means each year, around this time, people start searching for whether or not you can eat them.

Don’t do it!

Even though conkers might look appealing, there’s no sensible way you can eat one.

And yes, that applies even if you fry, boil or roast them.

A friend of mine once actually broke a microwave by cooking a conker in it – it exploded with such force that the glass was shattered.

So you’ve had fair warning.

And there are a number of other reasons why:

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, you might be confusing conkers (also called horse chestnuts) with sweet chestnuts, which are delicious.

Conkers are not sweet chesnuts.

While they might look the same – both have green spiky shells and both are brown – they’re completely different.

Conkers are actually mildly poisonous and contain a chemical known as aescin, which can induce vomiting and even paralysis.

That said, it’s not true for all animals with deer and wild boar being a couple of exceptions to the rule.

But horses, despite the name, would still get sick if they ate them.

The presence of these chemicals also makes the seed taste very bitter – so it’s not even worth it for the taste.

It’s not as if we haven’t tried. During World War I, the government experimented during times of rationing to see whether conkers were a viable food source.

Herb to Know: Horse Chestnut

By Erika Lenz

Aesculus hippocastanum is a natural remedy for varicose veins.

Horse Chestnuts—also known by the colorful name “conkers”—have a long history of folk use for healing. While modern minds may find conkers an unlikely source of medicine, scientific researchers suggest the idea may not be so far-fetched—except it’s probably better to take your conker as a pill.

“Conker” is British slang; they’re also known in some regions of the United States as buckeyes. In European tradition, horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is best known for its ability to help with circulation ­problems such as chronic venous insufficiency, hemorrhoids, and in particular, varicose veins.

Varicose veins are enlarged superficial veins in the legs thought to be caused by weakness in the vein walls. Symptoms include aching, bulging veins or veins that appear twisted, as well as itching skin over the vein. Conventional treatments include support hose, injecting medicine into the vein (sclerotherapy), laser therapy, and, for more serious cases, surgery.

Studies attest to horse chestnut’s ability to improve circulation and reduce fra­gility of blood vessel walls. The largest of these studies—a randomized, double-blind, ­placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the April 1996 issue of the British Journal Lancet—showed that horse chestnut extract was almost as effective as compression stockings for 240 patients with chronic venous insufficiency. The extract contained 50 mg of aescin—the main active constituent in the seed—taken twice daily.

Aescin is an anti-inflammatory compound 300 times as strong as the bioflavonoid rutin, according to medical herbalist Amanda McQuade Crawford. Researchers have reported success using aescin, which is a complex mixture of triterpenoid saponin glycosides, for cerebral tumors, meningitis, encephalitis, cerebral edemas resulting from cranial trauma, and other brain-fluid problems.

Horse chestnut was first documented as a medicinal plant in 1565 in Dioscorides’s Materia Medica, according to medical herbalist Andrew Chevallier’s The Ency­clopedia of Medicinal Plants. Widely used in European traditional medicine since the sixteenth century, horse chestnut was imported from Persia by the Turks, who used it to treat bruises in horses. Horse chestnut lotions and creams have been used by traditional healers to speed healing of blunt sports injuries; the herb has also been used to treat aging skin, cellulite, and hair loss, though little research exists to support that its active compounds are absorbed through the skin.

The form of horse chestnut typically used in research is an aqueous-alcoholic extract of the seeds that is dried and standardized to a concentration of 16 percent to 21 percent triterpene glycosides, calculated as aescin, writes herb expert and Herbs for Health ­editorial adviser Varro Tyler, Ph.D., in his book Herbs of Choice. Initial oral dosage is equiva­lent to 90 mg to 150 mg of aescin, which may be reduced to 35 mg to 70 mg daily with improvement, he writes.

Until recently horse chestnut extracts were not available in the United States. Now companies such as Pharmaton are marketing products previously available only in Europe. The German Commission E endorses horse chestnut seed extract for treating chronic venous insufficiency and a heavy feeling in the legs.

Try horse chestnut for hemorrhoids and varicose veins

By Dr. Nicole Sundene

Previously used for pelting other children on the playground, for adults the seed of Aesculus hippocastanum, or horse chestnut, is a fabulous cure for hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

Hemorrhoids are actually just varicose veins as well, so if you tend to have a weak veinous system, you might benefit from this herb. Tightens up loose and leaky veins

The active constituent aescin has an astringent property that serves to tighten up loose leaky veins. It is also anti-edematous, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-exudative, and decreases capillary permeability.

Check with your naturopathic physician before taking this herb as there are potential drug-herb interactions and this herb should not be used by those on anti-coagulants as the coumarin properties may theoretically interact with blood thinning medications.

Any time there is bleeding or pain down there you should go to your doctor immediately as it could be a sign of colon or rectal cancer, and when caught early enough is highly treatable. Also do not make any herbal medicine preparations from wild plants unless you are 100 percent certain of the species for safety purposes.

This herb should absolutely not be used by children or pregnant women, anyone with a chronic health condition should check with their doctor before using horse chestnut.

How to use horse chestnut for treating hemorrhoids

1. Tincture:

A tincture (1:5 in 40%) can be used, the standard dose is 1-4ml in a little bit of water three times daily.

2. Herbal infusion:

To make an herbal infusion pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried seed and allow to steep 15 minutes, strain and drink three times daily or apply with cotton balls to the affected area (best when applied cold so keep your witch hazel or horse chestnut solutions in the fridge).


You can also try a 16% standardized aescin extract in capsules. Daily dose should equate to 50mg of aescin taken two to three times daily (so the entire capsule weight will most likely be 300 to 900 mg to receive the 50mg of aescin from the 16% standardized extract).

A poor diet leads to hemorrhoids

Although horse chestnut is wonderful for strengthening veins, just utilizing it alone is not going to fully address the problem. Straining with bowel movements because of a dry hardened stool lacking fiber, water, and probiotics are the ultimate causes of hemorrhoids.

Basically everyone in America has hemorrhoids at some point because of the crappy white refined foods diet that we eat.

7 more tips to help relieve hemorrhoids

Here are seven more tips that can help with your hemorrhoids…

1. Preparation H:

You can always apply the standard preparation H or an herbal hemorrhoid cream with astringents such as witch hazel in it.

Keep the area clean and take some stool softeners until it is healed so you don’t continue to rupture it back open, or feel like you are pooping razor blades.

Check out your local health food store as well to see if there are any herbal options that contain horse chestnut or witch hazel. Wise Woman Herbals makes fabulous healing suppositories and herbal topical ointments if you can get your hands on them.

2. Eat dark berries:

Eat dark pigmented berries to help ensure a strong healthy vascular system. Add a cup of frozen blueberries daily to the diet as well as citrus foods to heal blood vessels. When symptomatic do alternating sitz baths to tonify the vessels of the pelvic region.

3. Stop straining:

Avoid straining by preventing constipation before it happens.

Here are some tips how…

Mix soluble & insoluble fibers:

In general, eat a high-fiber whole foods diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

The most efficient colon movers contain a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel that coats the intestinal wall. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but rather soaks water up like a sponge as it passes through the intestine, helping to prevent constipation. Foods high in soluble fiber:

Eat more of the foods that are highest in soluble fiber including…

• adzuki beans
• barley
• dried beans and peas
• beets
• cabbage
• carrots
• oats
• okra
• apples
• apricots
• bananas
• blackberries
• blueberries
• citrus
• cranberries
• figs
• grapes
• melons
• peaches
• pears
• prunes

Psyllium, slippery elm (Ulmus Fulva) and marshmallow (Althaea Officinalis) are also high in soluble fiber. Foods high in insoluble fiber:

Foods highest in insoluble fiber include cereals and whole grains, brans, seeds (like ground flax or psyllium seed), and the skins or peels of many fruits and vegetables.

Foods to avoid:

Avoid dairy products, soft drinks, meat, refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods, salt, alcohol and coffee.


Drink more water. This is particularly more important when adding more fiber to your diet.

Drink at least 64 ounces daily. Rule-of-thumb for water consumption: one third of your body weight in ounces plus 8 ounces for each cup of coffee or tea (diuretics), plus 8 ounces for each one half hour of exercise daily.

4. Drink warm water:

Try drinking a glass of warm water every morning when you wake up to give the intestines a bath. The heat from the water tends to relax the smooth muscle of the bowel and train your body to have a bowel movement each morning.

For short term relief you can try magnesium 400-800mg but keep in mind that it is simply a short-term osmotic cure for diarrhea, it is not treating the cause.

5. Concentrate on fiber:

Be sure to eat plenty of fiber, drink a gallon of water daily, and MOVE your body.

Your digestive tract responds to movement. Sitting around all day will result in a sluggish bowel. Humans were not designed for sitting all day and it creates stagnation in our pelvis.

Include foods in the diet that encourage bowel movements such as celery, pears, flaxseeds, apples, prunes, oatmeal and other whole grains.

6. “Dr. Nicole’s Move It Along Breakfast”:

Try my “Dr. Nicole’s Move It Along Breakfast” which consists of…

• a bowl of steelcut organic oatmeal
• 3 tablespoons of FRESHLY ground flaxseeds
• a handful of raw walnuts,
• half a chopped pear
• and a bit of applesauce or yogurt
• and cinnamon for flavor and garnish

It really does get things moving along well.

7. Acidophilus:

You may also benefit from taking some acidophilus to help bulk up the stool, as a third of the weight of our stool comes from the bacteria in our digestive tract.

If you have taken antibiotics in the past, your bowel flora may be compromised.

You want to make sure the cultures are live and refrigerated when purchasing acidophilus. Never buy acidophilus that is not refrigerated. That is a major red flag right there!

Hope that helps!

Can I help save our horse chestnut trees?

By Lucy Siegle

The big trees in my local park look in ill health. Is there anything I can do?

Sometimes tree hugging isn't enough: today's tree needs more. Horse chestnuts have been hit by two potentially life-threatening diseases. The first is bleeding canker: bacteria infects the bark, cutting off the water supply to the crown. The other involves a relatively new pest to the UK: the leaf-mining moth, originally from the Balkans. It is indiscriminate, attacking workaday horse chestnuts and grander trees alike.

A few weeks ago I looked under the impressive canopy of the horse chestnut that stands outside King's College, Cambridge. To the tourists happily photographing the tree and college it probably just appeared to be following autumn protocol and turning a deep shade of brown. But up close its leaves were clearly marked by the infestation of the leaf miner (sometimes you can even see the tiny caterpillars embedded in the leaf). Affected trees will not die the minute they are infected, but the leaf-mining moth moves swiftly through the canopy from spring onwards. A big tree will contain about 2m of these moths, the caterpillars chomping through the leaves and turning them brown prematurely. As a consequence, photosynthesis is reduced in the cycle and the tree only gets to store a small amount of energy for winter months. It is severely weakened and, if hit by bleeding canker, could die. Imagine losing the conker tree!

How do we stop the leaf miner? Some trees have been sprayed, and there's evidence that clearing away leaf litter from underneath the tree can remove the moth's habitat. There have also been experiments with a small wasp that feeds on the moths. But unless you volunteer with local park rangers, you might want a less hands-on contribution.

Fortunately there is an app for that. Leafwatch is free and downloadable from You can also add your data straight to the website. Ecologists Darren Evans and Michael Pocock, from the universities of Hull and Bristol respectively, have developed this simple system which allows you to send them information on horse chestnuts in your local area (we're getting into the final days for collecting data this year before the trees drop their leaves).

This will enable them to plot how far the leaf miner has travelled, to find out how badly trees are infected and to develop solutions. It's citizen science on behalf of trees.

Why horse chestnut treatment is not in vein

By Dónal O'Mathúna

DOES IT WORK:Horse chestnut extract has been used to treat varicose veins with a fair degree of success

THE HORSE chestnut is the most common chestnut tree found in Ireland. The nuts falling at this time of the year can be as good as conkers, but they shouldn't be eaten. "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," conjures up romantic Christmas scenes, but edible chestnuts come from chestnut species that are rarely found in Ireland. However, an extract made from the type of chestnuts that do grow here has a long traditional use. Recent research is providing evidence that it can help some people with varicose veins.

Varicose veins are a common and painful condition afflicting 20-25 per cent of women and 10-15 per cent of men. The condition most obviously affects the legs. Blood travels back to the heart via the veins.

Valves prevent the blood falling back down the legs. If these valves become damaged or leak, the blood pools in the leg's vein.

When this happens in veins close to the skin, the typical blue, bulging and twisted varicose veins develop. When the veins deeper inside the legs are affected, the condition is called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This leads to swelling, pain and hardening of the skin, which can lead to more serious problems with blood clots and ulcers.

Compression stockings are the main approach to treatment, although varicose veins can be surgically removed. Avoiding long periods of sitting and getting exercise help prevent the condition, but once it develops, the legs are often painful, weak and tired, making movement more difficult.

Evidence from studies

Several laboratory and animal studies have found that the active ingredient in chestnut is a compound called aescin.

In experiments, aescin caused veins to contract better and with more force. Water and other materials were less able to pass through the walls of blood vessels, which is the underlying problem with varicose veins.

A systematic review of horse chestnut capsules has been published in the Cochrane Library. This independent, international organisation reviews various types of treatment and is available without charge when accessing the internet within Ireland ( This review found 17 controlled trials of horse chestnut for CVI.

