The horse chestnut seed Aesculus hippocastanum is large and a shiny brown nut known colloquially as “conkers” and used by generations of schoolchildren for the game of the same name. The seeds are poisonous until they are processed, so remember not to mistake them for the edible seed of the sweet chestnut tree.
Made from processed seeds, the extract of the seeds of the horse chestnut tree is a popular oral treatment in Europe for chronic venous insufficiency and localized edema. The active component of this treatment is aescin, a registered drug in Germany and other European countries, which can be taken topically and intravenously.
Other ailments that aescin treats include:
- Varicose Veins
- Superficial Thrombophlebitis
- Lymphatic Edema
- Sports Injuries and Minor Traumas
Other traditional uses of the horse chestnut seed includes:
- Rheumatic Conditions
- Rectal Complaints
- Inflammatory Congestion
In the past, the bark and leaves of the horse chestnut tree were used to make traditional herbal remedies.
The active components of the seeds from the horse chestnut tree include:
- Condensed Tannins
- Fatty Acids
Aescin is a complicated mix of more than 30 different triterpene saponin glycosides. These are absorbed poorly by the body, and aescin has an oral bioavailability of less than 1% of the intravenous dosage. Studies of aescin show that is can decrease capillary permeability.
Clinical trials found that aescin helped pregnant women with lower extremity edema and healthy subjects after long-haul plane flights. The extract of the seeds of the horse chestnut tree has been found to have a similar effect to compression stockings. The use of 2% topical aescin gel was also found to considerably reduce tenderness in induced hematomas.
The oral use of seed extract only has mild side effects. In trials, a small percentage of the subjects were found to have:
- Mild Gastrointestinal Symptoms
- Allergic Reactions
The frequency of incidence did not have significant variation from the group taking the placebo. More gastrointestinal upset was found in products that were controlled-release of enteric coated.
No drugs are known to interact with horse chestnut seed extract.
Parental administration of aescin or horse chestnut products can cause severe renal, hepatic and anaphylactic reactions. Before processing, the seeds are poisonous and are will cause gastrointestinal and neurotoxic reactions. The safety of aescin in pregnant or nursing women is unconfirmed, but animal testing has not found any negative effects.
Preparation and Dosage
The German standard for the seed extract contains 16-20% triterpene glycosides or aescin. The recommended daily dose is 50mg of aescin, equivalent to 600mg/day of the standardized extract. The extract sells under the trade names of Venostasin or Venostat.
Horse Chestnut seed extract is a well-tolerated herbal medicine that clinical trials have found to help treat chronic venous insufficiency. Topical application of aescin or extract from the seeds can help for local areas of inflammation or edema. It still needs further comparison with the standard therapies before a conclusion on its effectiveness is known for either usage.