A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
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 - A. californica and Ohio buckeye tree - A. glabra. Horse chestnut seeds are toxic for humans. Herbalist in Europe use the leaves and bark of the horse chestnut tree, as well as a standardized extract of the seed, as herbal medication for various disorders.
Seeds, leaves, bark.
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. Sunscreens manufactured in the continent of Europe often have a chemical component of the bark-called aesculin, as a vital ingredient, however, at this time, this effective phyto medicine is rarely used for any topical applications. 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. At the same time, another clinical study compared the effects of the horse chestnut extract to those induced by compression stockings and to the placebo use during a trial treatment for varicose veins in groups of patients. Edema in the lower legs was significantly reduced by both the herbal medicine and the stockings significantly when the results were compared to the placebo effect. The horse chestnut herbal extract is beneficial in treating feelings of physical tiredness and heaviness in the body, it is also very effective against all types of physical pain, and rapidly alleviates swelling in the legs, when such results are compared to the effects induced by a placebo. The anti-inflammatory effects of the horse chestnut extract have also been reported to be beneficial on patients and the horse chestnut may indeed possess very significant anti-inflammatory properties.
At the same time, the horse chestnut also has very powerful and effective astringent properties, it is also an anti-inflammatory herb, and can aid in toning the muscular walls of the vein. These muscles in the venous walls can often become very slack or distended in time, and may turn varicose; they can become hemorrhoidal, or otherwise cause different problems for the person. The permeability of the capillaries is also increased by the horse chestnut which directly reduces the fluid retention levels in such vessels and thus permits the re-absorption of all excess body fluid back into the main circulatory system of the body. 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.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
The horse chestnut tree is native to the mountain woods in vast tracts along the Balkans and in places around Western Asia, the cultivation of the tree takes place in most temperate regions around the world at the present time. Autumn is the normal time when the bark and the seeds are collected for storage and future utilization in herbal medications.
Several triterpene glycosides are present abundantly in the horse chestnut plant, the compound known as aescin predominates in the seeds of the plant. Also present in the plant are the coumarin derived glycosides compounds such as aesculin, the compound fraxin, and the compound scopolin - these chemicals are present along with their corresponding derivatives, such as the aglycones, the aesculetin, the compound fraxetin, and scopoletin, at the same time, the plant is also rich in the class of plant based organic compounds known as flavonoids including the beneficial compound called quercetrin. The plant also contains significant levels of the compounds such as allantoin, the leucocyanidins, various tannins, and other plant sterols including the compound sitosterol, the compound stigmasterol, and the compound campesterol - these have been positively identified in the herbal extracts of the horse chestnut plant. The standardized and commercial horse chestnut extracts utilized in Germany have from 16 to 21 percent content of the various triterpene glycosides - which are all calculated as being aescin.
The herbal medication has been traditionally given in daily doses of 0.2-1.0 grams of the dried seeds per patient. At the same time, it must be remembered that, only the standardized extracts are safe for internal use by patients. The seed extracts of the horse chestnut which is normally standardized for aescin content at about-16-21 % or the isolated aescin preparations are usually suggested to be taken in initial doses of 90-150 mg of the aescin per day per patients. When the first signs of improvement become noticeable, the dosage is often reduced to a maintenance dose level of 35-70 mg of aescin daily. European herbalist normally prescribe the topical aescin preparations for the treatment of serious cases of hemorrhoids, these are also used to treat various skin ulcers, in the external treatment of varicose veins, to treat various sports injuries, and to treat physical trauma of different types. The aescin gel is generally applied directly to the affected area of the skin three to four times every day as long as necessary or till the first signs of improvement become apparent to the person.
Side effects and cautions
The standardized extracts of the purified horse chestnut which are high in aescin are generally safe for internal use, when taken in the doses listed here. 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.
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