The trials used different symptoms to evaluate the extract. Most trials found horse chestnut more beneficial than placebo.

For example, horse chestnut relieved pain better than placebo in six of the seven trials. In four of six trials measuring leg swelling, horse chestnut was significantly better.

Four of eight trials found horse chestnut reduced itching. Two studies compared horse chestnut extract to compression stockings, and found them equally effective in relieving leg pain.

Problematic aspects

Research studies have found few adverse effects from high-quality chestnut extracts. Some people reported dizziness, nausea or headache, but those effects lasted a short time. Remember that horse chestnuts themselves are poisonous, as are the leaves, flowers and older bark of the tree. Chestnuts contain a poison called aesculin, which is chemically similar to warfarin and causes prolonged bleeding. Good-quality products should state that aesculin is not present. Extracts should be standardised to state how much active ingredient (aescin) each dose contains.


Horse chestnut seed extract has consistently shown benefit for the short-term treatment of varicose veins. Since treatment for this condition will need to continue for many years, long-term studies are needed.

The extract has been safe in short-term studies. The usual dose has been 300-600mg of extract, which is usually standardised to give 50-100mg aescin.

Given the lack of other satisfactory treatments for varicose veins, horse chestnut seed extract may be a helpful alternative to compression stockings.

However, anyone using blood-thinning medications should be certain the product contains no aesculin.

Healthy forests need birds and bees

By Deborah Byrd (Earth / Human World)

A new study shows that we humans can help maintain healthy forests by focusing conservation efforts on the protection of animal pollinators and seed dispersers.

Scientists in Europe this week announced the key result from a synthesis of 408 studies from 34 countries around the globe (July 20, 2016). Not surprisingly, it shows that human activities negatively affect the pollination and seed dispersal of forest trees. The effect can be observed in both tropical and temperate forests and suggests that protecting animal pollinators and seed dispersers could have a positive effect in maintaining forests’ ability to regenerate naturally.

Most at risk, these scientists said, are large-seeded trees whose dispersal depends on large and often endangered animals. An example of a large-seeded tree would be the horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) of southeastern Europe.

Eike Lena Neuschulz from the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Germany is lead author of the new study. Her team looked at the cycle of plant regeneration in forests, specifically asking how much each part of the cycle is affected by humans. Their statement explained:

To assess the effects of humans, [we] compared near-natural forests with those exposed to intensive human disturbance. The regeneration cycle of plants includes processes that are beneficial to plants, such as pollination, seed dispersal and the recruitment of seedlings, as well as detrimental processes, such as seed predation and herbivory.
In the early stages of plant regeneration, plants benefit from the interaction with animals: bees pollinate flowers and maintain gene flow among plant populations, while birds disperse seeds that can establish as seedlings at new locations.
However, land use changes, hunting and overexploitation of forests threaten these animals, and thereby also their contribution toward forest regeneration.
In contrast, the later processes of plant regeneration such as seed predation, recruitment and herbivory, were found to be less consistently affected by humans. Selective logging, for example, can increase the amount of light reaching the forest floor, but can also dry out the soil, which may facilitate the recruitment of some plants or inhibit that of others.

Neuschutz concluded:

Our study shows that human disturbance negatively affects the early steps of the plant regeneration cycle, while the effects on the later regeneration processes vary greatly.
Our findings suggest that conservation efforts should prioritize the protection of animal pollinators and seed dispersers to maintain the regeneration potential of forest ecosystems in the future.

Bottom line: A synthesis of 408 studies from 34 countries around the globe suggests that humans can help maintain healthy forests by focusing conservation efforts on the protection of animal pollinators and seed dispersers.

How to Grow a Conker Tree

By Anne Baley

Conkers is a game played mostly by children in the U.K., using the seeds of a horse chestnut tree. The horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a large flowering tree that thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. The seedpod dries up in the fall and breaks open, revealing the seeds that serve as game pieces for children. The limbs of horse chestnuts are often twisted and oddly shaped, making them an interesting tree to grow as specimen pieces in a landscaping design.

1. Plant horse chestnut trees in the spring as soon as any chance of frost has passed or in the autumn at least six weeks before the first fall frost of the year. Choose a planting space with at least eight hours of sunlight each day. Pick a spot with well-drained soil.

2. Dig a hole for the horse chestnut tree that measures three times the width of the tree's root ball and is just as deep as the plant pot. The tree should rest on the bottom of the hole with the top of the root ball level with the ground.

3. Remove the plant pot by laying it on its side on the ground and tapping on the pot. Pull the pot from the root ball. If your horse chestnut tree is bound in burlap instead of in a pot, cut the wires or twine that covers the root ball with a sharp knife and remove the covering.

4. Inspect the root ball before planting to ensure it is not rootbound. If you find long roots wrapped around the root ball, cut through them with a sharp knife and pull away any loose ends you find. This will encourage new roots to grow outward from the root ball, once the tree is planted in the new hole.

5. Fill the hole with water and wait until it soaks into the soil and the hole is empty. This will ensure that there is a good amount of moisture around the planting hole, as well as test the drainage around the planting site.

6. Place the root ball into the hole, making sure the top of the ball is level with the land. Pile additional soil underneath if you need to build up the height in the bottom of the hole. Make sure the tree is straight and that the trunk doesn't lean in any direction. Fill the hole in with soil, stepping on the dirt to pack it around the roots and to remove any air pockets that may have formed.

7. Water the soil around the tree until it is soaked. Cover the soil with a 2-inch layer of organic mulch such as chopped leaves, wood chips or shredded paper to help keep moisture in the ground.

Things You Will Need
• Shovel
• Sharp knife
• Hose
• Organic mulch


Horse chestnuts are not the same as edible chestnuts. They are strictly decorative plants.

Starch from Horse Chestnut and Arrow Root

(Scientific American)

Heels and Flooding have proposed the production of starch from horse chestnut, which amongst other amylaceous and albuminous substances is said to contain 25 per cent. of this substance. The bitter principle in the chestnut can be removed by alkali, and the following process is said to afford a product, which cannot be chemically distinguished from starch obtained, from other sources. The chesnuts are thro wn into boiling water, skin ned and grated ; the grated mass is then well mixed and kneaded with soda (1 lb. to 100 lbs. of the pulp,) and the starch subsequently obtained from it by washing in the ordinary manner. Water alone is said to remove the bitter principle, but a sharp taste then remains attached to the starch, which can only be re moved by aU ali. The snow-white powder known as arrow root, and at Qne time most erroneously consi dered the very essence . of nutrition,' and par- ticularlyrecommendedas food for infants, is a very pure kind of starch prepared in the West Indies, particularly in Jamaica, from the rootof the Marantha arundinacea” and “ In- dica,” plants belonging to the family of the “Scitamine®.” The name was first applied to the root from its supposed efficacy in curing wounds. The starch is coiltainedin thejoints of the rhizome or underground stem, being deposited in a number of very minute cells. The following account of the mode of pre paring this arrow-root is givenby Pereira:— ” The starch or fecula is extracted from the roots (tubers)_ when these are about ten or twelve months old. The process isentirely a mechanical one, and is performed either by hand or machine" In Jamaica it is procured as follows:—The - tubers are dug up well washed with water, and then beaten in large deep wooden mortars to a pulp. This is thrown into a large tub of clean water. The whole is then well stirred, and_the fibrous part then wrung out by the hands and thrown away. The milky liquor being passed through a hair sieve. or coarse cloth is suffered to settle, and the clear water ia drained ofl: At the bottOm of the vessel is a white mass, which is again mixed with clean water and drained ; lastly, the mass is dried on sheets in the sun, and is pure starch. In Bermuda the roots are first deprived of their paper-like scales, and then rasped by a kind of wheel rasp, and the fecula well wash ed through sieves and carefully dried.

How to Germinate a Horse Chestnut

By Anastasia Leon

With its spreading canopy and fragrant flower clusters, California horse chestnut (Aesculus californica), also called California buckeye, adds summertime shade and ornamental appeal to low-water landscaping. It grows best within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 and 8, where it reaches a mature height of 10 to 20 feet with a 20- to 30-foot spread. California horse chestnut seeds germinate reliably if kept under moist conditions, providing a reliable means of at-home propagation. However, they must first be hulled and treated with bleach to prevent rot and eliminate parasites.

1. Put on rubber gloves before working with horse chestnuts since they contain toxic saponins and will irritate the skin of sensitive individuals. Wear long sleeves, as well, to further limit your contact with the seeds.

2. Remove the spiny husks from the horse chestnuts. Carefully press the blade of a paring knife onto the husk until it penetrates. Score around the husk until it is cut in half. Peel off the two halves and discard them.

3. Place the hulled horse chestnuts in a bucket of water. Soak them for 24 hours to soften the inner hull. Drain off the water the next day and lay the seeds on a flat surface to drain.

4. Place the horse chestnuts in the bucket. Pour 5-percent bleach into the bucket until the seeds are barely covered. Soak them for one minute. Remove the seeds and rinse them thoroughly. Discard the bleach.

5. Fill the bottom one-third of a sealable plastic bag with moistened perlite. Place the horse chestnuts in the bag. Add more moistened perlite until the horse chestnuts are completely covered. Seal the bag.

6. Store the horse chestnuts inside the refrigerator for six to eight weeks. Remoisten the perlite with a spray bottle whenever necessary to maintain a constant level of light moisture. Do not let the perlite dry out completely.

7. Prepare planting containers just before removing the horse chestnuts from the refrigerator. Fill 6-inch nursery containers with a moistened mixture of equal parts milled peat moss, shredded pine bark, perlite and coarse sand.

8. Sow one horse chestnut in each container. Dig a planting hole with a depth equal to the diameter of the seed, or approximately 1.5 to 2 inches. Place the seed in the hole and cover it completely.

9. Place the planting containers outdoors under partial shade. Maintain a moderate level of moisture in the top 2 inches of soil. Allow the surface to dry between waterings.

10. Watch for germination three weeks after planting. Decrease watering after germination so the top 1/2 inch of soil dries out between waterings. Avoid overwatering at this point since the seedlings will develop poorly.

11. Transplant the young horse chestnut seedlings into a permanent bed with acidic soil once they grow to 4 inches in height and have several sets of leaves.

Things You Will Need
• Rubber gloves
• Paring knife
• Bucket
• 5-percent bleach
• 1-gallon sealable plastic bag
• Perlite
• Spray bottle
• 6-inch nursery containers
• Peat moss
• Pine bark
• Coarse sand

• Wash your hands and clothing thoroughly after working with horse chestnuts to avoid accidentally ingesting the toxic compounds present in their flesh and sap.

UK’s conkers and horse chestnut trees under threat

By Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith

A combination of an exotic pest and a killer disease could threaten to wipe out the UK’s conkers and horse chestnut trees within 15 years, it has been reported.

The horse chestnut leaf miner moth, which first came to the UK in 2002, and the bleeding canker disease, are affecting Britain’s population of horse chestnut trees, while saplings are no longer being planted as they rarely survive longer than five years, the Telegraph reported.

The moth’s larvae effectively eat the trees’ leaves from the inside out by mining them, which destroys the leaf tissues, causing them to turn pale or brown. This has an impact on the trees’ ability to photosynthesise and their overall health. It also has an impact on the size of the conkers grown on the trees, which are smaller usual.

In addition to this, the trees are becoming infected with bleeding canker, a fungal disease that causes the trees to be ooze a black liquid and can cause the trees to eventually die.

Professor Robert Jackson from the University of Reading told Sky News: "We have a major disease epidemic (bleeding canker) and pest (leaf miner) sweeping through the UK population of trees.

"Most plant populations have some resistant individuals whose immune system can stop the infection, so we might see some trees survive, especially in woodlands,” he said.

Mr Jackson said the situation is looking “bleak” at the moment, adding: "Really we need to assess the population to see how resilient it is over time to see if it can survive."

Dr Glynn Percival, manager of the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory at the University of Reading, told Horticulture Week: "I don't think the prognosis is good at all, unless we find something to control leaf miner. In trees that have leaf miner we do get an increase in the severity of bleeding canker because they have so little energy to defend themselves.

"Horse chestnuts have got maybe another five years unless we get the issues under control. The trees are living off their own natural resources. They're brown and crispy when everything else is green. No energy is being produced.”

Health Benefits of Horse Chestnut

By Jawairia Zafar (OCT)
What is Horse Chestnut?

Horse Chestnut (also known as Aesculus Hippocastanum, Conkers, and Buckeye) is a tree that has cone shaped bunches of bright pink or white flowers with pink and yellow sprayed dots. The extract from the leaves, flowers, bark, and seeds of Horse Chestnut have been used in many herbal medicines for centuries, and more recently in cosmetics.

Horse Chestnut contains many beneficial herbal components which have a number of therapeutic benefits. Some of these components include triterpene glycosides, coumarin glycosides aesculin, flavonoids (quercetrin), tannins, and plant sterols.

What are the Benefits of Horse Chestnut?

Horse Chestnut is known for its great antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vasoprotective, astringent, and analgesic properties. Herbalists often recommend Horse Chestnut Seed Extract to treat varicose veins, varicose eczema, frostbite, bruising, rheumatoid arthritis, sprains, muscle tension, and edema (swelling that is caused by fluid retention). Due to its astringent, anti-rheumatic, and antioxidant properties, Horse Chestnut is often used in shower gels, shaving products, sun care products, creams and lotions, and compresses for painful muscles and varicose veins.

