Herb of the Month: Aesculus hippocastanum - Horse Chestnut
Author: Natasha McKay Date Posted:1 February 2020
Traditionally in Western Herbal Medicine horse chestnut has been utilised to relieve leg swelling associated with mild varicose veins and to relieve the itchy legs and pain associated with mild varicose veins.
Apart from being good for supporting blood vessel health, horse chestnut has had a very interesting history. It originated in the Balkan Peninsula and is a large tree that can grow up to 36 meters.1 The seeds are not edible - but both the dried seeds and the bark of the horse chestnut tree have been used in herbal medicine all the way back to the 16th century.1 It’s a herb that has been around for a very long time!
Back in the 19th century the seeds of the horse chestnut tree were used by children to play the game ‘conkers’ which was popular in British Isles.1,2
Apart from this interesting anecdotal evidence, horse chestnut helps to decrease leg swelling associated with mild varicose veins. This is because it can help prevent the build-up of fluid in the veins, which can then contribute to swelling. Horse chestnut has had many positive results in trials where it has helped to relieve leg heaviness associated with mild varicose veins and reduce tired and aching legs.
Another benefit of horse chestnut includes it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Horse chestnut helps to relieve inflammation. It can help reduce free radical damage to body cells which can therefore help to relieve inflammation.
Horse chestnut can also be used both internally and externally for haemorrhoids. However, most of its effectiveness has been shown to be from oral supplementation. It has been demonstrated that by taking horse chestnut the discomfort associated with haemorrhoids can be reduced.
Cosmetics: Horse chestnut has been used extensively in cosmetics, such as facial creams, due to its anti-aging and astringent properties. Skin can feel ‘firmer’ and ‘tighter’ due to the herbs astringent qualities and it can help to reduce the puffiness caused by fluid build-up, a feature which is particularly good for eye creams.
A trial of women using an eye-based cream demonstrated an improvement in the skin quality and visible signs of anti- aging in the eye area occurring with the consistent use (3 times a day for 9 weeks) of a formulation with horse chestnut.1
So overall, it’s a herb that has been around for a long time but still has many good health and beauty benefits taken either as a tablet or when used in cosmetics.
1.Braun, L., Cohen, M., 2015. Herbs & Natural Supplements. An evidence-based guide. Vol 2. Churchill Livingstone, NSW, pp: 309-315.
2. The First World War, East Sussex. Children gathering conkers. Sponsor not listed. Date viewed: 30.10.19. Accessed from: http://www.eastsussexww1.org.uk/children-gathering-conkers-2/index.html