Horse Chestnut – Aesculus hippocastanum

Autumn always reminds me of foraging through the hedgerows, collecting conkers and walking through crisp and colourful leaves (and hoping that there isn’t any dog muck under there lol)  How many of you have been conkering this year?  I like to find a nice big stick to help me get the best conkers down from the horse chestnut tree.  Despite the popularity of horse chestnut trees, they are not a native of the British Isles!! They were first introduced from the Balkans in the late 16th century and were not used to play “conkers” until 200 years later.  I love finding conker trees, and fairy rings surrounding them.

fairy ring

Did you know that the horse chestnut has medicinal uses?  If anyone of you has just had a baby you may have used horse chestnut without realising it as midwives recommend a branded bubble bath for women who have torn during child birth.

Horse chestnut leaf and bark

Horse chestnut leaf and bark

Its seed, bark, flower, and leaves are used to make medicine. Horse chestnut contains significant amounts of a poison called esculin and can cause death if eaten raw so please learn how to identify this and the sweet chestnut tree prior to harvesting.  Horse chestnut is valued in herbal medicine for it’s support of the circulatory system.  The herb is anti-inflammatory which decreases swelling and astringent which reduces bleeding and adds tone to connective tissue. Much of the medicinal value of horse chestnut is attributed to the phytochemical aescin, a saponin which has a stabilizing action on veins and capillaries

Dr Bach used horse chestnut buds in his flower essences.  Chestnut Bud is an excellent remedy for helping people develop the courage to change themselves for the better. It empowers people to take responsibility and control over uncontrolled and negative repetitive behaviour.

It tones and protects blood vessels and may be helpful with water retention in the ankles related to poor venous return. Utilised as an anti-inflammatory agent for a variety of conditions, in addition to being used for vascular problems. 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.

Horse chestnut herb that helps to tone the vein walls which, when slack or distended, may become varicose, haemorrhoidal or otherwise problematic. 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.

The useful parts can be gathered between spring and fall:

  • Bark – best gathered at March, before the greening and blooming starts. Needs to be dried well – please remember that you need land owners permission to harvest the bark of this tree as you can kill the tree if you take too much, it is best to harvest branches especially ones which have been broken off with the wind recently.
  • Leaf mass – after the leaves become widespread with the size of an open hand. (May – July). Gather only green leaves without pests or disease.
  • Seeds – after full growth between September and October. After the green mace-like fruit starts cracking naturally.