Uses of Horse Chestnut

• Varicose or Spider Veins

Studies have found that a component in Horse Chestnut called Aescin may be beneficial in the treatment of varicose veins and spider veins by improving both venous insufficiency and capillary integrity. In other words, it can help tone the compromised walls of the veins and promote healthy blood circulation throughout the body. Therefore, a simple remedy for varicose and spider veins is to mix Horse Chestnut extract and Grapeseed Oil in a 1 to 1 ratio, gently apply it onto the affected area before going to bed, and leave it overnight. Massaging the mixture onto the affected area is not recommended. Grapeseed Oil can also be substituted with Rosehip Oil, Kiwi Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Other alternatives include Calendula Oil, Comfrey Oil and/or Arnica Oil.

• Rheumatoid Arthritis

Horse Chestnut extract is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it is often used to relieve arthritic and rheumatic aches, pains, and sprains. In fact, many massage products that are used by athletes to relieve muscular or joint pain after extraneous workouts often contain Horse Chestnut. A simple remedy for rheumatoid arthritis is to to mix 1 tablespoon of Horse Chestnut Oil in half a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Arnica Oil and apply or massage onto the affected areas twice daily.

• Anti-Aging Toner

Due to the antioxidant properties of Horse Chestnut, it is often recommended as a great anti-aging toner. Also, since Horse Chestnut extract promotes blood circulation and helps tone and strengthen fragile veins and capillaries, it is used in many high quality lotions and skin creams for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite. It is also used in many toning, slimming, and firming skin products. For healthy and glowing skin, simply mix 5-10 drops of Horse Chestnut Seed Extract into a 50ml bottle of Vitamin E oil or into your favorite face moisturizer and apply it each night before bed. Adjust the number of drops of Horse Chestnut based on your skin sensitivity levels (for example, start with 5 drops if you have very sensitive skin).

• Tired and Heavy Legs

A simple home remedy for tired and painful legs is to massage Horse Chestnut Oil into your legs and then wrap the legs in a blanket for 15-20 minutes. A few drops of Grapeseed Extract can also be mixed to provide faster relief. What are the Side Effects of Horse Chestnut?

Oral consumption of Horse Chestnut, especially its seeds, is considered unsafe and toxic. Consult your doctor as soon as possible if ingested. However, its topical use has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of many health conditions. In some individuals, topical uses of Horse Chestnut can cause allergic skin reactions.Therefore, it is recommended to apply it on a smaller area to test for any adverse reactions before beginning to use Horse Chestnut extract or oil on a regular basis. Horse Chestnut is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and patients with kidney or liver problems. Also, if you are using any other medicinal skin product, consult your healthcare provider before using this oil.

Where and How to Buy Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut can be found at herbal food stores in the form of oils, creams, lotions, and extracts. When buying it, make sure to look for a safe amount of Horse Chestnut component in the product. For example, in creams and lotions it should be around 4-12%, while in whole body massage oils and spider vein treatments the concentration should be from 10-20%, and in varicose vein treatments it can be from 20-60%. You may also find products that list Aescin as the active ingredient (which is derived from Horse Chestnut).

The real reason it's called a 'Horse Chestnut' tree…

By Emma-Louise Pritchard

This grand tree's official name is Aesculus Hippocastanum, so why is it associated with horses?

Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus Hippocastanums) are currently shedding their smooth, shiny conkers (much to the children's delight!).

But have you ever wondered why this grand tree, which provides us with not only aesthetic pleasure but hands-on, childhood fun, is named after an equally grand animal?

There are said to be two age-old reasons that link the Aesculus Hippocastanum to horses and they both date back to when the tree first came to the UK in the late 16th century from Turkey…

1. The shape of the leaves' stalks…

When the leaves of the Aesculus Hippocastanum fall, the stalk breaks away from the twig it was attached too.

As they detach, the stalk leaves a scar on the twig which is said to perfectly resemble the shape of a horseshoe. The scar is even complete with nail holes!

2. To cure horses...

Back in the days before modern veterinary medicines, conkers used to be ground and fed to horses to relieve them of coughs. Crushing the conkers releases certain medicinal chemicals which are beneficial for horses but, for other smaller animals, are actually poisonous.

So, there you have it, a short, sweet and nutty fact for the day. The next time you walk past a proud Horse Chestnut, you'll know a little bit more about it's rich history.

5 Natural Remedies for Varicose Veins

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook

Along with the hot weather of summer comes the swimsuits and shorts, leaving many people self-conscious of varicose veins. The bluish and raised veins can cause achy legs as well. While an estimated 60 percent of the population has varicose veins, their commonality may not bring much comfort to those suffering from the condition. Fortunately there are some excellent natural remedies that prevent or treat varicose veins without painful injections or other costly or invasive procedures. Here are five of my top picks:

Horse Chestnut

Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a longstanding traditional herbal remedy for varicose veins. It contains a naturally-occurring substance that thins the blood and makes it difficult for fluid to leak out of veins. It comes in capsules and liquid extract forms, both of which can be highly prevent varicose veins. It seems to work by improving circulation. Avoid products which list Aesculus californica or aesculus glabra since they are also sometimes called horse chestnut, but are actually different plants. Also avoid eating horse chestnuts in their raw form as they are poisonous. The research-proven dose is 300 mg of horse chestnut with 50 mg of the active ingredient aescin, twice daily.

Citrus Fruit Extract

Known as diosmin, this citrus fruit extract has been found to reduce the appearance and achiness of varicose veins in only 30 days. It is regularly-prescribed natural remedy for varicose veins in Europe. It works by toning and tightening blood vessels so fluids are less likely to pool in tissues and in the veins themselves. The study-proven dose is 600mg of diosmin once a day.

Witch Hazel

Small twigs of this North American tree or shrub are distilled to create a witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) liquid solution that is not only effective for cleaning cuts and wounds, it is also a traditional remedy for varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and other indicators of circulatory problems. It contains antioxidants and other naturally-occurring compounds that are proven to be effective against varicose veins. Simply apply witch hazel with cotton balls or cotton pads to the affected areas at least twice daily to help shrink varicose veins and to help alleviate swelling and tenderness.


A cross between blackberries and raspberries, these berries strengthen blood vessels, making them an excellent addition to help fight varicose veins as well as heart disease. They contain a natural compound known as rutin, which strengthens capillaries and improves circulation. Rutin has been shown to relieve aching and swelling linked to varicose veins. Eat at least half a cup on a daily basis to obtain sufficient amounts of rutin to help heal varicose veins.

Spinach and Other Leafy Greens

Spinach and leafy greens are among the highest sources of vitamin K, a nutrient that is essential for strong and healthy blood vessels. Strong blood vessels mean that varicose veins are less likely to occur. It also helps strengthen veins that are already damaged, helping them to heal over time. Enjoy at least a cup or two of spinach or other leafy green to obtain sufficient vitamin K to help prevent or heal varicose veins.

Benefits Of Horse Chestnut(Aesculus Hippocastanum) For Health

(Tip Disease)

Horse Chestnut(Aesculus Hippocastanum)

Horse Chestnut(Aesculus Hippocastanum) is known as other names: Aescin, Aescine, Aesculus hippocastanum, Horse Chestnut, Buckeye, Castaño de Indias, Châtaignier de Mer, Châtaignier des Chevaux, Chestnut, Escine, Faux-Châtaignier, Hippocastani Cortex, Hippocastani Flos, Hippocastani Folium, Hippocastani Semen, Hippocastanum ...

The trunk of horse chestnut tree is very erect and columnar, and grows very rapidly to a great height, with widely spreading branches. The bark is smooth and greyishgreen in colour: it has been used with some success in dyeing yellow. The wood, being soft and spongy, is of very little use for timber.

The large horse chestnut leaves are divided into five or seven leaflets, spreading like fingers from the palm of the hand and have their margins finely toothed. The flowers are mostly white, with a reddish tinge, or marking, and grow in dense, erect spikes. There is also a dull red variety, and a less common yellow variety. The horse chestnut fruit is a brown nut, with a very shining, polished skin, showing a dull, rough, pale-brown scar where it has been attached to the inside of the seed-vessel, a large green husk, protected with short spines, which splits into three valves when it falls to the ground and frees the nut.

The tree commonly known as the horse chestnut is originally native to regions in northern India, it also grows wild in the Caucasus and in areas of northern Greece, however - the tree has been cultivated throughout Europe for a long time now. The horse chestnut also has relative species from the same genus, growing in the United States - these include the California buckeye.

For centuries, horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers were used for a variety of conditions and diseases. Today, horse chestnut seed extract is used primarily as a folk or traditional remedy for chronic venous insufficiency (a condition in which the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart). This condition is associated with varicose veins, pain, ankle swelling, feelings of heaviness, itching, and nighttime leg cramping. The horse chestnut seed extract has also been used as a folk or traditional remedy for hemorrhoids.

Benefits Of Horse Chestnut(Aesculus Hippocastanum) For Health

Horse chestnut herbal remedies are utilized in traditional folk medicine, for the treatment of diarrhea and other disorders of the digestive system caused by infective agents. In fact, herbal teas made from the horse chestnut are traditionally used all over the world for the treatment of many different conditions, which includes disorders such as arthritis and also to treat rheumatic pains and coughs. Topical ointments are also prepared from the herb, and the tea itself is often applied directly on to the skin as a treatment for some kinds of sores and rashes affecting a person.

Horse chestnut is taken in small doses internally for the treatment of a wide range of venous diseases, including hardening of the arteries, varicose veins, phlebitis, leg ulcers, hemorrhoids and frostbite.

The horse chestnut extract is often standardized and this form of the herbal remedy is considered to be an extremely valuable aid in the treatment of disorders such as varicose veins in different individuals. The presence of this extract inhibits the action of the enzyme hyaluronidase in the body and decreases the permeability of the veins and as a result venous fragility is lowered. The flow of blood in the blood vessels and the muscular tone of the veins are also beneficially improved by the horse chestnut herb.

The ability of the herbal remedies made from the horse chestnut to reduce cases of eczema was observed from the results of various scientific studies - which included a randomized double-blind and placebo-controlled stage - in this topical role, the horse chestnut is a wonderful herb for the treatment of such external skin conditions.

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 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.

Horse chestnut bark remedies can be used as an herbal remedy to reduce the elevated temperatures during a fever. Consumption of the horse chestnut in small to moderate doses has also been advised to treat certain types of leg ulcers, to treat cases of hemorrhoids, and in the treatment of frostbite.

The herbal remedy can also be applied topically as an herbal lotion, as an herbal ointment, or in the form of a gel based extract for the treatment of various external conditions afflicting the skin of the patients. The oil extracted from the seeds of the horse chestnut plant has been extensively used in France for the treatment of rheumatism and as an external treatment for various skin disorders.

The herbal decoction made from horse chestnut leaves have also been used in the US, as a topical decoction given for the treatment of whooping cough and related respiratory illnesses.

Horse Chestnut(Aesculus Hippocastanum) Side Effects and Cautions

Do not use raw or unprocessed horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, or flowers. They contain esculin, which is poisonous.

When properly processed, horse chestnut seed extract contains little or no esculin and is considered generally safe when used for short periods of time. However, the extract can cause some side effects, including itching, nausea, or gastrointestinal upset.

Some side effects from the use of these herbal extracts have been reported by some patients, and there have been at least two reports of some form of kidney damage in individuals who consumed extremely large quantities of the compound aescin at a single time. For this reason, it is advised that the doses of horse chestnut must be monitored carefully and all persons suffering from any form of liver or kidney disease must avoid the extract in any form. The use of the herbal remedy is also contraindicated during a term of pregnancy and in lactating women who must not use the remedy internally. The herbal remedies based on the horse chestnut have also been associated with some very rare cases of allergic reactions in the skin following topical application of the remedy. Consulting a professional health care worker before any self administered dosage of the horse chestnut is an important step, as the circulation disorders and physical trauma associated with any swelling may be the sign of an underlying serious condition, which may not be treatable using the herbal remedy alone.

All therapies during which herbal horse chestnut remedies are used on patients are best carried out under supervision by a knowledgeable and professional healthcare provider - this is to avoid all possible side effects and toxicity reactions in the patient. In addition to the use of the horse chestnut remedy, all the patients suffering from varicose veins must also continue to use the other treatment options such as elastic stockings, compresses, or cold water soaks suggested by their doctors for optimal and rapid healing. Horse chestnut must be avoided in any form by all individuals suffering from any kind of bleeding disorders. An anti-clotting reaction and thinning in the blood is induced by the coumarin glycoside aesculin present in horse chestnut remedies - patients should consider the possible effects of this compound when using the remedy in therapy.

The Horse Chestnut Tree and Conkers

By Linda Crampton
The Beautiful Horse Chestnut Tree

The horse chestnut is a beautiful ornamental tree with attractive leaves and flowers. It produces prickly fruit capsules which each contain a glossy brown and nut-like seed. The seed is known as a conker and has been used in a popular children's game since at least the mid-nineteenth century. The game gets its name from the seed and is known as conkers.

