Horse Chestnut (Qi Ye Shu)
Botanical Name: Aesculus hippocastanum
Horse chestnut is a traditional remedy for leg vein health. It tones and protects blood vessels. It is used in small doses due to potentially poisonous active compounds that can be removed by proper processing. Never eat the nuts raw as this can cause death.
Below is an overview of Horse Chestnut, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Horse Chestnut.
Western Name: Horse Chestnut
Also Known As: Conker Tree, Buckeye, Lambs, Bongay
Organs/Systems: Circulatory System, Uterus, Liver
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Decongesting, Astringing, Antioxidant, Restoring Venus Tonic, Anticoagulant. The bark has Tonic, Narcotic and Febrifuge properties. The Fruit is good for treating rheumatism and neuralgias, rectal complaints and hemorrhoids.
Pin Yin: Qi Ye Shu
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Liver, Bladder
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Moves and Tonifies Blood/Removes Stasis: thrombosis, hemorrhoids, moderates menses, abdominal pain. Resolves Fever/ Promotes Urination: edema, bloating, fevers, aids weight loss due to water retention. Stops Bleeding: used internally and externally, stops excess uterine bleeding.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Seed (The Fruit without the Rind), Branch Bark, Leaf, Fruit
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Astringing, Pungent, Cool, Dry
Caution: The young nuts are slightly poisonous as they contain alkaloid saponins and glycosides. The compound esculin can cause death if eaten raw.
History/Folklore: Horse chestnuts are bitter and not sweet like regular chestnuts! Do not confuse Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) with the Californian buckeye or Aesculus glabra (Ohio buckeye), both of these other plants can be called “horse chestnut” locally, even though they are different species and plants. Horse chestnut is said to cure horses of broken-winded and other cattle coughs. During WWI and WWII it was used as a source for starch.
In Bavaria horse chestnut is a typical tree planted in a beer garden to provide good shade. The flower is the symbol of Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine.
Horse chestnuts are entirely different from sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa), and are chiefly grown for ornamental purposes in gardens and parks.
The compound aescin behaves like an antioxidant and is a vaso-protector that protects collagen and elastin in the veins. The highest amounts of aescin are found in the seeds. Isolated from the seeds, aescin has been shown to not be as effective as it is when taken in herbal form. The sum of the plants compounds and properties are at its best when used together and not in isolation.
Their bark can be used to make a yellowish dye. The wood is too soft and spongy to be good for building with, but it is used for making packing cases. In Eastern European countries the nuts are used to feed cattle. Pigs will not touch them and they can cause tremors and lack of coordination in horses. Deer can eat them safely. First they are soaked in lie-water to leach out the bitter flavor, then ground to a pulp and then mixed in with other cattle feed.
In England the nuts are used for a popular children’s game called “conkers.”
Horse chestnuts have been used in the past to whiten hemp, flax, silk and wool containing soapy juices. It can take spots out of both linen and wool and never damages the cloth.
Esculin, Ash, Crude Protein, Essential oil, Carbohydrates, Saponins, Tannins, glycoside, Flavinoids, Fatty oil, Phytosterin, Fraxin, Allantoin, Aescin.
Like cypress, horse chestnut is a venous tonic and anticoagulant mostly used for pelvic, uterine and venous congestion.
Do NOT Eat Raw
Eaten raw the compound esculin found in the seeds can cause death, preparation is critical so these active chemicals can be processed out.
Preserve in Sand
Preserve the nuts in winter in sand to prevent mold and rot. If steeped in water they will germinate more quickly.
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