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Horse Chestnut

Parts Used & Where Grown

The horse chestnut tree is native to Asia and northern Greece, but it is now cultivated in many areas of Europe and North America. The tree produces fruits that are made up of a spiny capsule containing one to three large seeds, known as horse chestnuts. Traditionally, many of the aerial parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the seeds, leaves, and bark, were used in medicinal preparations. Modern extracts of horse chestnut are usually made from the seeds, which are high in the active constituent aescin (also known as escin).

How It Works

The seeds are the source of a saponin known as aescin, which has been shown to promote circulation through the veins.1 Aescin fosters normal tone in the walls of the veins, thereby promoting return of blood to the heart. This has made both topical and internal horse chestnut extracts popular in Europe for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency and, to a lesser extent, varicose veins. Aescin also possesses anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce edema (swelling with fluid) following trauma, particularly following sports injury, surgery, and head injury.1,3 A topical aescin preparation is very popular in Europe for the treatment of acute sprains during sporting events. Horse chestnuts also contain flavonoids, sterols, and tannins.

Double-blind and preliminary clinical trials have shown that oral horse chestnut extracts reduce the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, including swelling and pain.4,5 Those suffering edema after surgery have also found relief from topical application of horse chestnut extracts, according to preliminary studies.6

References

1. Guillaume M, Padioleau F. Veinotonic effect, vascular protection, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenging properties of horse chestnut extract. Arzneimittelforschung 1994;44:25-35.

2. Calabrese C, Preston P. Report of the results of a double-blind, randomized, single-dose trial of a topical 2% escin gel versus placebo in the acute treatment of experimentally-induced hematoma in volunteers. Planta Med 1993;59:394-7.

3. Pittler MH, Ernst E. Horse-chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency: a criteria-based systematic review. Arch Dermatol 1998;134:1356-60.

4. Diehm C, Trampish HJ, Lange S, Schmidt C. Comparison of leg compression stocking and oral horse chestnut seed extract therapy in patients with chronic venous insufficiency. Lancet 1996;347:292-4.

5. Wilhelm K, Feldmeier C. Thermometric investigations about the efficacy of beta-escin to reduce postoperative edema. Med Klin 1977;72:128-34 [in German].

6. Guillaume M, Padioleau F. Veinotonic effect, vascular protection, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenging properties of horse chestnut extract. Arzneimittelforschung 1994;44:25-35.

7. Pabst H. Kleine MW. Prevention and therapy of sports injuries. Experiences with an escin-containing gel. Fortschr Med 1986;104:44-6.

8. Nini G, Di Cicco CO. Controlled clinical evaluation of a new anti-hemorrhoid drug, using a completely randomized experimental plan. Clin Ther 1978;86:545-59 [in Italian].

9. Guillaume M, Padioleau F. Veinotonic effect, vascular protection, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenging properties of horse chestnut extract. Arzneimittelforschung 1994;44:25-35.

10. Guillaume M, Padioleau F. Veinotonic effect, vascular protection, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenging properties of horse chestnut extract. Arzneimittelforschung 1994;44:25-35.

11. Pittler MH, Ernst E. Horse-chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency: a criteria-based systematic review. Arch Dermatol 1998;134:1356-60.

12. Bisler H, Pfeifer R, Klüken N, Pauschinger P. Effects of horse-chestnut seed extract on transcapillary filtration in chronic venous insufficiency. Deutche Med Wochenschr 1986;111:1321-9 [in German].

13. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 149.

14. Kreysel HW, Nissen HP, Enghofer E. A possible role of lysosomal enzymes in the pathogenesis of varicosis and the reduction in their serum activity by Venostasin. Vasa 1983;12:377-82.

15. Dini D, Bianchini M, Massa T, Fassio T. Treatment of upper limb lymphedema after mastectomy with escine and levo-thyroxine. Minerva Med 1981;72:2319-22 [in Italian].

16. Wilhelm K, Feldmeier C. Thermometric investigations about the efficacy of beta-escin to reduce postoperative edema. Med Klin 1977;72:128-34 [in German].

17. Chandler RF. Horse chestnut. Canadian Pharm J 1993 Jul/Aug:297, 300.

18. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 112-3.

19. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 148-9.

20. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1988, 188-9.

21. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 148-9.

22. Hellberg K, Ruschewski W, de Vivie R. Medikamentoes bedingtes post-operatives Nierenversagen nach herzchirurgischen Eingriffen. Thoraxchirurgie 1975;23:396-9.

23. Wilhelm K, Feldmeier C. Postoperative und posttraumatische Oedemprophylaxe und -therapie. Laborchemische Untersuchungen ueber die Nierenvertraeglichkeit von beta-Aescin. Med Klin 1975;70:2079-83.

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The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.

Copyright © 2020 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.

The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.