The scientific name of the horse chestnut tree is Aesculus hippocastanum. Despite its common name, horse chestnut isn't closely related to true chestnut trees. It's native to Southeastern Europe but is grown in parks, landscaped areas and gardens around the world. The conkers ripen in September and October. They aren't edible and are actually toxic in their intact form. They're safe to touch, though. An extract made from horse chestnut seeds or leaves may have medicinal benefits.

There are horse chestnut trees growing in my neighbourhood in Canada. They are one of my favorite trees. The flowers are lovely to see in late spring and early summer and the conkers are fun to collect in autumn.

Features of Horse Chestnut Trees

A horse chestnut tree may grow to over a hundred feet in height. A mature tree is densely leaved in summer and is an impressive sight.

The leaves develop from sticky buds and are said to be "palmately compound". This term means that a leaf consists of smaller leaflets that radiate from a common base. There are five to seven leaflets in a leaf. Each leaflet has toothed edges and a pointed tip.

Horse chestnut flowers are mainly white but have attractive pink or yellow blotches at their base. They are born in erect spikes that are sometimes called "candles" because they look as though they are lighting up the tree.

The fruits are large and prickly. They are green at first and turn yellow in the autumn. Each fruit generally contains one conker (or horse chestnut), but may occasionally contain two or even three conkers. In the autumn the fruits fall to the ground, often already open. The seeds, or conkers, are a beautiful, rich brown color and have a glossy appearance. There is a white mark at one end of each seed.

Horse chestnut trees are sometimes planted on either side of a road, forming beautiful avenues. They are valued for their beauty, the nectar that they provide for bees, and their conkers. As described below, they may have medicinal benefits as well. The wood of horse chestnut is soft, light and weak. It isn't very good for building things.

How Did Horse Chestnut and Conkers Get Their Names?

There are several possible reasons why Aesculus hippocastanum is known as a "horse" chestnut. When a leaf drops, the scar left on the tree is shaped like a horseshoe. The scar also contains seven marks around the edge that look like the nails of a horseshoe. Another possible reason for the name is that it was once thought (mistakenly) that horse chestnuts helped cure horses of chest complaints and made their coats shiny.

The name "conker" may have come from the sound that's made as two conkers hit each other. Another possibility is that it was derived from the French word "cogner", which means to "hit or knock". In some regions of Britain conkers are given alternate names, including obblyonkers and cheggies. Conkers with flat sides are sometimes called cheesers.

The Conkers Game

Conkers is a traditional game in the UK, where I grew up. The goal of the game is for a person to use his or her conker to break a conker belonging to another person.

The earliest games of conkers were actually performed with hazelnuts or sea shells instead of horse chestnuts. The horse chestnut tree wasn't imported into the United Kingdom until the 1600s. The first recorded game of conkers played with horse chestnut seeds took place in 1848 on the Isle of Wight.

To prepare for a game of conkers, a player has to drill a hole through one of the seeds. A screwdriver or another device is sometimes used instead of a drill. A piece of string or a shoelace is then threaded through the hole and a knot is tied at one end so that the string can't slip out of the hole.

To play the game, one person dangles their conker and the other swings or flicks their conker at the stationary one. The players take turns swinging their conkers. A conker that breaks another one is the winner.

Competitive conkers are assigned a number. A none-er is a conker that hasn't yet broken another one while a one-er has broken one conker. However, the numbering system gets more complicated than this. A conker not only gains a point for defeating another one but also take over the points of the conker that it destroyed. For example, if a none-er breaks a two-er, the none-er becomes a three-er. It got one point for winning the game plus it gained the two points of the conker that it broke.

How to Play Conkers


The World Conker Championships

In the United Kingdom, even adults play conkers. The World Conker Championships are held on the second Sunday in October every year. The event takes place in Northamptonshire and is organized by the Ashton Conker Club.

The club provides conkers for the games and doesn't allow players to use their own. This rule prevents players from entering the games with an unfair advantage. There are several methods of hardening a conker, which aren't allowed in the competition. These methods include soaking the seed in vinegar or salt water and baking it in an oven. Storing a conker for a year will also harden it.

Possible Medicinal Benefits of Horse Chestnut

An extract of horse chestnut seeds or leaves may have medicinal benefits. There is scientific evidence that the extract can help chronic venous insufficiency. In this condition, a weakness in the leg veins interferes with the return of blood from the legs to the heart. The condition causes problems such as varicose veins, ankle swelling and pain.

The NIH, or National Institutes of Health, acknowledges that horse chestnut extract has been shown to be effective for venous insufficiency. They also state that there is no evidence that it can help any other condition, however.

Any extract that's used must be free of aesculin. Aesculin (or esculin) is a toxic substance in horse chestnut. Horse chestnut also contains a substance called aescin (or escin), which is thought to produce the beneficial effects noted in experiments.

Horse chestnut extract may act as a medication, but eating conkers or leaves from a tree is dangerous. Extracts intended for medical use must be obtained from Aesculus hippocastanum and not from related plants such as Aesculus californica (California buckeye) or Aesculus glabra (Ohio buckeye). These plants haven't been tested for medicinal benefits or safety.

It's important that anyone who is considering the use of horse chestnut as a medication talks to their doctor. Natural medicines can cause side effects and can interfere with the action of pharmaceutical drugs.

Time Lapse of Horse Chestnut Trees in Different Seasons


The Leaf Miner Moth and Horse Chestnuts

The horse chestnut is a much loved tree in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, in some parts of the country it's being attacked by the leaf miner moth, or Cameraria ohridella. The moth causes the leaves of horse chestnut to turn brown and fall off the tree in late summer instead of in the fall.

The damage is done by the larvae of the moth. They "mine" their way through the leaves as they feed on leaf tissue. Although infected trees don't look very attractive, they aren't killed by the moth. The damage to the leaves develops too late in the growing season to have much effect. The seeds or conkers may be smaller than normal, however.

There has been some concern that horse chestnut trees are being weakened by the moth's presence, which might make them more susceptible to microbe infections. Recent research has dispelled this notion, however.

Effects of The Leaf Miner Moth on Horse Chestnut


Bleeding Canker Disease and Horse Chestnut Trees

Scientists say that the threat of a bacterium that causes bleeding canker disease is much more serious than the threat created by the leaf miner moth. The dangerous bacterium is called Pseudomonas syringae. It creates an infection in the tree bark (a canker). The damaged area releases a sticky, reddish brown liquid. The infection may be minor. However, in severe cases the infection travels deeper into the tree trunk and kills the inner bark, the cambium (which produces new plant tissue) and the outer wood. Water and nutrient transport may be disrupted. If the infection spreads all around the tree trunk, the tree will die.

Hopefully researchers will be able to fight bleeding canker disease and prevent the infection from spreading to new trees. The loss of horse chestnut trees from Britain would be a very sad event. They have been a beautiful part of the landscape for many years.

Horse Chestnut

(Cancer Care Of Western New York)
Principal Proposed Uses

Venous Insufficiency (Related to Varicose Veins)

Other Proposed Uses

Hemorrhoids; Minor Injuries; Phlebitis; Varicocele (Varicose Veins of the Testicles)

The horse chestnut tree is widely cultivated for its bright white, yellow, or red flower clusters. Closely related to the Ohio buckeye, this tree produces large seeds known as horse chestnuts. A superstition in many parts of Europe suggests that carrying these seeds in your pocket will ward off rheumatism. More serious medical uses date back to nineteenth-century France, where extracts were used to treat hemorrhoids.

Serious German research of this herb began in the 1960s and ultimately led to the approval of a horse chestnut extract for vein diseases of the legs. Horse chestnut is the third most common single-herb product sold in Germany, after ginkgo and St. John's wort. In Japan, an injectable form of horse chestnut is widely used to reduce inflammation after surgery or injury; however, it is not available in the United States, and it may present safety risks.

The active ingredients in horse chestnut appear to be a group of chemicals called saponins, of which aescin is considered the most important. Aescin appears to reduce swelling and inflammation. It is not exactly clear how aescin might work, but theories include "sealing" leaking capillaries, improving the elastic strength of veins, preventing the release of enzymes (known as glycosaminoglycan hydrolases) that break down collagen and open holes in capillary walls, decreasing inflammation, and blocking other various physiological events that lead to vein damage.

Horse chestnut is most often used as a treatment for venous insufficiency. This is a condition associated with varicose veins, when the blood pools in the veins of the leg and causes aching, swelling, and a sense of heaviness. While horse chestnut appears to reduce these symptoms, no studies have evaluated whether it can make visible varicose veins disappear, or prevent new ones from developing.

Because hemorrhoids are actually a form of varicose veins, horse chestnut is used for them as well, and one double-blind, placebo-controlled study suggests that it may be effective.

Horse chestnut may also help improve sperm counts in men suffering from infertility due to varicocele, a type of varicose veins that affects the testicles.

Another double-blind study found that a topically applied gel made from horse chestnut may be helpful for bruises. Oral horse chestnut has also been proposed for minor injuries and surgery, but published studies on this potential use were not double-blind. (For reasons why double-blind studies are important, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?)

Finally, horse chestnut is sometimes used along with conventional treatment in cases where the veins of the lower legs become seriously inflamed (called phlebitis). Note: Phlebitis is potentially dangerous and requires a doctor's supervision.

Venous insufficiency

One trial on horse chestnut followed 212 people over a period of 40 days. In this crossover study, participants initially received horse chestnut or placebo, and then were crossed over to the other treatment (without their knowledge) after 20 days. The results showed that horse chestnut produced significant improvement in leg edema, pain, and sensation of heaviness. However, the design of this study was not quite up to modern standards.

A better-designed double-blind study of 74 individuals also found benefit.

Good results were also seen in a partially double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which compared the effectiveness of horse chestnut to that of compression stockings, a standard treatment. This study followed 240 people over a course of 12 weeks. Compression stockings worked faster at reducing swelling, but by the end of the study the results were equivalent, and both treatments were better than placebo.

Despite these generally favorable results, a review of 17 randomized trials involving over 1,593 people with chronic venous insufficiency was somewhat less encouraging. In the placebo-controlled studies, researchers found that horse chestnut did reduce symptoms, such as leg pain and swelling. But, the results were inconsistent when the supplement was compared to other treatments, like compression stockings.

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), derived from pine bark, have also been studied as a treatment for venous insufficiency. In a small, double-blind trial, OPCs were more effective than horse chestnut for the treatment of this condition. Hemorrhoids

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 80 people with symptomatic hemorrhoids evaluated the use of a horse chestnut product providing 40 mg of aescin 3 times daily. The results indicated that use of horse chestnut produced noticeable subjective improvements in pain, bleeding, and swelling within a week; within 2 weeks, the benefits were visible by objective examination.


A double-blind study of 70 people found that about 10 g of 2% aescin gel, applied externally to bruises in a single dose 5 minutes after they were induced, reduced bruise tenderness.

The most common dosage of horse chestnut is 300 mg twice daily, standardized to contain 50 mg aescin per dose, for a total daily dose of 100 mg aescin.

Horse chestnut preparations should certify that a toxic constituent called esculin has been removed (see Safety Issues). Also, a delayed-release formulation must be used to prevent gastrointestinal upset.

Whole horse chestnut is classified as an unsafe herb by the FDA. Eating the nuts or drinking a tea made from the leaves can cause horse chestnut poisoning, the symptoms of which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, headache, breakdown of red blood cells, convulsions, and circulatory and respiratory failure possibly leading to death. However, manufacturers of the typical European standardized extract formulations remove the most toxic constituent (esculin) and standardize the quantity of aescin. To prevent stomach irritation caused by another ingredient of horse chestnut, the extract is supplied in a controlled-release product, which reduces the incidence of irritation to below 1%, even at higher doses.

Properly prepared horse chestnut products appear to be quite safe. After decades of wide usage in Germany, there have been no reports of serious harmful effects, and even mild reported reactions have been few in number.

In animal studies, horse chestnut and its principal ingredient aescin have shown a low degree of toxicity, producing no measurable effects when taken at dosages seven times higher than normal. Dogs and rats have been treated for 34 weeks with this herb without harmful effects.

Individuals with severe kidney problems should avoid horse chestnut. In addition, injectable forms of horse chestnut can be toxic to the liver. The safety of horse chestnut in young children and pregnant or nursing women has not been established. However, 13 pregnant women were given horse chestnut in a controlled study without noticeable harm. Furthermore, studies in pregnant rats and rabbits found no injury to embryos at doses up to 10 times the human dose, and changes of questionable significance at 30 times the dose.

Horse chestnut should not be combined with anticoagulant, or blood-thinning, drugs, as it may amplify their effect.

• If you are taking aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), ticlopidine (Ticlid), pentoxifylline (Trental), or anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin) or heparin: Do not use horse chestnut except under medical supervision.

Horse Chestnut: How It Can Help Varicose Veins and More

(Reader's Digest Editors from the book Doctors' Favorite Natural Remedies)

You could use this traditional herbal medicine for bruises, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and more.

The horse chestnut is so named because it was once used to treat chest complaints in horses. The bark, leaves and seeds—better known as the conkers that children collect in autumn—have been used in traditional herbal medicine for coughs, fever, arthritis and rheumatism. Today, extracts from the seeds are a well-regarded and clinically validated treatment for varicose veins and other ailments pertaining to the circulatory system.

