Common horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum L.)
Horse chestnut is common park tree. You may have met it already and did not knew it is actually a quite potent herb.
Normally it is wide spread in mountains, grows in about 30 meters tall and has long leaves divided in 5-7 sub-leaves.
Blossoms are white with pink or red spots, gathered in grape-like groups.
The fruit is green spiked mace with huge seeds, often single but sometimes 2 or 3 seeds are present.
Blooms between April and May and is one of the first trees visited by honey bees.
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 good (Acceptable level around 10% of moisture).
- Leaf mass - after the leaves become widespread with the size of an open hand. (May - July). Gather only green leaves without pests and moth larvae (they become light brown or brown if they are infested).
- Seeds - after full growth between September and October. After the green mace-like fruit starts cracking naturally:
Bark needs temperatures above 50 Celsius to be sure it will not mold, this is rarely possible to be done with spring's sunlight, so you better use herbal drier.
Leaf mass can be dried very good under sunlight because it is gathered when the summer sun is already hot enough. Spread the leaves and let them dry naturally.
Seeds are almost impossible to spoil, they only need dry air and will get well dry even for decorative purposes after few weeks keeping in the room. The only thing you need to do is to remove the mace-like fruit shell preferably when it is still green (gets brown and more spiky at late autumn - harder to remove with bare hands).
Acetic acid, Angelic acid, Gluconic acid
Saponins and aescin
Astragalin, Aesculin, Aesculetin, Allantoin, Catechins, Fraxin, Fraxetin, Kamferol, Quercetin, Quercitrin
The best known benefit is from the Aesculn inside the horse chestnut.
It does miracles on the venous system improving elasticity and strength of the capillaries and veins making them more durable and resistant to strain from high blood pressure, obesity, sport trauma etc. (It is also very good for hemorrhoids.)
Being potent against pain and inflammation it is also good for sore throat (gurgling with herbal tea). The tea is also very good winter remedy for cough, bronchitis and short breath.
In the past in the veterinary medicine, the seeds were crushed and mixed with the food fed to the horses (hence the name horse chestnut). It was used for horses that tire easily and have shortness of breath first. Much later the same benefits were observed in humans consuming bread from flour mixed with crushed horse chestnut seeds. History claims there are cases of tuberculosis patients getting better after treatment with horse chestnut tea.
Some home-made herbal remedies
Flebitis, rheumatoid pain and hemorrhoids can be lessened by one easy infusion.
Crush dried seeds and soak them in ethanol in 2:1 ratio. (two cups of seeds, 1 cup of vodka will do just fine). Leave them in a jar for 15 days. Put 2-3 tablespoons of this in a gauze and apply on the problem area for 10 minutes each day.
Varicose veins can get shrunk with fresh green leaf mass.
Get a handful of leaves and a small piece of butter. Remove the leaf stems and bigger veins with kitchen knife. Crush them in a mortar and pestle until they become like a topical cream. Apply 1 mm layer each day. You will see improvement after one week.
Cough remedies made from horse chestnuts can be made from the bark, dried leaves or seeds.
- One cup dried crushed seeds are poured with 1 liter (4 cups) boiling water and left to cool for 2 hours.
- or -
- One cup grated dry bark is boiled for 10 minutes in 1 liter of water.
- or -
- 1 tablespoon of crushed dry leaves in the same amount of water.
4 cups are taken each day until the cough is relieved.
Horse chestnut leaf miner.
This is one awful moth larvae which can destroy the leaf mass of the tree in a matter of 1 month.
You should be aware of it if you are having this proud tree in your garden, especially if it is a young one, without strong roots and enough leaf mass to sustain itself.
Be extra careful if you see browning of the leaves and the fruits before the fall at July or August.
The presence of the larvae makes the tree weak and it can be infected with other diseases, wither and die in 1-2 years if it is still young.
Older chestnuts can also be affected and befallen.
Always clean the dry leaf mass around the trunk to remove the gestating larvae and cut the infected leaves.