The Common Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is anything but ordinary. The tree has a long history as a medicinal and useful plant, its seeds are used today mainly for chronic venous disease. The Würzburg Study Group "History of Development of Medicinal Products" has therefore named the horse chestnut the medicinal plant of the year 2008. Children love you, for many adults, they are the epitome of autumn in addition to the colorful leaves: the smooth, brown-shimmering chestnuts that come out of their green barbed bed and roll thousands upon streets and paths.
But the unusual seeds of the Horse Chestnut offer more than fun and craft: they contain Aescin, a group of drugs that seals blood vessels and their effect is scientifically well studied. On top of that, there are a number of other substances in the powerhouse, such as flavonoids, tannins and coumarin derivatives, which contribute to the health-promoting effect.
In addition to the chestnuts, the leaves, and sometimes also the bark and flowers were used medicinally in folk medicine. The horse chestnut not only has a vascular sealing and vein-strengthening effect, but also an anti-inflammatory, decongestant and circulation-promoting effect.
The extract from the seeds is mainly used because of its acecine content and its effect on the vessels. By sealing, less fluid passes from the veins into the surrounding tissue, and the feeling of heaviness and edema typical of venous disorders ("water in the legs") is reduced.
The common horse chestnut is used internally and externally: for varicose veins, swollen legs, tendency to calf cramps, leg pain and hemorrhoids. Preparations are available in the form of ointments, tablets, dragees and capsules, tinctures and as a bath additive and shampoo.
History of the medicinal plant
The horse chestnut has a moving history. Tens of thousands of years ago it was found throughout Europe, but then withdrew during the last ice age on the low mountain ranges in Greece, Macedonia and Albania. About 450 years ago, the tree then returned to Western Europe, including by the Ottomans, who use chestnuts as horse feed and medicine. Presumably, the name also comes from - to the delimitation of the then already known, also edible for humans sweet chestnut. The horse chestnut with the large finger-shaped leaves quickly became a tree in princely parks and avenues, later becoming a trademark of the Volksparks and beer gardens.
Considering that the trees can be several hundred years old, their new life is still quite young here. Unfortunately, it does not threaten to get very old - the miner moth makes her gradually. This pest has chosen the horse chestnut as its favorite food, its larvae eat the leaves, which therefore already in the summer feel as if autumn. The premature fall weakens the tree permanently and leads to his death.
The horse chestnut was systematically examined for its medicinal properties at the end of the 19th century - the first to be scientifically proven to be effective in hemorrhoids.