Horse Chestnut

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi

This has got nothing to do with a horse or a cowboy but is a large medicinal tree which produces large seeds known as horse chestnuts. The seeds, leaves, flowers, and bark of this tree are used to make medicine. Horse chestnut contains a toxin known as esculin which can cause death if eaten raw. Therefore before its use, it should be processed to extract the active ingredients: making it safe for use.

The active ingredient in horse chestnut is alkaloid and saponin collectively referred to as aescin. It also contains coumarin derivatives, flavonoids, some essential oils, amino acids and phytosterols. Aescin improves the elastic strength of veins and prevents release of enzymes (glycosaminoglycan hydrolases) that break down collagen and open holes in capillary walls. This makes horse chestnut naturally effective in the treatment of varicose veins, haemorrhoids and other circulatory problems. Unlike some compounds, aescin resists inflammation without suppressing the immune system and is a very efficient free radical fighter. Aescin shows anti obesity, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic effects. It reduces the damage caused to the liver by the toxic and inflammatory lipopolysaccharide produced by bacterial infections.

It is also used to treat water retention as it weakly promotes fluid loss through the urine. In France, it has been used to relief symptoms associated with prostate enlargement.1It may interact with blood thinning drugs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Caution should be taken when taking it with blood thinners.

 Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi


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