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Horse Chestnut

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S):Aesculus
Family: Hippocastanaceae. The most common member of the genus in the US and Europe is A. hippocastanum L.

COMMON NAME(S):Chestnut, horse chestnut

The horse chestnut tree is native to Asia and northern Greece, but it is now cultivated in many areas of Europe and North America. Many parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the seeds, leaves, and bark, have been used in herbal preparations. However, research indicates that the seed of the Horse Chestnut offers the only the proven medicinal value.

History

Because of its widespread prevalence, horse chestnut has been used in traditional medicine and for other commercial applications for centuries. Extracts of the bark have been used as a yellow dye, and the wood has been used for furniture and packing cases. In the western US, the crushed unripe seeds of the California buckeye were scattered into streams to stupefy fish, and leaves were steeped as a tea for congestion. The horse chestnut has been used as a traditional remedy for arthritis and rheumatism. Extracts are available commercially for oral, topical, and parenteral administration for the management of varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Even though the seeds are toxic, several methods were used to reduce their toxicity. Seeds were buried in swampy, cold ground during the winter to free them of toxic bitter components, then eaten in the spring after boiling. Native Americans roasted the poisonous nuts, peeled, and mashed them, then leached the meal in lime water for several days and used it to make breads.

Botany :- Members of the genus Aesculus grow as trees and shrubs,often attaining heights of 22.5 m. The fruit is a capsule with a thick, leathery husk that contains from 1 to 6 dark seeds (the nuts). As the husk dries, the nuts are released.The pink and white flowers of the plant grow in clusters. The tree is native to the Balkan woods and western Asia but is now cultivated worldwide

Uses of Horse Chestnut

Horse chestnuts are potentially useful against edema, inflammation, and venous insufficiency.

Horse chestnut herb contains a compound called aescin -- sometimes referred to as escin -- which is the active component. Aescin appears to "patch up" tiny leaks in blood vessels and capillaries, thereby improving their strength, elasticity, and health.

Side Effects of Horse Chestnut

All parts of plants in the Aesculus family are potentially toxic, especially the seeds. Horse chestnut has been classified by the FDA as an unsafe herb. Horse chestnut components in skin cleansers are potentially carcinogenic.

Some reported side effects of horse chestnut include: nausea, gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, and headache. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop using horse chestnut herb.

Dosage

The most common dosage of horse chestnut is 300 mg every 12 hours, for up to 12 weeks (containing 50 to 75 milligrams of aescin per dose), for a total daily dose of 100 mg aescin.

Since the strength of commercial preparations may vary, we suggest following the instructions on the manufacturer's label of the package.

Toxicology

The FDA classifies Aesculus (horse chestnut) as an unsafe herb; all members of this genus are potentially toxic.

The most significant toxic principle is esculin. Poisoning is characterized by muscle twitching, weakness, incoordination, dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, paralysis, and stupor. The nut is the most toxic part of the plant. Children have been poisoned by drinking tea made from the leaves and twigs and by eating the seeds;deaths have followed such ingestion. Gastric lavage and symptomatic treatment have also been suggested.

A potential association between nasal cancer and long-term exposure to wood dusts, including dust from chestnut trees, has been reported. Aflatoxins have been identified in some commercial skin-cleansing products containing horse chestnut. Because aflatoxins are potent carcinogens that can be absorbed through the skin, it is imperative that strict quality control be applied to topical products containing potentially contaminated horse chestnut material.

Horse chestnut pollen is allergenic and often associated with allergic sensitization, particularly in urban children. A case report describes drug-induced hepatic injury to a 37-year-old man caused by venoplant (horse chestnut extract preparation) given for treatment of bone fracture inflammation.

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