How Horse Chestnut Works

Horse chestnut has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent (tightening) and tonic properties. It contains a saponin known as aescin, which constricts blood vessels. Taken orally, or applied topically, horse chestnut helps to tighten tiny blood vessels and reduce cell wall permeability, preventing fluid leakage into surrounding tissue and helping to heal wounds. Horse chestnut tones and strengthens vein walls, helping to prevent them from becoming slack or swollen and turning into varicose veins or hemorrhoids, as well as reducing the pain and swelling of existing varicose veins.

In a study published in the Lancet, researchers found that taking horse chestnut extract might be as effective as using compression stockings. Venous ulcers, spider veins and hemorrhoids may be improved with horse chestnut; it may also help to prevent nosebleeds. Horse chestnut may be of possible assistance in countering fluid retention in the legs and therefore help prevent deep vein thrombosis, as well as controlling the swelling

How to Use Horse Chestnut

Horse chestnut is available as tablets, capsules, and tinctures. Look for products containing standardized extracts of aescin. Follow label instructions or take as professionally prescribed. Horse chestnut may also be applied topically, via a lotion or a cream made by a herbalist. associated with sprains and strains.

Safety First

The unprocessed seeds, bark, leaves and particularly flowers are poisonous. Don’t take horse chestnut if you are taking anticoagulant or other blood-thinning medications, or if you have kidney or liver disorders, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Side effects from taking horse chestnut are rare, but may include an itchy rash, upset stomach or nausea. Do not apply topically to broken skin.

Where to Find Horse Chestnut

Horse chestnut products can be found in health food stores and pharmacies, and from a qualified herbalist, who may supply it as a tincture combined with synergistic herbs.

Plant of the month : The Horse Chestnut

(Woodgate Nursery)

When I look out of my kitchen window in the morning, the horse chestnut is the first plant I see. There is a huge, mature tree just across the drive from me. Now, in early May, its five-fingered leaves are hanging limp-wristed. In a few weeks, when the leaves have spread and stiffened, there will be flowers like ice-cream cones balanced amongst the outstretched hands. And in the autumn, of course, fist-fulls of conkers will rattle down on the roof of my neighbour’s car.

I live in an estate village. The park around the Hall and all the lanes in the vicinity are heavily planted with horse chestnuts. Some few hundred years ago it was the tree to have – majestic and slightly exotic. Not a native, it was introduced to Britain from Turkey in the 16th Century.

But now the horse chestnuts are in trouble. In June, the leaves of every single tree in the village will start to show a brown mottling which increases over the summer and results in an autumn which comes several weeks too early as the ruined foliage is shed.

The culprit is a leaf-miner that eats the leaves from the inside and pupates over winter in the leaf litter at the base of the tree. Though shocking, these infestations have not been found to significantly weaken the tree and those livid green leaves will still appear next season.

However, the horse chestnut is under more serious attack from a bacterial canker which causes weeping sores on the bark. If the canker encircles a bough it will die. If it encircles the trunk, then the whole tree’s fate is sealed. A significant proportion of British horse chestnuts are infected with bleeding canker, for which there is no cure.

Though individual trees can scar and heal in some instances, the horse chestnuts face an uncertain future in Britain. A combination of leaf-miner and canker may prove too much for them. Losses from streets and parkland will be replaced with other species and it has been several years since the nursery has sold Aesculus in either the white or red-flowered forms.

With their drooping boughs and crowns like cumulus clouds, the horse chestnuts are village characters. Without them, the character of my village will be forever changed.

The Horsechestnut Tree

By Debbie and Mark Wolfe

Horsechestnut (Aesculus spp.) is one of the old common names for the genus that includes “horse chestnuts” of Europe and Asia as well as the “buckeyes” native to North America. Loosely speaking buckeyes are horse chestnuts, but not all horse chestnuts are buckeyes. It has become fairly common to differentiate between “horse chestnuts” and “buckeyes” as the nuts themselves have slightly differing appearances, but then there are slight differences among all the species. Such is the confusion in plant names. By the way none of these are edible in their natural state as true chestnuts are. For clarity’s sake, this article will discuss Aesculus flava (some sources list it as Aesculus octandra), an American native species often called yellow buckeye.


Yellow buckeye (a.k.a. sweet buckeye, big buckeye) is a medium to large deciduous tree, commonly reaching over sixty feet tall with an oval-shaped crown. The dark green leaves in some specimens emerge with a purple tint and turn a rich orange color in fall. The slightly greenish, yellow flowers appear in seven inch panicles in mid spring. The smooth pear-shaped fruits ripen in fall, bearing two seeds each. This variety of “horse chestnut” is useful as a large flowering specimen or shade tree. Hardy in zones 4-8.

Short History

Yellow buckeye is a common species in the mixed hardwood forests of the central and southern Appalachians. It is found from the lowlands along rivers as well as slopes and up to the tops of mountains. It ranges from Pennsylvania to Georgia, westward to Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas.

George Washington is said to have become smitten with a red flowered form of this species near the mouth of the Cheat River in (now) West Virginia while paying a visit to Colonel Morgan Morgan in 1784. He collected seeds from the tree and planted them at Mt. Vernon where the offspring grew, producing several different shades of bloom and varying sizes. These few curious plants inspired a century-long search for the red flowering form of yellow buckeye. As it turns out, it was a naturally occurring hybrid between yellow buckeye and its diminutive southern neighbor the red buckeye (A. pavia). The hybridization of these species can occur with Ruby Throated hummingbird being the pollen carrier as it migrates north in spring.

Although the trees commonly grow tall and straight with clear trunks, the wood is of low value because it is both light and weak, and decays easily. It has been used for crates and boxes for shipping as well as pulpwood, but not aggressively sought even for these purposes.


Yellow buckeye has its greatest value in large landscapes. Its high degree of pollutant tolerance makes it a good candidate for urban settings. It is very useful in naturalized settings, and while the nuts are not utilized by wildlife, the flowers are a wonderful habitat plant for pollinators. Plant container grown or balled in burlap plants in full to partial sun, in moist, well drained soil.


Mulch well to maintain consistent soil moisture through summer. Little pruning, if any, is required.

Jeff Mitton: Horse chestnut trees provide a floral display but produce nothing edible

By Jeff Mitton

Each spring, a horse chestnut tree on the University of Colorado's Boulder campus puts on a floral display that stops people, even some of the multitasking undergraduates, in their tracks.

The tree is north of Norlin Library, west of the recreation center and east of Mackey Auditorium. That tree has been charming us for decades.

Our horse chestnut is about 45 feet tall and has a domed crown, with slightly drooping branches upturned at the ends. The foliage is lush, each leaf compound with five to seven leaflets 4 to 12 inches long. Flowers are arranged in towers or panicles approximately a foot tall, each with many flowers. The flowers are white with a red dot that fades to orange and then yellow, so that each panicle has flowers of many colors.

Botanists call it Aesculus hippocastanum, though its common name is horse chestnut. Common names are fraught with uncertainty, and this common name is a notable misnomer. First of all, it is not a true chestnut, and it is not closely related to them, just similar in appearance. It is called horse chestnut because the nuts can be lethal to horses. However, deer and black bears relish the nuts and eat them when they are available.

Remember the traditional holidays song "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire," made famous by Nat King Cole? That song refers to true chestnuts, in the genus Castanea, and those chestnuts are edible, tasty and nutritious. The American chestnut, Castanea dentata, was once the largest timber tree in the eastern deciduous forest, with mature trees taller than 100 feet, with trunks 5 to 10 feet in diameter. Chestnut forests were destroyed by chestnut blight between 1904 and 1950.

The genus Aesculus contains 13 to 19 tree species, some erroneously called chestnuts and others called buckeyes. Six of these species are native to North America, and the rest are native to Eurasia. I was surprised to learn that the horse chestnut is native to the Pindus Mountains in Greece and Albania and the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria and Serbia. Horticulturists introduced horse chestnuts to cities and towns in Europe, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and North America. Species native to Eurasia are most commonly named chestnuts, while the name buckeye is only applied to species native to North America.

The Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, is the Ohio State tree, and has a distribution from Texas through the Midwest to western Pennsylvania. Buckeye was also used as a term of endearment for the early settlers of Ohio. However, through no fault of its own, the tree was adopted as a mascot for the football team at Ohio State University, which has, in my opinion, substantially sullied the reputation of an innocent tree that has done nothing to evoke enmity.

Horse chestnuts and other members of the genus Aesculus have a formidable array of chemical defenses, so that no parts of the tree or its fruits or nuts are edible. Foremost among the defensive compounds are a saponin named aescin and a glucoside named aesculin, both taking their names from the genus Aesculus. But horse chestnuts synthesize other defensive compounds as well. For example, Native Americans crushed the nuts to extract a poison to stun or kill fish, and they blanched the nuts to extract tannins to cure leather.

Although some of these compounds have medicinal uses, they are too dangerous to be used as home remedies for any symptom or affliction. Listed among the known side effects of the defensive compounds are "acute anaphylactic reactions" and "acute renal failure."

In her diary, Anne Frank wrote about a horse chestnut visible from her window, now remembered as the Anne Frank Tree. Before that tree died in August 2010, seeds were taken and germinated, producing 11 offspring that went through a lengthy quarantine in Indianapolis. Those Anne Frank horse chestnut trees are now planted at two Holocaust Centers and other sites of historical importance across the country.

The Benefits of Horse Chestnut

By Cathy Wong, ND (Reviewed by a board-certified physician)

Health Benefits, Uses, and More

What Is Horse Chestnut?

Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a type of tree that grows throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In herbal medicine, horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers have long been used to treat various health conditions.

Horse chestnut contains a compound called aescin, which has been found to produce an anti-inflammatory effect.

Health Benefits of Horse Chestnut:

1) Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Research suggests that horse chestnut seed extract may be useful in treating chronic venous insufficiency.

In a systematic review published in 2006, for instance, researchers analyzed seven clinical trials and concluded that horse chestnut seed extract is "an efficacious and safe short-term treatment" for chronic venous insufficiency.

A condition in which the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart, chronic venous insufficiency is linked to problems such as varicose veins, ankle swelling, and nighttime leg cramping.

2) Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of horse chestnut seed, leaf, or bark for any conditions besides chronic venous insufficiency. However, a review published in 2001 concluded that supplementation with horse chestnut "may prevent time-consuming, painful, and expensive complications of varicose veins and hemorrhoids."

Uses for Horse Chestnut

In folk medicine, horse chestnut is used to relieve symptoms such as swelling and inflammation and strengthen blood vessel walls. Health claims for horse chestnut include the treatment of the following problems:

• circulatory disorders
• diarrhea
• hemorrhoids
• varicose veins

Horse chestnut extract may produce a number of adverse effects, including itching, nausea, or gastrointestinal upset.

In order to ensure the safe use of horse chestnut, make sure to consult your physician if you're considering using the herb to treat chronic venous insufficiency (or any other chronic health condition).

Manufacturers of horse chestnut products remove the toxic component, esculin. These products appear to be safe, as there have been few reports of harmful side effects despite being widely used in Europe.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also, keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

People with kidney or liver disease and bleeding disorders should avoid horse chestnut.

Horse chestnut should not be combined with aspirin, Plavix® (clopidogrel), Ticlid® (ticlopidine), Trental® (pentoxifylline), Coumadin® (warfarin), and other anticoagulant or anti-platelet ("blood-thinning") drugs unless under medical supervision as these medications may increase the effect of the medication.

Using Horse Chestnut for Health

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend horse chestnut for any condition. If you're considering using it, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Horse Chestnut Healing

By Steven Foster

This powerful, safe herb might be one of Europe's best-kept secrets.

What do the Germans know that we don’t? If you looked into the first-aid kit of most soccer teams in Europe, you would find a tube of horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) gel, ready to ease pain, bruising and swelling from sprains and other contusions or sports injuries.

In the United States, you have to search a little harder to find topical horse chestnut products. For more than a decade, the ever-present tube of gel in my home medicine chest has come from Germany. This product (Reparil) contains the single most dramatic phytomedicine that my family has used. Whenever my children (or I) close a finger in a door, twist an ankle, drop something on a foot, or suffer other types of injuries that cause bruising or swelling, we head straight for the horse chestnut gel. It reduces pain and swelling almost immediately and prevents bruising.

In Germany, horse chestnut extracts are used for another purpose as well—to treat vascular problems. The extracts reduce phlebitis (vein inflammation) and increase vein tone in cases of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI is a condition characterized by leg tiredness, tension and heaviness, as well as nocturnal cramping of calf muscles, itching, pain and swelling. Horse chestnut extracts also can help improve symptoms of leg swelling and pain associated with varicose veins, which can be an early sign of CVI.

Convincing Clinical Evidence

The clinical research on horse chestnut focuses on CVI. At least 13 such studies—all placebo controlled and double-blind—have been published since 1973. Most used 600 mg of an extract (equivalent to 100 mg a day of aescin, the group of compounds thought to be biologically active) and showed positive results.

A recent review of these studies concluded that horse chestnut seed extract is safe and effective for decreasing symptoms of CVI, including reducing lower-leg volume (circumference at the calf and ankle), leg pain, itching, fatigue and muscular tension in the legs. Five of these clinical trials compared horse chestnut extract against treatment with a standard drug. The reviewers concluded that horse chestnut extract was superior to placebo and just as effective as the standard (European) treatment. Another trial suggested that horse chestnut extract is as effective as compression stockings.

