Medicinal plants

Horse chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum

Horse chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum

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We simply refer to the seeds of the wild chestnut as chestnuts. Children make toys out of it, and the trees provide shade in summer. It is hardly known, meanwhile, that this character tree of our cities contains active ingredients that inhibit blood clotting and help against chronic venous insufficiency.

Profile of the horse chestnut

  • Scientific name: Aesculus hippocastanum
  • Common names: Wild chestnut, chestnut tree, horse chestnut, chestnut, gout tree, Judenkest, Kastandelborn in Holstein, sow chestnut and Vexier chestnut
  • application areas:
    • Vein problems
    • hemorrhoids
    • Muscle aches
    • Joint pain
    • Edema
    • blood thinner
    • slight inflammation
    • itching
    • Cheek flushing
  • Parts of plants used: Seeds (chestnuts), flowers, bark.


Wild chestnut seeds contain a mixture of triperten saponins with more than 30 components. The most active substance among them is Aescin (3-6 percent). Flavonoids, condensed tannins, quinines, sterols and fatty acids are also present in veritable amounts. There are also coumarins such as aesculetin, fraxin and scopolin. Chestnut contains bitter and tannins, angelic acid, linolenic acid, alantoin, camphor oil, cyanidine and choline. Chestnut seeds have around 95 milligrams of lectin per kilo.

Blood thinners for chronic venous insufficiency - effects

Horse chestnut has an anti-inflammatory effect: In a study in animal experiments, isolated aescin suppressed inflammation in rats. Aescin inhibits blood clotting. Chestnut seed extract blocks enzymes involved in the development of chronic venous insufficiency and strengthens the walls of the blood vessels. Such an extract also increases blood pressure on the veins, increases blood flow and reduces water retention in the body. Tanning agents generally promote digestion; However, studies on the horse chestnut are still pending.

Against varicose veins, spider veins and hemorrhoids

Laboratory tests have shown that Aescin seals vessel walls. As a result, water and proteins cannot collect in the surrounding tissue. At the same time, the substance increases the tension in the veins, which also stabilizes the vessels. In this way, Aescin works against heavy legs, leg swelling as a result of edema, against varicose veins such as spider veins and against hemorrhoids.

Against chronic venous insufficiency

There are some studies on horse chestnut as a remedy for chronic venous insufficiency, but insufficient research into effects on other complaints. A systematic analysis from 2012 examined 17 studies on the effects of chestnut seeds between 1976 and 2002. The meta-study showed that extracts from the seeds can relieve leg pain, swelling and itching in people who suffer from chronic venous insufficiency - and this when taking the extract for a short time Period. The effect is as effective as that of compression stockings.

Compression stockings of this type are the usual method of strengthening blood flow in the case of chronic venous weakness. Vein weakness leads to leg pain, swelling, itching and tense skin, and consequently also skin inflammation, and the compression stockings serve to stabilize the vessels from the outside - many sufferers, however, find the supports uncomfortable and do not wear them all the time. An alternative in the form of the chestnut extract would be a relief for such people.

The majority of the studies examined examined the effects of the extract on venous insufficiency. Research into effects in other diseases included gastrointestinal complaints, chronic fatigue, nausea, and headache. Although positive results were shown here, they only had a slight effect, which also proved to be irregular. The result of the meta study was: Aescin is suitable for effectively treating chronic venous insufficiency, even with a short-term intake. However, further and larger studies are needed to develop a real treatment option.

Chestnut in folk medicine

Folk medicine used the leaves and bark of the wild chestnut against warts. A tea made from dried leaves was used as a remedy for cough. To do this, pour hot water over a teaspoon of the dried leaves, let the brew steep for ten minutes and drink it in small sips. To improve the taste, you can add a teaspoon of honey.

As the name Gichtbaum shows, dressings made from a pulp of seeds and / or leaves also served to treat the symptoms of gout. Folk medicine used the seeds of the wild chestnut externally for injuries, strains, bruises and sprains, for bruising and edema. A bark potion was considered a remedy for heavy legs and the associated burning and itching. Folk medicine therefore also used chestnut against exactly those ailments in which scientific studies today prove an effect.

Use in phytomedicine

Standardized chestnut seed extracts can be found in pharmacies as capsules, tablets, ointments, drops or gels. The ointments usually also contain other medicinally effective plants against the corresponding symptoms - for example arnica. These medicines mainly serve as a remedy for chronic venous insufficiency. According to current knowledge, chestnut extracts should not complement other treatments, such as compression stockings, but replace them.

Who are horse chestnuts unsuitable for?

Pregnant, nursing and toddlers should not take chestnut extracts. You should be careful with horse chestnut if you are already taking other blood thinners such as aspirin, warfarin or phenprocoumon. The consumption of various blood thinners increases the effect beyond the optimum.

In such cases, discuss the use of chestnut extract with your doctor. In general, blood thinners must not be taken by people who suffer from a lack of blood clotting, especially bleeders. In addition, you should not consume blood coagulants when your body is busy healing wounds, for example after surgery.

Side effects

Horse chestnut is low-risk. Side effects are rare, mostly gastric complaints. Headaches, reddening of the skin and itching are also possible.

Toxic shells

The prickly seed shells of the unripe chestnuts are poisonous. The consumption leads to abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. They cause burning pain on open skin injuries.

Chestnut bath

Horse chestnut belongs to the soap tree family and fresh chestnuts are ideal for a full bath. This is for cleaning as well as health. The saponins produce lush bath foam, the bath water stimulates the blood circulation and helps easily with rheumatic pain, bruises, sprains or with tired feet after a long hike.

Origin of the wild chestnut

The horse chestnut is as familiar to us as the potato, but just like this it is not originally a native species. Its natural origin is probably in the east of the Balkans, including in the eastern part of Bulgaria. It only came to Central Europe in 1576 from Constantinople. The distribution in nature is scattered over Greece, North Macedonia and Albania.

It is a type of mountain that prefers heights between 900 and 1300 meters and loves the shade to partial shade. Despite its origins in countries with very hot summers, the chestnut loves it moist and cool, but at the same time it needs a lot of light. The nature of the soil is less important, horse chestnuts grow on neutral as well as on alkaline soil, but this should be rich in bases or nitrogen.

Horse food of the Ottomans

The wild chestnut came to Central Europe with the campaigns of the Ottomans. The Turks fed their chestnuts to their horses. In 1557 the imperial envoy Busbecq from Constantinople reported the tree for the first time in Europe, in 1576 it came to Vienna. There a certain Carolus Clusius planted them, and since then the horse chestnuts have spread in the parks of the nobility. In the 19th century it grew so often in Germany that it was considered a "folk tree", the horse chestnut was often in the center of the village, shaded public green areas and urban cemeteries. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Bässler, Dagmar; Okpanyi, Samuel et al .: Bioavailability of beta-aescin from horse chestnut seed extract: Comparative clinical studies of two galenic formulations, in: Advances in Therapy, Volume 20, Issue 5, page 295-304, 2003, PubMed
  • Pittler, M.H .; Ernst, E .: Horse chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency; in: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 11. Art. No .: CD003230 (accessed 30.08.2019), cochrane
  • Guillaume, Michel; Padioleau, F .: Veinotonic effect, vascular protection, antiinflammatory and free radical scavenging properties of horse chestnut extract, in: Arzneimittelforschung, Volume 44, Issue 1, pages 25-35, 1994, PubMed
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Horse Chestnut (accessed 30.08.2019), PubMed

Video: Horse Chestnut Bonsai Tree Aesculus hippocastanum (September 2022).


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