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What’s growing in your garden? Focus on Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Also known as the Conker Tree, the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is currently out in flower in my area, visually reminding me of its benefits as an herbal medicine and homeopathic remedy. Clinical studies have shown it to be safe and effective for chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Some initial research is also indicating that it can be beneficial for male infertility associated with varicocele, Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BHP) and for irritable bowel syndrome.

Origins of the name

Named hippocastanum (from the Greek and Latin for seahorse) because it is as an effective remedy for horse and cattle respiratory illnesses.

The name may also be derived from the horseshoe shape scar left on the tree trunk when a leaf drops off. The scar also has seven marks around the edge that look like the nails of a horseshoe.

Conditions Horse Chestnut can benefit

Horse chestnut seed extract benefit the following:

The Cardiovascular system

Conditions include varicose veins, varicose ulcers, thrombosis, thrombophlebitis, oedema, arteriosclerosis and haemorrhoids. This is because:

  • the saponins, aescin (including protoaesigenin, barringtogenol-C and hippoaesculin) help with the reabsorption of extravascular fluid into the bloodstream which reduces oedema (swelling).

  • Aescin thins the blood so is beneficial for hypercoagulability because it makes it more difficult for fluid to come out of the capillaries which in turn prevents water retention. This also improves circulation and blood flow and reduces the lumpy appearance of varicose veins. It can also relieve leg pain, itchy / heavy legs and calf spasms.

  • Aescin inhibits COX-2 and lipoxygenase, some leukotrienes and prostaglandins which can help reduce blood clots.

  • the tannins in Horse Chestnut are astringent reducing the permeability of the capillary walls by decreasing the size and number of pores. This helps increase peripheral blood flow due to improved tone and volume in blood vessels.

  • Aesculin, a glucoside in Horse Chestnut has a diuretic effect promoting the loss of sodium and potassium to help reduce swelling.

Men’s health

Varicocele-associated infertility

Varicocele is a group of enlarged swollen veins near the testicles which can cause infertility. Aescin decreases varicocele and improves sperm quality

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

This is an enlargement of the prostate gland common in older men.Aescin has been shown to help shrink the size of an inflamed prostate in an animal study.

Gastrointestinal tract

Due to the anti inflammatory and astringent saponins and tannins, Horse Chestnut has been traditionally used for gastritis and enteritis.


Aescin also has been shown to have anti-influenza properties in vitro (in a test tube).

External uses

Creams containing aescin reduce inflammation and swelling in affected veins due the anti inflammatory properties of this saponin. Therefore, it can be useful to help reduce inflammation from sports injuries, surgery, physical trauma, hemorrhoids


  • Some people may experience dizziness, digestive upset, headache, itching, allergy or hypoglycemia.

  • If you’re allergic to latex, avoid Horse Chestnut due to a cross sensitivity link.


  • If you take blood thinners or have a blood clotting disorder Horse Chestnut could further thin your blood. Your doctor and herbalist will need to be consulted.

  • If you have kidney disease (damaged kidney or renal disease).

  • Do not eat the nut as it’s toxic.

Over to you

If you have any of the conditions listed above, why not get in touch with myself or a local herbalist to find out if Horse Chestnut could benefit you. Other things that may be recommend include:

  • Compression stockings

  • Other supplements such as quercetin, grape seed, hawthorn, Vitamins E and C

  • Dietary changes

  • Mild regular exercise

Always seek qualified Medical Herbalists before taking herbs and check with your doctor for any interactions with current medication.


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