Horse chestnut, also called aesculus hippocastanum, is a plant. Its seed, bark, flowers, and leaves have medicinal properties. Horse chestnut seeds can be processed so that the active chemicals are extracted and concentrated.
The result is called aescin, an extract that is a powerful anti-aging compound and has potent cell-protective effects through its antioxidative properties (1).
Furthermore, it is also rich in a number of flavonoids. The word flavonoid (or bioflavonoid) comes from the Latin word flavus meaning yellow, their natural color. It is a class of secondary plant and fungus metabolites. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.
Historically, they had been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, as they have been associated with protection of the skin, brain, and prevention of diabetes. Moreover, flavonoids are also known for their positive effects regarding blood pressure regulation.
A study published in a prestigious journal such as Lancet reported about the protective effects of horse chestnut on blood vessels. Specifically, this study in patients with chronic venous insufficiency showed that chestnut, taken orally, stimulates the microcirculation and strengthens the blood vessels (2).
The efficacy of horse chestnut extract works by reducing edema (which means swelling due to water storage in the tissue outside the blood vessels). This has been reported in several clinical trials in patients with chronic venous insufficiency (3,4).
A possible mechanism suggested by some authors is that horse chestnut seed extract has an inhibitory action on capillary protein permeability, meaning that important proteins don’t get lost from the vessels, thus avoiding the development of edema (5).
Furthermore, the leaves of the horse chestnut plant contain zinc, among other trace elements. This chemical element is a nutritionally fundamental compound that modulates immune response and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
It also retards oxidative processes responsible for aging (6, 7). This leads to the conclusion that horse chestnut may have positive effects on our organism.
Tsutsumi S, Ishizuka S. Anti-inflammatory effects of the extract of Aesculus hippocastanum L. (horse chestnut) seed. Shikwa Gakuho. 1967 Nov;67(11):1324-8.
Diehm C, Trampisch HJ, Lange S, Schmidt C. Comparison of leg compression stocking and oral horse-chestnut seed extract therapy in patients with chronic venous insufficiency. Lancet. 1996 Feb 3;347(8997):292-4.
Steiner M,Hillemanns HG..Untersuchung zur ödemprotektiven Wirkung eines Venetherapeutikums. MünchMedWochenschr 1986;31: 551-52.
Kreysel HW, Nissen HP, Enghofer E. A possible role of lysosomal enzymes in the pathogenesis of varicosis and the reduction in their serum activity by Venostasin. Vasa 1983; 12: 377-82.
Kim ND, Fergusson JE. Seasonal variations in the concentrations of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc in leaves of the horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum L.). Environ Pollut. 1994;86(1):89-97.
Jarosz M, Olbert M, Wyszogrodzka G, Młyniec K, Librowski T. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of zinc. Zinc-dependent NF-κB signaling. Inflammopharmacolog. 2017 Feb;25(1):11-24.