Monday, December 24, 2012

Horse Chestnut

Today is a rather gray, slithy day. Or maybe the sky just got covered with oobleck.

I was reading through one of my herb books the other day, and I ran across the horse chestnut.

Aesculus hippocastanum

The traditional american chestnut is nearly extinct due to a blight about 75 years ago. The horse chestnut is NOT related. I've been trying to talk my sister into getting rid of hers (she has two) with little success.

The nuts fall and litter the ground like tiny durian (and if you know what durian are, good for you! If not, look it up). The leaves smother everything, the shade kills the rest and I basically consider them a garbage tree.

However, just like other garbage plants (see here for my rant on Morning Glory) it has chemical compounds that are useful.

The seeds and the bark of young branches are used medicinally. It is used in tea or tincture form. Its main purpose is as an astringent, for problems of the digestive tract or the surface skin. Things like hemorrhoids, vericose veigns (used externally) or external ulcers and sores.

Horse Chestnut is extremely poisonous. It can cause kidney or liver damage, severe bleeding and bruising, or shock. Allergies are possible, resulting in hives, itching, muscle spasms and nausea. Most people who accidentally eat Horse Chestnut will spit it out before even swallowing, and the body will reject it forcefully.

There are less toxic astringents available, so horse chestnut would not be one that I would use. It appears to be excellent for external problems, though, and as an external astringent. Keep in mind that if you're allergic to anything else in the family it shouldn't be used externally either.

Because Horse Chestnut is a blood thinner, do not take this if you are taking other blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder of any kind.

Interactions: Coumadin, aspirin

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