Edit Page
Print Page

Horse Chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum

((Above Illustration)) Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany

"Aesculus hippocastanum is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.[PFAF]
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution."[PFAF]



"Horse chestnut extract and aescin have been tested for acute toxicity in several animal species (mouse, rat, guinea pig, rabbit, dog). The "no effect" dose is approximately 8 times higher than the dose recommended for therapeutic use in patients. Tests for chronic toxicity (34 weeks in rats and dogs) showed no cumulative toxic effects or any evidence of embryotoxic or teratogenic effects. The results of animal studies are corroborated by decades of use in patients with no reports of harmful effects due to overdosing. No studies have been published on mutagenicity or carcinogenicity (Hansel et al.,1992)." [Schulz RP]

Edible Uses

Horse chestnut seeds are considered inedible and poisonous. The bitter flavor prevents consumption of large amounts. The leaves, flowers, young sprouts, and seeds are toxic. [PSM Harmana] "Roasting horsechestnut appears to destroy its toxins." [Mills HMPL]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"The plant is taken in small doses internally for the treatment of a wide range of venous diseases, including hardening of the arteries, varicose veins, phlebitis, leg ulcers, haemorrhoids and frostbite[238, 254]. It is also made into a lotion or gel for external application[254]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Aesculus hippocastanum for chronic venous insufficiency in the legs (see [302] for critics of commission E)." [PFAF] Other [Non-seed] preparations made from horse chestnut leaves, bark, and flowers have been negatively appraised and should no longer be prescribed. [Schulz RP]


"Horse chestnut is an astringent, anti-inflammatory herb that helps to tone the vein walls which, when slack or distended, may become varicose, haemorrhoidal or otherwise problematic[254]. The plant also reduces fluid retention by increasing the permeability of the capillaries and allowing the re-absorption of excess fluid back into the circulatory system[254]." [PFAF]

"As found in different animal tests and preclincal investigations, the principal ingredient of Horse Chestnut seed extract, triterpene glycoside mixture (aescin), has an anti-exudative, vascular tightening effect, and reduction of vascular permeability which result in an antiedemic effect. The vein-toning properties of the Horse Chestnut extract also demonstrated improvement of venous return flow. A significant reduction of transcapillary filtration was seen in a placebo-controlled human pharmacological trial (Bisler, 1986). Significant improvement in the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency was demonstrated in diverse, randomized, double-blind and cross-over studies (Calabrese, 1993; Steiner, 1990). There are indications that Horse Chestnut seed extract reduces the activity of lysosomal enzymes, which increases in chronic pathological conditions of the veins. The enzymes will break down glycoacalyx (mucopolysaccharides) in the region of the capillary walls, allowing proteins to leak into the interstitium. The activity of the enzymes is reduced by the aescin and so the breakdown of glycoacalyx is also inhibited. The transcapillary filtration of low-molecular proteins, electrolytes and water into the interstitium is inhibited through a reduction of vascular permeability by the aescin." [PDR]

"The main active principles of the anti-exudative effect and improvement of venous tone are hydroxycoumarins (aesculin and fraxin), triterpene saponins in the petioles and leaf veins, flavonoids and a rich supply of tannins. Although the drug is said to have an anti-exudative effect and improve venous tone, there is a lack of clinical data to support the efficacy."[PDR]


Chemical/Part/Loppm/Hippm/Reference (Some chemicals omitted/condensed due to their excessive length)


"The principal extract and medicinal constituent of Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) seed is aescin, a mixture of triterpenoid saponin glycosides. It can be fractionated into beta-aescin, an easily crystallizable mixture, and alpha-aescin, which is water-soluble." [HPEP]

"Aescin is fairly soluble in water but is poorly soluble in lipid solvents." [Schulz RP]

"CAN cautions that aescin is nephrotoxic. Side effects include GI disturbance, impaired liver function, mild nausea, shock, spasm, urticaria, and vomiting. Should be avoided by patients on blood-thinning therapy, with hepatic or renal impairment, or lactating or pregnant. Large doses of saponins can be fatally hemolytic in animals. LD50s range for aescin from 134 to 720 orally in mice, rats, and guinea pigs. On ipr administration, the total saponin fraction (LD50 = 46.5 mg/kg ipr mouse) was less toxic compared to isolated aescin (LD50 = 9.5 mg/kg ipr mouse) (CAN). LD50 of seed extract 990 mg/kg orl mouse, 2150 orl rat, 1530 orl rbt, 130 orl dog."[HMH Duke]


"Dosages (Horse Chestnut) — 0.2–1.0 g fruit 3 ×/day (CAN); 1–2 g dry seed/day (MAB); 1/2 tsp powdered seed/16 oz water (APA); 2–6 ml fluid seed extract (1:2)/day (MAB); 5–15 ml/day seed tincture (1:5) (MAB); 2–4 ml liquid bark extract (PNC); 0.5–1.2 ml liquid fruit extract (PNC); 30–150 mg aescin/day (PHR); 90–150 mg aescin at first, then 35–70 mg (APA); 300–600 mg StX ( = 100 mg aescin) (SHT); StX tablets (200 mg concentrated 5:1 extract) to provide 40 mg escin, 2–3 ×/day (MAB); 2 (480 mg) capsules (StX with 257 certified potency extract with at least 18–22% triterpenoid glycosides (calculated as aescin) synergistically combined with butcher’s broom, ginger, and rutin), one with morning meal, one with evening meal (NH)."[HMH Duke]

