Horse chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum (in the Hippocastanacea or Horse chestnut family)
Parts used: Seeds and bark.
Taste/smell: Bitter, slightly acrid.
Dosage: 1:5 dry liquid extract from seeds: 1-5 drops 1-3 times per day in a little water.
Mental picture and specific indications: Horse chestnut is specific for hemorrhoids due to portal vein obstruction and sharp shooting pains up the back. It is used for general congestion of tissues and atonic organs.
Use: (a) Astringent, (b) Contracts veins, (c) Anti-exudative, (d) Anti-edematous, (e) Anti-inflammatory, (f) Antispasmodic, (g) Decreases capillary permeability.
Horse chestnut contains aescin, an anti-exudative, anti-edematous, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic constituent. Aescin can decrease capillary permeability, (apparently due to inhibition of lysosomal enzymes) and stimulate the production and release of prostaglandins of the F-alpha type, which induce contraction of veins. It also antagonizes the effect of bradykinin, a substance that increases vascular permeability by normalizing the permeability of the plasma/lymph barrier dose-dependently. Horse chestnut is beneficial in relaxing ureter spasms, especially left sided. It also benefits bronchial spasms. It is useful for chronic venous insufficiency. It improves vascular resistance and reduces pathologically-induced capillary wall permeability.
Contraindications: An overdose of this herb may cause nausea, vomiting, inflamed membranes, diarrhea, weakness, dizziness, incoordination, paralysis, increased temperature, strabismus, vertigo, amblyopia, torticollis, mental stupor and coma. It also may cause depression, nervous twitching, hemolysis, mydriasis, fever, possibly elation and death due to respiratory paralysis. The ingestion of a few seeds can cause severe problems and in children, may kill them. It should only be used under the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner. It is contraindicated during pregnancy, in children under age 4, in acute kidney inflammation and gastrointestinal ulcers. Do not use in bleeding disorders, with asprin or other anticoagulants due to the antithrombin activity of its hydroxycoumarin constituent, aesculin, which causes increased bleeding time.