Horse Chestnut Extract

Horse Chestnut Extract

Don’t let the name fool you, horse chestnut extract has nothing to do with horses, or roasting chestnuts over an open fire. Horse chestnut is a European native tree similar to the Ohio Buckeye. Horse chestnut extract is derived from its seed. This herb has gained widespread use in Germany for treating chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI.

CVI is a condition in which the valves in your veins do not function adequately, and blood flow from the legs to the heart is decreased. People suffering from CVI may present with varicose veins, swelling of the legs, leg discomfort (burning, itching, dull ache, tightening in the calf), skin ulcers that do not heal or skin discolorations known as Lipodermatosclerosis.

The risk factors for CVI include a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, obesity, cigarette smoking, pregnancy, a blockage that interrupts blood flow, family history and prolonged sitting or standing.

CVI and Varicose Veins

In the United States, approximately 24 million people suffer from Varicose Veins, and approximately 6 million experience the skin changes associated with CVI. CVI is more likely to strike women ages 40-49 and men ages 70-79. Standard medical treatment may include elevating the legs to improve blood flow, compression stockings, prescription medications and in more serious cases surgery.

The History of Horse Chestnut Extract

Horse chestnut extract has been used by European doctors since the 1800s to treat varicose veins, hemorrhoids and other vascular and circulatory disorders. In Germany, horse chestnut extract is one of the most common prescription herbal remedies. The main therapeutic ingredient in horse chestnut is triterpenic sapoin asecin. Aescin, sometimes spelled escin, decreases inflammation in the veins and strengthens or tones up the vein walls, improving the flow of blood back to the heart.

Benefits of Horse Chestnut Extract

There are a number of clinical trials in European medical literature, which document the effectiveness of this herbal extract. In 1998, the well-respected scientific American journal, Archives of Dermatology published a review of 13 clinical trials. The reviews concluded that horse chestnut extract was superior to placebo and equivalent in effectiveness to compression therapy. In looking at total results, horse chestnut significantly reduced edema and study participants reported less pain, fatigue, tenseness and itching in their legs at the end of treatment. Further, positive changes were noted within two weeks in several of the studies, and the benefits lasted at least six weeks after treatment ended.

Horse Chestnut Side Effects

Horse chestnut extract comes in capsules, and topical forms such as horse chestnut cream. The oral formulations have been more extensively researched than the topical. If you are taking prescription medication, particularly blood thinners, horse chestnut can intensify the effect of the medication. It is important to discuss things with your physician before taking any supplement. You should also consult your physician if you have any type of liver or kidney problem. You should never attempt to make the remedy yourself, manufacturers have a treatment process, which removes the toxins and carefully extracts the active ingredient. When prepared and used properly, horse chestnut has a low risk of complications and adverse reactions.

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