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What Is Horse Chestnut Extract?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2016
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Horse chestnut extract is an herbal treatment made from the seeds of a large deciduous tree. It is used primarily to treat swollen veins, varicose veins, diarrhea and fever, as well as several other conditions. The active ingredient in the extract is called aescin and it has been shown to work positively on treating problems with blood circulation. Although there are several related varieties of the tree that produces horse chestnut, their seeds do not possess the same properties.

The fruit called the horse chestnut comes from a deciduous tree known as a horse chestnut tree. The Aesculus hippocastanum tree can grow to more than 100 feet (30.5 meters) tall. One important aspect of the fruit of the tree is that its raw and unprocessed form contains esculin. Esculin is a very powerful poison that can be fatal if ingested. The process of extracting the aescin from the fruit removes the poison.

The aescin contained in horse chestnut extract is a proven anti-inflammatory. While there is evidence that it can help to treat chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins and several other circulatory problems, there is no firm evidence to suggest that it is able to positively influence other conditions. Regardless, some people still take the extract for swelling, enlarged prostate and menstrual pain.

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Horse chestnut extract operates by thinning the blood. This helps to promote circulation and potentially reduce swelling. In a very minor way, aescin helps to stop liquid from seeping out of the veins and can aid in urination. Both of these effects ultimately assist in reducing water retention, a condition called edema.

The primary active ingredient in horse chestnut extract affects the blood and circulation of the body, so it is important to exercise caution when taking it. Specifically, people with diabetes should not take the extract because it could potentially lower blood sugar. People who have liver or kidney problems also should avoid taking the extract, because it could make existing conditions worse or cause damage.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take horse chestnut extract. As of 2011, there is not enough information to determine whether it can be harmful to the fetus. There also is no information on whether it can be passed on through breast milk.

There also are some potential drug interactions with horse chestnut extract. People taking lithium or medications that slow the clotting mechanism of the blood should avoid this extract. These types of drugs can combine with the horse chestnut and cause unexpected complications.

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Discuss this Article

candyquilt
Post 3

@fify-- Mine contains 20%. But you should know, it takes a while for horse chestnut extract to be effective on varicose veins and it can never cure them. It can reduce their appearance by improving circulation and reducing swelling. It can lighten their color a little bit too. But it's not going to make varicose veins disappear. It hasn't done so for me anyway.

But considering how difficult it is to treat this condition and how very few medications or herbs actually work, horse chestnut extract is a great option.

fify
Post 2

How much aescin should a horse chestnut extract have in order to be effective for varicose veins?

fBoyle
Post 1

Creams and topical ointments containing horse chestnut extract may be used. Generally, less of medication is absorbed into the bloodstream through skin, so this reduces side effects. But I personally would not ingest horse chestnut extract. I think that there are too many risks involved. Like the article said, it can be dangerous for those with kidney and liver problems. But some people are not aware that they have them and using horse chestnut extract may worsen things without them realizing. I think anyone with a chronic condition should avoid this extract altogether.

If more studies are done on it in the future and if it is proven that it is not dangerous in the recommended amounts, then it may be acceptable to use it. But as of right now, there are really no studies on it and the FDA doesn't regulate it since it's a supplement.

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