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Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

kasztanowiecnspThe horse-chestnut tree is one of the most common trees in the Polish landscape. Usually planted along alleys and parks, it is easily recognisable by its characteristic leaves and the chestnuts which fall in autumn.

What does the horse-chestnut look like and where does it come from?

The horse-chestnut (also known as the conker tree) can grow up to 25 metres tall. The branches with leaves resemble a dome. The characteristic palmate leaves (which look like an open palm) with five or seven blades in the shape of a reversed egg are the hallmark of the horse-chestnut. Another feature typical of the tree is its chestnuts which are the horse-chestnut's seeds, enclosed in spiked fruit bags.

The area of origin of the horse-chestnut is the Balkan Peninsula. Today it can be found growing in almost the whole of Europe. 

Medicinal substance content in the horse-chestnut

Nearly all parts of the plant have a medicinal use, starting from the seeds to the flowers and bark and to its leaves. The seeds, or chestnuts, include saponins (with aescin being the best known), flavonoids, coumarins, tannins and flavonoid glycosides. The horse-chestnut bark is a rich source of flavonoids, coumarin compounds (including hydroxycoumarin, i.e. aesculin), tannins and saponins. The flowers are used to extract flavonoids (including rutin), tannins, coumarins and phenol acids. The leaves, the material of the horse-chestnut most rarely used in pharmacy, have been found to contain flavonoids.

The horse-chestnut and its effect on the human body

The extracts of the horse-chestnut are used to seal blood vessels and in such diseases as haemorrhoids (rectal varicose veins) and varicose veins of the extremities. The aescin contained in the chestnuts gives a strong vessel sealing effect. Preparations with chestnut extracts are available in tablets (the pharmaceutical drug Esceven tablets) or as ointments/gels for application on the skin (the pharmaceutical drug Esceven gel).

The extract of horse-chestnut bark contains tannins, which are styptic (i.e. reduce swelling, bleeding and exudation), and an abundance of aesculin; hence it is used in the treatment of haemorrhoids. Medicines with horse-chestnut bark extract are available as an ointment (Aesculan) and a gel (Neo-Aesculan). They inhibit further growth of haemorrhoids, reduce itching, stop inflammation and also bring pain relief. These preparations are applied using the enclosed applicators (cannulas).

Therapeutic indications for horse-chestnut extract

Horse-chestnut extract, both water-based and alcohol-based can be administered for prevention to persons genetically exposed to varicose veins of the legs and the rectum, as well as for treating the initial stages of these disorders. The internal administration of a fresh extract from immature horse-chestnut fruits improves blood circulation, eliminates clots, reduces excessive patency of veins and alleviates gastritis. Horse-chestnut is also administered externally as a compress in the treatment of frostbite, contusions and swelling. Horse-chestnut is used to support the treatment of hepatitis and alleviate ailments related to climacterium (menopause). In the cosmetics industry, the horse-chestnut is a valuable ingredient of shampoos, face masks and creams as a protection against the harmful effects of solar radiation.

 

Products containing Horse-chestnut

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