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Horse Chestnut

General Information

Horse chestnut trees are native to the Balkan Peninsula (for example, Greece and Bulgaria), but grow throughout the northern hemisphere. Its primary active ingredient is called aescin or escin. Although horse chestnut is sometimes called buckeye, it should not be confused with the Ohio or California buckeye trees, which are related but not the same species.

Common Name(s)

horse chestnut, buckeye, Spanish chestnut, aescin, white chestnut

Scientific Name(s)

Aesculus hippocastanum

Scientific Name(s)

The daily dose of all standardized extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredients is 50 mg to 150 mg of aescin, the primary active ingredient; the daily dose of non-standardized extracts, powder, decoctiondecoctionthe process of boiling plant parts in water and straining the liquid for medicine, and infusioninfusionthe process of steeping or soaking plant material in hot or cold water to isolate its active ingredient is 0.3 g to 5 g of dried seeds. The specific dose is dependent on each formulation.

Topical (surface-applied) preparations of horse chesnut are also used.

What is this product used for?

For centuries, horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers have been used for a variety of conditions and diseases.

Horse chestnut seed extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient has been used to treat chronic venous insufficiency (a condition in which the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart). This condition is associated with varicose veins, pain, ankle swelling, feelings of heaviness, itching, and nighttime leg cramping.

The seed extract has also been used for hemorrhoids.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Small studies have found that horse chestnut seed extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient is helpful in treating chronic venous insufficiency and is as effective as wearing compression stockings.

There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of horse chestnut seed, leaf, or bark for any other conditions.

Do not use raw or unprocessed horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, or flowers. They contain esculin, which is poisonous. The toxic effect may result in vomiting, diarrhea, headache, coma, and paralysis. When properly processed, horse chestnut seed extract contains little or no esculin and is considered generally safe when used for short periods of time. However, the extract can cause some side effects, including itching, nausea, calf spasm, or gastrointestinal upset.

If your symptoms persist or worsen, consult a health care practitioner. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, consult a health care practitioner before using horse chestnut.

Horse chestnut may interact with few classes of medication:

  • It may increase the anticoagulant or antiplatelet effect of certain medications such as aspirin, warfarin, and clopidogrel. As a result, there may be an increase in risk of bleeding or bruising if they are taken together with horse chesnut.
  • Some studies suggest that horse chestnut can increase risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when used with antidiabetes medications such as insulin or glyburide.

Because of the blood-thinning effect, you should stop taking horse chestnut 2 weeks before a surgical procedure.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

Source(s)

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Herbs at a Glance. Horse Chestnut. hhttp://nccam.nih.gov/health/horsechestnut/ Accessed March 19, 2014.

Health Canada. Drugs and Health Products Monograph: Horse Chestnut. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=118&lang=eng. Accessed May 2 2016.

Natural Medicines. Horse Chestnut. https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=1055 , Accessed May 2 2016.

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