Where to Find Horse Chestnut

So how can you find this herb in the United States? Well, it’s not always easy. In the rest of the world, topical horse chestnut extract products usually are sold as over-the-counter drugs. In the United States, they’re primarily found as cosmetics because of labeling restrictions. Oral horse chestnut forms are becoming increasingly common and can be found in health-food stores and even some grocery stores. These products are intended to reduce venous insufficiency and are marketed to help reduce varicose veins. A few pharmacological studies show that horse chestnut can both prevent and treat varicose veins. However, treatment for varicose veins with horse chestnut has not been adequately addressed in human clinical studies.

Here are some tips for selecting good horse chestnut products.

Start with standardization. Horse chestnut seed extracts, used in both oral and topical forms, are complex phytomedicine. Extracts are made through an exacting process that can’t be duplicated by consumers in the kitchen or by backyard herbalists.

The extract is made from the seeds of the European horse chestnut. It is then calibrated to contain 16 to 20 percent of a group of compounds called triterpene glycosides. This group of compounds collectively is known as aescin (also spelled escin).

•Tablets and capsules.

An average therapeutic dose of horse chestnut should contain 100 mg of aescin, according to the German Commission E monograph on horse chestnut. This amount of aescin commonly is found in formulations of 250 to 312 mg and usually is split into two doses per day. The extract usually comes in timed-release tablets.

•Gels, creams and balms.

Topical products containing aescin act by diminishing the number or diameter of tiny openings in capillary walls, helping to "seal" the outflow of fluid surrounding tissue, hence thwarting swelling and bruising. This unique mechanism of action makes it very useful for the topical treatment of bruises, sprains, and contusions. Look for aescin on the label. If it’s not there, you don’t know how much you’re getting.


How Aescin Works

The "cement" between cells can be broken down by lysosomal enzymes, which in turn leads to increased capillary permeability and edema (collection of fluids in tissue). Aescin has been shown in various pharmacological studies to inhibit these enzymes, shrinking the size and quantity of tiny pores in capillary walls that regulate the flow of fluids. German and Italian researchers also suggest that, in cases of CVI, the lysosomal enzymes increase the number of white blood cells in the blood, a condition similarly reduced by aescin.

In addition, horse chestnut extract improves vein tone by helping to increase the contraction of elastin fibers in the vein walls. This activity, called a venotonic effect, counteracts a relaxation of vein tissue that can lead to varicose veins.

Safety Matters

CVI is a serious health problem that requires medical attention. Horse chestnut seed extracts are scientifically based herbal medicines that, in proper formulas and controlled dosages, have proven effective and safe. Don’t combine horse chestnut with warfarin (Coumadin) unless you are supervised by a knowledgeable health-care provider, and don’t use it during pregnancy or while nursing. In rare instances, oral forms might cause stomach upset, nausea or itching. Timed-release tablets reduce the chance of stomach upset.

Caution: Unprocessed horse chestnut (including bark, leaves and seeds) potentially can be toxic, and fatalities have been reported from eating relatively small amounts of the raw seeds. Use standardized, manufactured preparations only.

Horse chestnut seed extract for long-term or chronic venous insufficiency

By Pittler MH, Ernst E

Poor blood flow in the veins of the legs, known as chronic venous insufficiency, is a common health problem, particularly with ageing. It can cause leg pain, swelling (oedema), itchiness (pruritus) and tenseness as well as hardening of the skin (dermatosclerosis) and fatigue. Wearing compression stockings or socks helps but people may find them uncomfortable and do not always wear them. A seed extract of horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum L.) is a herbal remedy used for venous insufficiency. Seventeen randomised controlled trials were included in the review. In all trials the extract was standardised to escin, which is the main active constituent of horse chestnut seed extract.

Overall, the trials suggested an improvement in the symptoms of leg pain, oedema and pruritus with horse chestnut seed extract when taken as capsules over two to 16 weeks. Six placebo-controlled studies (543 participants) reported a clear reduction of leg pain when the herbal extract was compared with placebo. Similar results were reported for oedema, leg volume, leg circumference and pruritis. The other studies which compared the extract with rutosides (four trials), pycnogenol (one trial) or compression stockings (two trials) reported no significant differences between the therapies for leg pain or a symptom score that included leg pain. The herbal extract was equivalent to rutosides, pycnogenol and compression on the other symptoms with the exception that it was inferior to pycnogenol on oedema.

The adverse events reported (14 trials) were mild and infrequent. They included gastrointestinal complaints, dizziness, nausea, headache and pruritus, from six studies.

Massive tree in Bucks is now the largest Horse Chestnut in the UK

By Graham Spence

A 300 year old tree on the National Trust’s Hughenden estate in High Wycombe is the largest horse-chestnut in the country.

The veteran tree which stands in 275 hectares (680 acres) of Hughenden parkland, has a girth of over 24 feet - and it’s this enormous circumference which clinched its champion tree status on the National Tree Register.

Steve Kirkpatrick, National Trust Ranger for Hughenden says: “We are so proud of this tree. It’s impossible to date precisely but it’s certainly over 300 years old, so it pre-dates many of the other trees at Hughenden which were planted by our former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who lived here for 33 years in the 19th Century.

“Disraeli loved trees. He famously said, ‘When I come to Hughenden I pass the first week sauntering about the park examining all my trees, and the second examining my books’.

“He loved to plant trees around the estate and during his time here tripled the size of the parkland. Although few remain now, the landscape still reflects what he set out to do in terms of creating a parkland full of wonderful specimens to include cedar of Lebanon and Deodar cedar.”

Until the Hughenden chestnut tree claimed this crown, the largest known was at Whitchurch in Hampshire which is 13 centimetres smaller at 7.20 metres.

Steve continues: “Hughenden’s new champion has reached this size because it’s been allowed to grow unhindered, was planted in good soil; and because it’s on the flood plain it has benefitted from plenty of nutrients over the years.”

The estate of Hughenden with its open parkland, chalk stream and beech woodlands are one of the most popular beauty spots in the area, with beautiful walks through unspoilt Chilterns countryside.

Plant a conker and grow a Horse Chestnut Tree for the future

(Gardening With Children)

This year has been a good year for conkers, as well as most other fruits and nuts, when we visited our local Horse Chestnut trees in October there was an abundance of spikey green shells hanging on tightly in the chilly north easterly wind, we collected about thirty beautiful, shiny brown nuggets that had fallen on the ground, enough for Thomas to play conkers with and some to plant as well.

The first record of the game of conkers is from the Isle of Wight in 1848, they originally played with snail shells! Click here to learn how to play the game of conkers.

Horse Chestnut trees were introduced from the Balkans in the late 16th Century, in the UK we have over two million trees, even though this year has been a good year for conkers the Horse Chestnut tree is under threat.

Nearly a million of our trees are infected by the tiny invasive moth larvae, known as the horse chestnut leaf miner, they burrow in the leaves which then turn brown, reducing the amount of food that the tree can absorb through photosynthesis, as well as the threat from the leaf minor another serious disease called bleeding canker is spreading too and can cause the death of the tree.

The Horse Chestnut Tree is spectacular throughout the year and one of our national treasures, if you want to help maintain the poulation why not plant some of your spare conkers.

How to grow your Horse Chestnut trees

  1. Place your conkers in a container of water, discard the ones that float these have dried out.
  2. Using only the conkers that sink, plant them about 2cm deep individually in pots of soil/compost, between now and the end of November.
  3. Water well and place in a sheltered spot outside.
  4. Protect the pots from predators i.e. squirrels, mice etc. and from hard frosts, a cold frame is ideal, keep checking them to see if they need watering, but don’t overwater.
  5. The conkers will need to go through a period of cold temperatures to encourage them to germinate in the spring.
  6. Keep your young trees watered and re-pot as they grow bigger.
  7. Ask the landowners permission before you plant your new trees into the big wide world, they can grow very large.

We already have two healthy young trees waiting for a new home.

Happy planting


Europe's Best Kept Secret: Horse Chestnut

By Steven Foster

What do the Germans know that we don’t? If you looked into the first-aid kit of most soccer teams in Europe, you would find a tube of horse chestnut gel, ready to ease pain, bruising, and swelling from sprains and other contusions or sports ­injuries.

In the United States, you have to search a little harder to find topical horse chestnut products. For more than a decade, the ever-present tube of gel in my home medicine chest has come from Germany. This product (Reparil) contains the single most dramatic phytomedicine that my family has used. Whenever my children (or I) close a finger in a door, twist an ankle, drop something on a foot, or suffer other types of injuries that cause bruising or swelling, we head straight for the horse chestnut gel. It reduces pain and swelling almost immediately and prevents bruising.

In Germany, horse chestnut extracts are used for another purpose as well—to treat vascular problems. The extracts reduce phlebitis (vein inflammation) and increase vein tone in cases of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI is a condition characterized by leg tiredness, tension, and heaviness, as well as nocturnal cramping of calf muscles, itching, pain, and swelling. Horse chestnut extracts may also help improve symptoms of leg swelling and pain associated with varicose veins, which may be an early sign of CVI.

Clinical Evidence

The clinical research on horse chestnut focuses on CVI. At least thirteen such studies—all placebo controlled and double-blind—have been published since 1973. Most used 600 mg of an extract (equivalent to 100 mg/day of aescin, the group of compounds thought to be biologically active) and showed positive results.

A recent review of these studies concluded that horse chestnut seed extract is safe and effective for decreasing symptoms of CVI, including reducing lower-leg volume ­(circumference at the calf and ankle), leg pain, itching, ­fatigue, and muscular tension in the legs. Five of these clinical trials compared horse chestnut extract against treatment with a standard drug. The reviewers concluded that horse chestnut extract was superior to placebo and just as effective as the standard (European) treatment. Another trial suggested that horse chestnut extract is as effective as compression stockings.

Finding Horse Chestnut

So how can you find this herb in the United States? Well, it’s not always easy. In the rest of the world, topical horse chestnut extract products are usually sold as over-the-counter drugs. In the United States, they’re primarily found as cosmetics because of labeling restrictions. Oral horse chestnut forms are becoming increasingly common and can be found in health-food stores and even some grocery stores. These products are intended to reduce venous insufficiency and are marketed to help reduce varicose veins. A few pharmacological studies show that horse chestnut may both prevent and treat varicose veins. However, treatment for varicose veins with horse chestnut has not been adequately addressed in human clinical studies.

Here are some tips for selecting good horse chestnut ­products.

Start with standardization. Horse chestnut seed extracts, used in both oral and topical forms, are complex phytomedicine. Extracts are made through an exacting process that can’t be duplicated by consumers in the kitchen or by backyard herbalists.

The extract is made from the seeds of the European horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). It is then calibrated to contain 16 to 20 percent of a group of compounds called triterpene glycosides. This group of compounds is collectively known as aescin (also spelled escin), which is the term you want to look for on the label.

Tablets and capsules. An average therapeutic dose of horse chestnut should contain 100 mg of aescin, according to the German Commission E monograph on horse chestnut. This amount of aescin is commonly found in formulations of 250 to 312 mg and is usually split into two doses per day. The extract usually comes in timed-release tablets.

Gels, creams, and balms. Topical products containing aescin act by diminishing the number or diameter of tiny openings in capillary walls, helping to “seal” the outflow of fluid surrounding tissue, hence thwarting swelling and bruising. This unique mechanism of action makes it very useful for the topical treatment of bruises, sprains, and contusions. Look for aescin on the label. If it’s not there, you don’t know how much you’re getting.

Tinctures. In both the European and American markets, product forms such as liquid extracts that differ from those stated in the German regulatory text are formulated to deliver an equivalent amount of aescin. Research has focused on standardized extract forms, but non-standardized tinctures are also made in the United States. Follow label instructions on any product you use.

How Aescin Works

The “cement” between cells can be broken down by lysosomal enzymes, which in turn leads to increased capillary permeability and edema (collection of fluids in tissue). Aescin has been shown in various pharmacological studies to inhibit these enzymes, shrinking the size and quantity of tiny pores in capillary walls that regulate the flow of fluids. German and Italian researchers also suggest that, in cases of CVI, the lysosomal enzymes increase the number of white blood cells in the blood, a condition similarly reduced by aescin.

In addition, horse chestnut extract improves vein tone by helping to increase the contraction of elastin fibers in the vein walls. This activity, called a venotonic effect, counteracts a relaxation of vein tissue that can lead to varicose veins. Safety

CVI is a serious health problem that requires medical attention. Horse chestnut seed extracts are scientifically based herbal medicines that, in proper formulas and controlled dosages, have proven effective and safe. Don’t combine horse chestnut with warfarin (Coumadin) unless you are supervised by a knowledgeable health-care provider, and don’t use it during pregnancy or nursing. In rare instances, oral forms may cause stomach upset, nausea, or itching. Timed-release tablets reduce the chance of stomach upset.

Caution: Unprocessed horse chestnut (including bark, leaves, or seeds) potentially can be toxic, and fatalities have been reported from eating relatively small amounts of the raw seeds. Use standardized, manufactured preparations only. Avoid homemade horse chestnut preparations.

Injectable forms of horse chestnut seed extracts are used in German trauma centers for the treatment of acute head injuries or brain trauma. What’s so great about herbs used in Germany?