"The German Commission E recommends a dry extract manufactured from horse chestnut seed for the treatment of complaints found in pathological conditions of the veins of the legs (chronic venous insufficiency), for example, pains and a sensation of heaviness in the legs, nocturnal systremma (cramps in the calves), pruritus, and swelling of the legs (Blumenthal et al., 1998). The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) also suggests horse chestnut for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency, as well as for varicosis (ESCOP, 1999)."[Barrett HCTHR]

Topical/Cosmetic Preparations

"Medicinal, Pharmaceutical , and Cosmetic. Horse chestnut extract or aescin (0.25–0.5%) has reportedly been used in shampoos, shower foams, foam baths, skin care products, body and hand creams, lotions, and toothpastes. Cosmetic use in Europe has been based on its clearing and redness reducing properties, and its effectiveness in preventing cellulitis.[29]"[PSM Harmana]

"Numerous clinical studies and published case reports confirm the efficacy of aescincontaining topical products, especially in the treatment of sport injuries, including blunt trauma of the lower limbs,[30] joint sprains, tendonitis, hematomas, muscle strain, traumatic edema,[31] Achilles’ tendonitis; surgical outpatient trauma, including fractures, sprains, crush injuries, and contusions;[32] postoperative or postpartum edema in obstetrics and gynecology;[12] and others."[PSM Harmana]




"Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy tolerating poorer drier soils[11, 200]. Tolerates exposed positions and atmospheric pollution[200]. A very ornamental and fast-growing tree[1, 4], it succeeds in most areas of Britain but grows best in eastern and south-eastern England[200]. Trees are very hardy when dormant, but the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. The flowers have a delicate honey-like perfume[245]. Trees are tolerant of drastic cutting back and can be severely lopped[200]. They are prone to suddenly losing old heavy branches[98]. The tree comes into bearing within 20 years from seed[98]. Most members of this genus transplant easily, even when fairly large[11]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Naturalizing, Blooms are very showy."[PFAF]

"Presowing treatment of seeds with cobalt nitrate increased drought resistance of horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum L.) from the Donets Basin in southeastern Europe (87)." [Barker HPN]

A single exotic pathogen that has appeared in Europe in the last decade, has devastated the European horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). "Trees were observed to be suffering from a new form of bleeding canker on their stems which ultimately kills them, firstly in continental Europe and more recently across the UK as well. The causal agent of the disease was identified as a new species of pathogenic bacterium; Pseudomonas syringae pv. aesculi. It is thought that this bacterium originated in India on the Indian horse chestnut, and was probably introduced to Europe via the plant trade (as highlighted by Brasier 2008).... results have shown that there is only one strain of this organism across the whole of Europe, which suggests that the outbreak is probably the result of a single introduction event." [Fenning COWF]


"Seed - best sown outdoors or in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[11, 80]. The seed germinates almost immediately and must be given protection from severe weather[130]. The seed has a very limited viability and must not be allowed to dry out. Stored seed should be soaked for 24 hours prior to sowing and even after this may still not be viable[80, 113]. It is best to sow the seed with its 'scar' downwards[130]. If sowing the seed in a cold frame, pot up the seedlings in early spring and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer."[PFAF]

"Propagation is generally by seed, which fall in autumn, remain dormant over winter, and germinate in spring, at least in Liguria (Italy). In the first year plants have either two or four leaves. The vegetative growth of such plants returns the following year. The plant may also be propagated by cutting; in this case the specimens have the same morphological and physiological characteristics as the parent plant." [Bajaj MAPS 7]


Family: Sapindaceae

"Large shrub or tree. Leaf: palmate, leaflets 5–7[9]. Flower: petals 4[5], >> sepals. Fruit: capsule leathery. Seed: 1, large.
± 15 species: northern hemisphere. (Latin name for a sp. of oak)" [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Aesculus hippocastanum - Horse-chestnut [Cultivated]

Use of Related Sp.

"In Chinese herbal medicine, the seed of a related plant, A. chinensis, is used to treat malnutrition and other digestive difficulties at a dose of 3 to 9 grams in decoction. Japanese herbal medicine prescribes the seed of A. turbinata, another related plant, to treat digestive difficulties and promote absorption.80" [Boik NCCT]

Specific References

The information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes. Self diagnosis and treatment, without due diligence, could be harmful and is not encouraged. Some information & images may be copyright. Every effort has been made to present the information in the spirit with which it was originally presented. Some data has been omitted for legal and/or practical consideration. There is some data not covered in the scope of this project, including, but not limited to, cell culture and large-dose animal studies. I have made comparisons and links between related species which may later prove erroneous. I have not verified the information for accuracy and I accept no responsibility for its authenticity. Many of the plants presented are poisonous, have poisonous properties, or could cause illness through misuse, allergic reaction, drug interactions and environmental contaminants. Please use caution and mindfulness when harvesting plants for any use.

Page last modified on 20-01-2017