Keywords: buckeye, Spanish chestnut, chronic venous insufficiency
On this page
- What It Is Used For
- How It Is Used
- What the Science Says
- Side Effects and Cautions
- For More Information
This fact sheet provides basic information about horse chestnut—common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Horse chestnut trees are native to the Balkan Peninsula (for example, Greece and Bulgaria), but grow throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Although horse chestnut is sometimes called buckeye, it should not be confused with the Ohio or California buckeye trees, which are related but not the same species.
Common Names—horse chestnut, buckeye, Spanish chestnut
Latin Names—Aesculus hippocastanum
What It Is Used For
- For centuries, horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers have been used for a variety of conditions and diseases.
- Horse chestnut seed extract has been used to treat chronic venous insufficiency (a condition in which the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart). This condition is associated with varicose veins, pain, ankle swelling, feelings of heaviness, itching, and nighttime leg cramping.
- The seed extract has also been used for hemorrhoids.
How It Is Used
Horse chestnut seed extract standardized to contain 16 to 20 percent aescin (escin), the active ingredient, is the most commonly used form. Topical preparations have also been used.
What the Science Says
- Small studies have found that horse chestnut seed extract is beneficial in treating chronic venous insufficiency and is as effective as wearing compression stockings.
- There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of horse chestnut seed, leaf, or bark for any other conditions.
Side Effects and Cautions
- Homemade preparations of horse chestnut should not be used. Raw horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers contain esculin, which is poisonous.
- When properly processed, horse chestnut seed extract contains little or no esculin and is considered generally safe. However, the extract can cause some side effects, including itching, nausea, or gastrointestinal upset.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
- Horse chestnut. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed July 5, 2007.
- Horse chestnut. Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed July 3, 2007.
- Horse chestnut seed extract. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:201–204.
For More Information
- What's in the Bottle? An Introduction to Dietary Supplements
- Herbal Supplements: Consider Safety, Too
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
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CAM on PubMed
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NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
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NIH National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus
Horse Chestnut Listing: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-horsechestnut.html
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NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCAM.
NCCAM Publication No. D321
Created May 2006
Updated June 2008
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