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Horse Chestnut

Horse chestnut seed (Aesculus hippocastanum [Latin]), also called chestnut and buckeye, was used by both Native Americans and Europeans to treat hemorrhoids. Today most herbalists and many physicians recommend it for treatment of varicose veins, a practice that is supported by a number of scientific studies.

Horse chestnut contains aescin, a substance that helps keep veins strong and elastic, which helps prevent the pooling of blood that can lead to varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Studies have shown horse chestnut to be as effective as compression stocking therapy for people with venous insufficiency, a condition that usually precedes the onset of varicose veins.

Horse chestnut seed extract may help treat hemorrhoids as well, especially when applied topically in its extract form.

Horse chestnut seed has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which supports its traditional use as a treatment for joint pain and arthritis. The aescin in horse chestnut seed may help lessen the appearance of cellulite by toning the capillaries below the skin. One Japanese study found that horse chestnut seed extract can help protect against wrinkles.

Horse chestnut is available in salves, creams, tablets and capsules at health food stores and most pharmacies. The usual dosage of horse chestnut seed for varicose veins is 50 milligrams two to three times each day.

Women who are pregnant should use topical forms of this herb only! Horse chestnut is poisonous unless it is properly detoxified. Don’t even think about gathering this herb in the wild—eating any part of it fresh can cause poisoning. Symptoms of poisoning include muscle spasms, vomiting, loss of coordination, and even paralysis. People taking blood thinners should also avoid this herb, since it may increase the effects of these medications.

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