This tree is claimed to be one of the biggest and most beautiful flowering trees in the world. Horse chestnut can adorn any street and any garden. When in bloom it seems to radiate sunshine, warmth, and peacefulness. No wonder its candle-shaped flower became a symbol of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.
Horse chestnut has one more virtue besides beauty – it possesses valuable medicinal properties. So let us get to know a bit more about this splendid tree.
Aesculus hippocastanum is more familiar to many people under the name Common Horse chestnut. This large and tall (about 60 feet in height) spectacular tree belongs to the Hippocastanaceae family. It has an erect and columnar trunk, and stout, widely spreading branches, forming round or oblong crown. The outer branches of the old trees are curled up. Horse chestnut wood is soft and spongy, thus being of little value for timber.
The leaves of the Common Horse chestnut are opposite; they are made of 5-7 leaflets, each 10-25 cm long. The leaflets spread from a petiole like fingers from the palm. The buds of the tree are covered with sticky substance, which serves as a protection against dampness and winter frosts.
The erect panicles of the Horse chestnut flowers are incredibly beautiful. Each panicle consists of 20-50 white flowers, each with a small red spot. The panicles can be 10-20 cm tall due to a number of flowers in them.
Being pollinated with insects, the flowers give rise to green, softly spiky capsules of chestnut fruits. However, only about 5 of them usually develop on every panicle. Capsules contain 1 to 3 glossy brown seeds 2-4 cm in diameter. The latter are commonly called “concers”. Each concer has a whitish scar at the base where it was attached to the capsule.
Common Horse chestnut is indigenous to the Balkan region of the southeast Europe. It is believed to have grown first in northeastern Greece and some parts of Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. These days it is widely cultivated all around the world.
The trees of the Horse chestnut grow practically in any type of soil, preferring though sandy loam. Open places and much space allow the trees grow very tall and have a large crown. Chestnuts are said to tolerate different climatic conditions, but too hot weather. In the majority of countries of the northern hemisphere they grow rapidly, reaching sometimes about 35 m in height.
Fluid extracts of the seeds and bark, as well as alcohol extract of the flowers, are the most common preparations of the Horse chestnut used in folk medicine. Chinese herbalists, however, also use twigs and leaves of the tree.
Horse chestnut preparations include fluid seeds and bark extracts for internal and external use, and topical creams and ointments.
A number of different constituents are found in the Horse chestnut; carbohydrates occupy a significant part of the chemical structure of the tree. Besides, it is rich in saponins, tannin, flavones, fraxin, aesculin, tannic, angelic and linolenic acids, bitter and tannic essences, two glycosides and some other ingredients.
The main, most important and medicinally valuable component is said to be aescin, which is, actually, a complex mixture of saponins. Aescin has anti-inflammatory properties. It helps reduce local edema and lower fever. Its major benefits are seen in the treatment of varicose veins and ulcers, bruises and injuries of different origin.
Besides anti-inflammatory properties Horse chestnut has diuretic abilities. In addition, its bark contains ingredients with poisonous and narcotic action; therefore, chestnut preparations must be used with special caution. Some herbalists do not recommend using the bark of the tree at all.
The greatest benefit of Horse chestnut seems to be its positive influence on the vessels. Even long time ago people used to make ointments of chestnut seeds and bark to treat venous insufficiency and prevent capillary fragility. Therefore, varicose veins and pain associated with this condition, as well as varicose ulcers, swelling and inflammation of the joints, tendons, and muscles, feelings of heaviness in the legs, and nighttime leg cramping were effectively relieved.
Herbalists confirm that Horse chestnut preparations can fight phlebitis, chilblains, and hemorrhoids. Moreover, one can even avoid heart attack and stroke with the help of the tree solutions and ointments.
Horse chestnut extracts strengthen the whole circulatory system and improve blood circulation, thus being beneficial for many body organs and skin in particular. That is why they are also widely used in cosmetic products.
Chinese herbalists consider Common Horse chestnut to be an effective astringent, expectorant, and diuretic. Thus, the field of usage of this gorgeous tree in Chinese herbal medicine is even more extensive.
Horse chestnut extracts are used both internally and externally; however, one should be especially cautious when using them internally, since the bark of the tree contains poisonous substances.
Send us your experience or opinion that we may publish on this site.