Before herbs such as echinacea, garlic, ginkgo, St. John’s wort, and saw palmetto were best-sellers in the American market, they had been sold for years, sometimes decades, in Germany. There, herbal medicines are not considered “complementary” or “alternative” medicine; they’re simply another aspect of conventional medical treatment. This trend is ever so slowly beginning to emerge in the United States as well.

All the best-selling herbs in Germany are covered by therapeutic monographs. These monographs, called the German Commission E monographs, serve as the basis for labeling and regulating herb products.

Until recently, however, the Commission E monographs were published only in German, making them inaccessible to a broad North American readership. In 1998, the American Botanical Council published an English translation of the German regulatory monographs: The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Now, more Commission E–approved herbs are beginning to get attention in the U.S. market.

Herbs to watch for? Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) for heart conditions, stinging nettle root (Urtica dioica) for benign prostatic hyperplasia, and ivy (Hedera helix), whose extracts are used for respiratory irritations.

What Is the Difference Between Horse Chestnut & a Chestnut Tree?

By Elisabeth Ginsburg (Demand Media)

Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocasanum), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 3 to 8, and American chestnut (Castanea dentata), hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, are both large trees, growing 50 to 75 feet tall at maturity. They come from two different plant families, but are both valuable as shade trees. In the first part of the 20th century, many American chestnuts were decimated by disease. This did not occur with horse chestnuts.

Horse Chestnuts

Horse chestnuts feature large, palmate leaves, grouped in arrangements of 5 to 7 leaflets. The showy flower panicles feature "candles" of numerous 4 or 5 petalled flowers that are white with a pinkish yellow blotch at the center. these are followed in the fall by spiny husks that enclose mahogany-brown nuts, with a distinctive grayish spot on each one. The tree bark is dark gray to brown and may exfoliate when the tree is mature. Growth rate is medium: 13 to 24 inches per year. Common Chestnuts

American chestnuts have spreading branches and a large, rounded crown. The flowers are sweet-smelling yellow-green catkins that appear in June and are followed by sweet, edible nuts about the size of hazelnuts. The large leaves are oblong, 6 to 8 inches across, and toothed along the edges. Many young trees grow up from the roots of older specimens felled by the fungal blight. These trees may grow up to 25 feet, flower and fruit, but die thereafter. Chestnut restoration efforts are focused on producing blight-resistant chestnuts.


These tall species provide ample shade and can be used as specimen or woodland trees. They are also useful street trees, but produce abundant amounts of litter. Both provide food for either humans and animals (American chestnut) or animals (horse chestnut). In each case, the nuts are covered by spiny shells. The two trees thrive in full sun and have medium water needs. Both species also have large leaves that turn yellow in the fall.


Common chestnut is decorative because of its large, spreading habit. Horse chestnuts leaves are more coarse, but the flowers are showy. Common chestnut has less significant flowers, which appear in June, as opposed to May for horse chestnut. The larger horse chestnut fruits have long been beloved by children, who played games like "conkers" with them. Horse chestnuts also have a slightly wider hardiness zone. The two trees both prefer moist, fertile soil, but horse chestnut suffers more in times of drought.

Why we love conkers and horse chestnut trees

By Jeremy Coles

Stunning leaf colour and conkers make horse chestnut trees the very essence of autumn. But these beautifully boughed trees have something to offer all year

What would autumn be without the horse chestnut tree, with its famous seed, the conker, being gathered by children across the land for schoolyard games, and its handlike leaves turning golden browns and reds before gently falling to the ground, quivering from side to side as they descend as if waving goodbye to the end of the summer?

It’s a rhetorical question. But the horse chestnut, or conker tree, is not just a tree for autumn, because this icon of the British landscape has something to offer in every season, from its distinctive leaves and pretty flower clusters to its seeds that have a myriad of uses.

However, it hasn't always been here. Horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) were widely planted after being introduced to Britain from Turkey in the late 16th Century, rapidly becoming naturalised in the UK. Today these trees are a common sight in many landscaped parks, gardens, streets and village greens.

According to Pauline Buchanan Black, director general of The Tree Council, children grow fond of the horse chestnut from an early age.

“One of the great things it has going for it is that its an easy tree for children to connect with because of the seeds, using them to play conkers or stringing them together into necklaces. There are lots of different things that can be done in terms of art and science, even just watching the germination of a conker.

“It is actually a good access point for children to think about trees and how to grow them,” she says.

Conkers are the hard mahogany-brown seeds that sit inside a spiky protective casing, which drop to the ground in autumn and as many a child will tell you, this time of year is all about waging war with these ‘big guns’ on the schoolyard battlefield in a game of conkers.

And that’s what many combatants will be doing on the 11th October at the World Conker Championships in Southwick, near Oundle, Northamptonshire. The annual contest has been held since 1965 when it was conceived on Ashton village green, moving to the bigger venue due to its popularity.

It’s a much older tradition than this, with the first recorded game of conkers believed to have taken place on the Isle of Wight in 1848. Originally it was played with snail (conch) shells and then cobnuts, eventually being replaced with horse chestnut seeds by the 20th century.

If you don’t know the rules, they are quite simple. The conker is threaded onto a lace, with each player taking turns to strike the others until one gets smashed or destroyed.

Conker conundrum

Despite all the fun to be had with the seeds of a horse chestnut tree, they do have a more serious side. Conkers can be mildly poisonous to many animals, causing sickness if eaten, although some animals can safely consume them, most notably deer and wild boar.

While it may not come as a surprise, considering the name of the tree they come from, conkers have been fed to horses as a stimulant, to make their coat shine and as a remedy for coughs, and also made into food for both horses and cattle.

“People think it’s called the horse chestnut because people think horses like to eat the chestnuts, but it’s not, because they can be poisonous.

“It’s not a good tree necessarily if there is livestock around,” Ms Buchanan Black tells BBC Earth.

What makes conkers toxic to many animals are chemicals called glycosides and saponins. Deer, however, are able to break these down. These substances could potentially act as insect repellents and, rumour has it, keep spiders at bay when placed in strategic locations around the home.

Conkers are very rich in starch but due to their toxicity are unfit for human consumption, but we do use extracts in shampoos and body washes.

A tree for all seasons

Horse chestnut trees are much more than just conkers in autumn. The distinctive palmate leaves turn to a stunning orange colour through to deep red before they fall, contributing to the colour change spectacle that sweeps the country at this time of year.

And after the leaf stalks have fallen there is a scar on the twig which resembles an inverted horse shoe with what looks like nail holes – another association with horses.

During spring, the clusters of pretty white or pink flowers brighten the trees like street lamps. But more than lighting the way they are a rich source of nectar and pollen for insects, while moth caterpillars found on the trees provide food for birds such as blue tits.

There are many things to love about horse chestnuts says Ms Buchanan Black, “One [reason] is the beautiful spreading nature of the tree and the shade that it gives, the beautiful flowers that you get and a leaf structure that is quite unlike most other deciduous broadleaf trees in the country.

“Then we get these gorgeous brown nuts inside that spikey case that look like a weapon of war,” she adds.

Uncertain future

A national inventory estimated there to be approximately half a million horse chestnut trees in Great Britain, whether they all live up to their potential height of 30 metres and 300 years old is currently difficult to predict.

The problem for horse chestnut trees, explains Ms Buchanan Black, is that it is beset by an awful lot of diseases at the moment.

The particular one that everyone knows about, and is threatening large numbers of trees, is the leaf mining moth, whose larvae feed on the trees’ leaves. And the amount the leaf miner is affecting them is quite significant.

“It starts off in the full flush of spring with loads of leaves and those lovely conical flower bracts and very quickly starts to fall prey to the leaf miner and the leaves turn brown, crumble and fall off,” says Buchanan Black.

But that’s not the only thing these trees have going against them at the moment. The bacterial infection bleeding canker occurs when a tree is weakened by the leaf miner and then becomes infected with these bacteria, which can be fatal.

There is also leaf blotch and wood rotting fungi, as well as the horse chestnut scale insect.

“One of the most worrying things is that such an iconic tree is looking so unhappy.”

But as Ms Buchanan Black concludes, “They are trees that people can relate to, because it’s been a presence in their lives since childhood. Through the game of conkers, through the wonderful big tree that stands out in the landscape and through the lovely flowers and the slightly mad seeds.”

Read before foraging: How to identify the poisonous horse chestnut

By Neil Giardino (Intern, KPLU News)

A stroll through the park reveals autumn at its brilliant peak this month. As brisk air and rich hues of crimson, orange and yellow carry you away, you might hear a familiar thud.

The fall of the spiky-shelled chestnut is a sound synonymous with the season.

For an ever-growing number of adventurous consumers, fall harvest is prime time for urban foraging. And this month, you might be tempted to forage one of autumn’s most familiar offerings: chestnuts.

But before you do, know what you’ve gathered before it finds its way into the oven.

Horse chestnuts, conker trees, buckeyes—call them what you like; just don’t call them true American chestnuts. Aesculus hippocastanum by their Latin designation, these natives of the mountainous slopes of the eastern Balkan forests are only distant relatives of the true chestnut tree.

The tree’s common name is a misnomer. Although the horse chestnut’s fruit bears a likeness to its good-natured cousin, the true American chestnut, the horse chestnut’s seed, or conker, is poisonous. Telltale signs of a thorough poisoning, which include vomiting, stomach irritation, and abdominal pain, typically manifest within 16 hours of intake of the nut or its juice. Its toxicity is on account of alkaloid saponins, and curiously enough, the deer is one of the only known mammals that can safely consume this poisonous chemical compound.

So how do you tell if the chestnut trees in your neighborhood are fruiting a toxic nut? For starters, the edible variety always has a pointed tip. Its toxic relative bears no such pointed end on its brown shell.

And Mark Mead, senior urban forester of Seattle Parks and Recreation, offers this pointer on how to identify a horse chestnut tree: “With horse chestnuts you’ll see a row of them, whereas with true chestnuts you’ll usually see two, maybe three.”

If Mother Nature’s tip-off isn’t enough to deter you from bringing the toxic horse chestnut home to roast, Mead offers one more clue, and it’s a dead giveaway: “Basically the horse chestnuts are really bitter, where as the true chestnut is buttery. And you can tell from its oil content.”

Taste receptors in humans once served as evolutionary defenses, helping to identify vital nutrients and toxins in plants. Extreme bitterness in taste remains a biological red flag, warning, in this case, of the horse chestnut’s poison.

While true chestnuts are few and far between in the Puget Sound area these days, they can still be found on the statelier boulevards of some Seattle neighborhoods. On one broad street atop Seattle’s Queen Anne hill, a few majestic old chestnut trees are dropping edible seeds this time of year. And don’t forget: it’s polite to ask before you forage.

Horse chestnut named UK's largest

(Press Association)

A 300-year-old horse chestnut tree in the grounds of the country estate where prime minister Benjamin Disraeli lived has been declared the largest in the country.

The veteran tree on the National Trust's Hughenden estate in Buckinghamshire has a girth of 7.33 metres (more than 24ft), clinching its status as the largest horse chestnut tree in the UK on the National Tree Register.

The Hughenden tree, which stands in 275 hectares (680 acres) of parkland on the estate, has taken the crown from a horse chestnut in Whitchurch, Hampshire, which is 13cm (5 inches) smaller at 7.2 metres (more than 23ft).

Steve Kirkpatrick, National Trust ranger for Hughenden, said the tree had reached such a huge size because it had been allowed to grow unhindered, was planted in good soil and had benefited from plenty of nutrients as it was on a flood plain.

He added: " It's impossible to date precisely but it's certainly over 300 years old, so it pre-dates many of the other trees at Hughenden which were planted by our former prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, who lived here for 33 years in the 19th century.

"Disraeli loved trees. He famously said: 'when I come to Hughenden I pass the first week sauntering about the park examining all my trees, and the second examining my books'.

"He loved to plant trees around the estate and during his time here tripled the size of the parkland.

"Although few remain now, the landscape still reflects what he set out to do in terms of creating a parkland full of wonderful specimens to include cedar of Lebanon and Deodar cedar."

The National Trust said the chestnut was one of a number of "national champion" trees in its care, including the tallest Scots pine in the country, at Cragside in Northumberland, and the tallest oak at Stourhead in Wiltshire.

The Trust looks after more than 30,000 notable or veteran trees - ones which because of their age, size or condition are of exceptional value to the landscape, culture or conservation - across its woodlands and estates.

These include the Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede, Surrey, thought to be the Trust's oldest tree at 2,500 years old, and the Old Man of Calke at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, an oak dating back a thousand years or more.

The announcement about the horse chestnut has been made to mark the start of National Tree Week.

Remedies: Horse Chestnut Seed Extract for Leg Pain

By Anahad O'Connor

More than a third of American adults use some form of complementary or alternative medicine, according to a government report. Natural remedies have an obvious appeal, but how do you know which ones to choose and whether the claims are backed by science? In this occasional series, Anahad O’Connor, the New York Times “Really?” columnist, explores the claims and the science behind alternative remedies that you may want to consider for your family medicine cabinet.

The Remedy: Horse chestnut seed extract.

The Claim: It helps relieve leg pain and other symptoms of venous insufficiency.

The Science: Poor blood flow in the veins of the legs is one of the common problems that develop as we age.

