Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is used for its seed, bark, flower, and leaf. Only the seeds of the Horse Chestnut offer proven medicinal value, and only for symptoms of venous insufficiency, such as pain and heaviness in the legs, nighttime cramps in the calves, and itchy, swollen legs. However, the seeds are also used to treat painful injuries, sprains, bruises, swelling, and spinal problems. However, some consider it effective for hemorrhoids, skin inflammation, premenstrual syndrome, and conditions affecting the veins, including phlebitis and varicose veins. In folk medicine, the leaf is used for cough, arthritis, and rheumatism. Homeopathic practitioners use both the leaf and the seed for hemorrhoids, lower back pain, and varicose veins. Aescin, the active ingredient in Horse Chestnut seed, tones up the walls of the veins, thus improving the flow of blood back to the heart. It also relieves swelling by stopping excessive leakage through the walls of the capillaries (the tiny vessels that deliver blood to the tissues). Horse Chestnut's ability to relieve swelling in the legs has been confirmed in several rigorous clinical trials. In one, it proved to be as effective as the uncomfortable compression stockings that are often prescribed for the problem.
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Products containing Horse Chestnut
Special Considerations Horse Chestnut leaf contains a blood-thinning compound that could interact with clot-fighting drugs such as aspirin and Coumadin.
Cautions In some people, Horse Chestnut seed causes side effects such as irritation of the digestive tract, reduced kidney function in people with kidney disease, and itching of the skin.