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Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut
© Sertürner Bildarchiv

Botanical name

(Common) Horse Chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum L.

Family

Horse Chestnut family (Hippocastanaceae)

Useful information about the plant

The horse chestnut is a deciduous tree, it probably came to Central Europe from Turkey at the end of the 16th century, as a part of horse feed. Today it of great importance in Europe as an avenue and park tree, but also grows wild from farming. "Aesculus" (Latin) is described as "a kind of oak of lofty stature and solid wood sacred to Jupiter, growing on mountains." The epithet hippocastananum comes from Greek 'hippos' (= horse) and "kastanon" (= chestnut) and clearly confirms that the seeds were used as horse feed, it is also said to have been used in horses as a remedy for coughs. The horse chestnut grows up to 30m high and bears the very characteristic 5 - 7-fingered, large leaves. The white to pink flowers are in large, upright clusters like lit candles at the end of the branches. Flowering time is April - May. In the autumn, the green and prickly fruits fall from the trees. They break up and each one releases 2 to 3 large, shiny, brown seeds, which are often collected by children, referred to as "conkers".

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The dried seeds are used. The drug is imported from Eastern European countries.

Ingredients of the drug

Horse chestnut seeds contain triterpenoid (aescin), starch, fatty oil, proteins.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of the following drugs or drug preparations is specified in the German Pharmacopoeia (DAB):

  • Horse chestnut seed (Hippocastani semen)
  • Standardised Horse chestnut dried extract (Hippocastani extractum siccum normatum)

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

In chronic venous insufficiency (pain and heaviness in the legs, leg cramps, itchiness, swollen legs) (Commission E) in chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins (ESCOP). Clinical data documents the following areas of use: for varicose veins and trophic changes of the skin such as leg ulcers, and post-traumatic or post-operative soft tissue swelling, also in a preventive capacity for long plane trips.
The HMPC has recognised the internal use of horse chestnut seeds for chronic venous insufficiency with the typical symptoms (see Commission E) as "well-established medicinal use", see also "traditional use".

Traditional use

Horse chestnut seeds were rated by the HMPC for external use as a traditional herbal medicine (§ 39a AMG). Based on many years of experience, ointments and gels with horse chestnut seed extract as an active ingredient can be applied to relieve the discomfort associated with mild venous disorders and the treatment of local swelling and bruising (see also "Recognised medical use").

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

  • in eosin standardised dried extracts in tablets, capsules and ointments
  • in eosin standardised alcoholic extracts as drops and other liquids
  • in eosin standardised fluid extract in droplets and emulsions

Dosage

To ensure the effect, horse chestnut seeds should only be used in the form of finished medicinal products standardised on eosin, the dosage is stated in the leaflet.

Advice

Horse chestnut preparations should be avoided in any form if the person has an existing allergy to horse chestnut. Do not use without consulting a doctor during pregnancy and breast-feeding since there is as yet no experience on its safety. The clinical symptoms are not relevant in children and adolescents.

Side effects

Taking horse chestnut seeds may occasionally cause upset stomach, nausea and itchiness.

Interactions

None known

References

Drug monographs

HMPC, Commission E, ESCOP, WHO (Vol. 2)

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 351
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 223
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 34
Kommentar zum Deutschen Arzneibuch (Horse chestnut seed, Horse chestnut seed dried extract)

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