But when the problem becomes severe enough, it can result in a condition called chronic venous insufficiency. People who have the condition can find themselves struggling with a host of bothersome symptoms like leg pain, pruritus (itchiness), hardening of the skin and edema (swelling of tissue under the skin).

Wearing compression socks or stockings, one of the more traditional solutions, can be helpful but also uncomfortable for some people, causing them not to use them. But one alternative remedy, popular in Europe, is to use extracts from the seed of the horse chestnut, a large and leafy tree native to the Balkans and other parts of Europe. The extract contains beta-aescin and other compounds believed to help strengthen blood vessel walls and reduce swelling and redness.

Over the years, numerous studies have examined whether horse chestnut can actually make a difference. Most have found that it works well, but some studies have either suffered from poor design or were financed in part by commercial interests.

But in 2006, scientists with the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in England sifted through years of studies and selected the best randomized controlled trials for a meta-analysis in the respected Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

“Over all,” they found, “the trials suggested an improvement in the symptoms of leg pain, edema and pruritus with horse chestnut seed extract when taken as capsules over two to 16 weeks.”

Most of the trials found horse chestnut more effective than placebo, and one of them — a study published in The Lancet in 1996 — found that taking 50 milligrams of aescin (the active ingredient in horse chestnut seed) twice daily over 12 weeks worked just as well as wearing compression stockings.

“The evidence presented implies that horse chestnut seed extract is an efficacious and safe short-term treatment for chronic venous insufficiency,” the authors of the Cochrane report concluded. But they also added the caveat that more rigorous studies were needed “to confirm the efficacy of this treatment option.”

The Risks: According to the National Institutes of Health, horse chestnut seed extract can cause side effects like nausea, itchiness and stomach upset. The agency also advises never to use homemade preparations, and points out on its Web site that while the extract is safe when properly processed, raw horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark and flowers contain a chemical called esculin that is toxic.

The Benefits of Horse Chestnut

By Karen Lawton

This familiar, large deciduous tree graces many of our parks and green spaces, and most of us have childhood memories of going out to collect its fruit. Opening the green spiky shells to reveal ever so shiny conker nuts inside. My mother and I made animal figures with them using tooth-picks when I was small, while my brother soaked his in vinegar to harden them in preparation for some conker fighting in the playground, an activity dying out because of health and safely issues!

Our childhood friend isn’t native to Britain. It arrived in the sixteenth century and was grown initially as a specimen tree in collections such as that of plant collector, John Tradescant. Only later did it begin the process of naturalisation, probably as a result of extensive planting by landscape designers like ‘Capability’ Brown and Sir Christopher Wren, who planted a mile-long avenue of them at Bushy Park near Hampton Court.


Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a traditional remedy for leg vein health. It tones and protects blood vessels and may be helpful in ankle edema related to poor venous return. It is used extensively throughout Europe as an anti-inflammatory agent for a variety of conditions, in addition to being used for vascular problems. The plant is taken in small doses internally for the treatment of a wide range of venous diseases, including hardening of the arteries, varicose veins, phlebitis, leg ulcers, haemorrhoids and frostbite.

Horse chestnut is an astringent, anti-inflammatory herb that helps to tone the vein walls which, when slack or distended, may become varicose, haemorrhoidal or otherwise problematic. The plant reduces fluid retention by increasing the permeability of the capillaries and allowing the re-absorption of excess fluid back into the circulatory system.

The seeds are the source of a saponin known as aescin, which is the compound that 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.

Our horse chestnut remedies

We make a wonderful healing and tonifying balm for varicose veins and haemorrhoids simply by collecting first the new leaves in the spring time, drying them out for a night or two in an airing cupboard and then infusing them in almond oil for one lunar cycle.

We like to collect the aerial parts of plants near to the full moon when all the constituents are at their highest, and then macerate the leaves in the oil from full moon to full moon in a warm sunny spot. We strain out all the plant material and save the oil in a glass jar until the autumn when you can add chopped horse chestnuts that again have been slightly dried in the airing cupboard for a couple of nights. We do this to lessen the water content to prevent the oil from going mouldy. Leave the nuts in for a lunar cycle then strain. The oil is then poured into a bain-marie and then melted with beeswax and organic fairtrade cocoa/shea butter to form a creamy ointment.

The beeswax is from our local beekeeper, Michael, and arrives as a big round cake of deliciously waxy honey-smelling beauty. He cleans out his spent hives and filters the wax with rainwater. Beeswax (Latin names Cera alba and Cera flava) is the natural wax made by honeybees in the hive. A wide variety of cosmetics use beeswax as an emulsifier, emollient, and moisturiser. After processing, beeswax remains biologically active and retains anti-bacterial properties. It also contains vitamin A that is essential for human cell development. Throughout time people have used it as an antiseptic and for healing wounds.

Beeswax is added to the horse chestnut leaf and nut-infused oils to ‘set’ them, and the cocoa or shea butter (both from Africa) give the ointment a soft creamy consistency. Shea butter contains more vitamins and is said to have superior healing capabilities to cocoa butter. In the past Europeans would have used lard or egg yolk.


This is very simple to follow and makes a wonderfully useful vein strengthening balm.

150ml Horse chestnut leaf and nut oil

25ml Cocoa/shea butter

15ml beeswax

It is a good idea to do a spoon test when all the ingredients are melted together to get the consistency perfect. Drop a little of the mix onto a plate and leave for five minutes, then mash it up with your fingers. If it’s too hard add more oils, too soft add more beeswax.

As we dispense the ointment into jars we add cypress essential oil (about 3-5 drops into each 60ml jar). Cypress essential oil has a valuable effect as a vasoconstrictor as well as smelling divine! Varicose veins and haemorrhoids

The venous system in the body returns deoxygenated blood from all parts of the body, including the organs, to the right side of the heart and then on to the lungs to be oxygenated. From the lungs, the oxygenated blood passes to the left part of the heart, to be pumped to all the tissues and organs of the body. The venous system consists of large and small veins; the large veins tend to lie alongside arteries. Veins are more thin-walled than arteries, they act as a reservoir for blood, and about 75% of the body’s blood is in the venous system.

Many veins have one-way valves to facilitate the flow of blood back to the heart against the force of gravity. This is especially applicable to the veins in the legs and to a lesser extent in the arms. The valves work in the same way as one-way swing doors; the blood pushing the valves open as it travels toward the heart and the valves close as blood fills that part of the vein, preventing backward flow. The delicate veins in your legs can become damaged by lifestyle, for example poor diet, which can lead to constipation.

The valves in the veins in the legs can get stretched and damaged by the high pressures that are required to move small hard dry stools. The valves soon become incapable of holding up the blood. Without valves in good working order, a four-foot column of blood presses on the lower veins all day long. One result of this unrelieved pressure is varicose veins, the tortuous blue ‘worms’ which detract so much from the appearance of a person’s legs, often causing pain and sometimes ulcers.

Similar to varicose veins in causation if not location are haemorrhoids. You may have heard people say they got theirs from sitting on cold toilet seats or from having babies. The veins that become haemorrhoids are located in the very last parts of the intestinal tract, called the rectum and the anus. These veins at this terminus of the gut perform the important function of making a tight seal there, by means of blood-filled cushions to prevent faeces and gas from leaking out of the intestine.

The haemorrhoid veins in the rectum suffer a fate similar to the veins in the legs. Each time veins are filled beyond their normal capacity, stretching them like over-inflated balloons, they become permanently dilated and hang out of the rectum. They become persistent and painful bulges, with the further troublesome symptoms of bleeding and itching. Anyone at any age can be affected by haemorrhoids. They are very common, about 50% of the population experiencing them at some time in their life, although they are usually more common in the elderly and during pregnancy. Diet has a pivotal role in causing and preventing haemorrhoids. People who consistently eat a high-fibre diet are less likely to get haemorrhoids as they are less likely to get constipation.

As herbalists we see many people with vein problems that can be managed very well with increasing fresh fruit, vegetables, drinking water and exercise. Horse chestnut is always included somewhere in their prescriptions. Fabulous horse chestnut facts

The sticky sap on horse chestnut buds protects them from frost damage and insects.

Horse chestnut conkers are slightly poisonous to most animals, causing sickness if eaten.

The annual world conker championship has been held in the village of Ashton, Northants, since 1965.

‘Conker’ is derived from the word conch and the children’s game was originally played with snail shells

Natural health: Hemorrhoids and liver health

By Megan Sheppard
Q. My mother has ongoing issues with hemorrhoids for as long as I can remember. Do you have any suggestions as to how she can get some relief? She has good days and bad days, but they seem to be causing her more trouble than usual at present.

A. Haemorrhoids are a very common issue following pregnancy and childbirth, but can also be triggered by the excessive strain caused by bowel disorders where constipation, diarrhoea (or both) are a symptom.

Your mother is not alone — haemorrhoids are thought to affect around three quarters of the adult population at some point in their lives.

While bowel complaints are the main cause of haemorrhoids, there are individuals who are simply more susceptible to developing them, along with other associated conditions such as varicose veins.

It does appear to run in families, so it is worth you also taking note of preventative measures.

For relatively fast relief, psyllium husks will reduce the pressure on enlarged and distended veins in the lower bowel.

Combine 1-2 teaspoons of psyllium husks (also known as psyllium hulls) each morning mixed well in a large glass of water or freshly pressed juice.

This needs to be taken immediately, as these husks form a thick gel upon standing and are far more effective if you are able to swallow them before they set.

They work to soften bowel motions, making them easier to pass, which means that swollen and prolapsed veins are far less likely to be irritated along the way.

Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) are two herbs that have long been in favour with herbalists for the treatment of varicosity.

Horse chestnut helps to improve the tone and strength of the veins, blood vessels, and capillaries; Butcher’s Broom works by preventing inflammation of blood vessels, reducing the swelling and discomfort associated with these conditions.

H-Care by Nelsons, Venaforce gel by A. Vogel, or Presto gel by Dan Pharm are all wonderful topical preparations that utilise the effectiveness of these herbs.

Rutin, a bioflavanoid found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, has specifically been shown to work in addressing varicose veins, haemorrhoids, and spider veins. Solgar’s 500mg Rutin capsules are available from health stores where 50 capsules cost €10.43.

Q. I have been preserving a number of dandelion weeds in my garden, and I have been adding the leaves to my salads. I have been told they are associated with liver health. Is this correct?

A. True dandelions have a single flower arising from each hollow stem, and the leaves grow in a rosette from the root. The leaves themselves are hairless, smooth and toothed in shape.

It is worth noting that the young, tender leaves are far more palatable than older, larger leaves.

You are quite correct — dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have a bitter principle, which is what indicates the beneficial effect on the digestive system and the liver, stimulating the production of bile in the gallbladder.

Dandelion is known as a diuretic, bitter tonic, and detoxifying herb. The leaves help with fluid retention, helping to reduce blood pressure. Dandelion leaves are also high in potassium.

Dandelion root is a popular detoxifying herb, working mainly on the liver and gallbladder to facilitate the removal of wastes and toxins.

This means that it can be useful in a number of conditions where the body is attempting to eliminate toxins through various channels — such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, constipation, flatulence, osteoarthritis, and gout.

Following the doctrine of signatures, the important aspects of the dandelion are the yellow colour of the flowers, the bitter and salty taste of the leaves, and sweet taste of the petals.

The slight saltiness indicates the presence of minerals; the yellow colour indicates an effect on the stomach, liver,pancreas, kidneys and adrenals and can often indicate an association with healing melancholy states; the sweet taste of the petals suggests they benefit pancreatic health.

What Science Says about Milk Thistle and Horse Chestnut for Health

(Staff Writer ,, LIVING HEALTHY)
Milk Thistle

What Science Says

Previous laboratory studies suggested that milk thistle may benefit the liver by protecting and promoting the growth of liver cells, fighting oxidation (a chemical process that can damage cells), and inhibiting inflammation. However, results from small clinical trials of milk thistle for liver diseases have been mixed, and two rigorously designed studies found no benefit.

- A 2012 clinical trial, cofunded by NCCAM and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, showed that two higher-than-usual doses of silymarin were no better than placebo for chronic hepatitis C in people who had not responded to standard antiviral treatment.

- The 2008 Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that hepatitis C patients who used silymarin had fewer and milder symptoms of liver disease and somewhat better quality of life but no change in virus activity or liver inflammation.

Side Effects and Cautions

- In clinical trials, milk thistle appears to be well tolerated in recommended doses. Occasionally, people report various gastrointestinal side effects.

- Milk thistle can produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).

- Milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels. People with diabetes or hypoglycemia, or people taking drugs or supplements that affect blood sugar levels, should use caution.

Horse Chestnut

What Science Says

- Studies have found that horse chestnut seed extract is beneficial in treating chronic venous insufficiency. There is also preliminary evidence that horse chestnut seed extract may be as effective as wearing compression stockings.

- There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of horse chestnut seed, leaf, or bark for any other conditions.

Side Effects and Cautions

- Do not use raw or unprocessed horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, or flowers. They contain esculin, which is poisonous.

- When properly processed, horse chestnut seed extract contains little or no esculin and is considered generally safe when used for short periods of time. However, the extract can cause some side effects, including itching, nausea, or gastrointestinal upset.

Photo Gallery of Horse Chestnut

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