When Nat King Cole sang about “chestnuts roasting over an open fire,” he wasn’t talking about horse chestnuts. The delicious edible seeds of the sweet chestnut tree are what we eat around the holidays, but mistake it for a horse chestnut and you’ll be sick (and sorry). Is horse chestnut a nut? If not, what is it? Learn more in this blog post!
Is a Horse Chestnut a Nut?
Contrary to what the name suggests, a horse chestnut is not a nut. It’s a plant whose seed, bark, flowers, and leaves are used medicinally to support vein health, blood circulation, and healthy-looking skin. It’s important to know the difference, because horse chestnut is actually toxic to humans and many animals, and should not be consumed raw.
How Horse Chestnut is Used
Now that we’ve answered the question, “is a horse chestnut a nut” with an affirmative, NO – you may be wondering how it can be safely used to promote your health. While all parts of the plant are used (leaves, flowers and bark), it’s the seed that is most sought after because it contains the highest amount of the chemical escin. Escin is what makes the horse chestnut poisonous to humans and animals (especially dogs, cats and horses), and oddly enough, it’s also the same ingredient that makes it so effective as a medicinal herb. So, in order to make it safe for human consumption, when you purchase a horse chestnut supplement, the escin has been properly extracted, processed, and diluted.
Common Horse Chestnut Supplements
Horse chestnut supplements come in three basic forms (capsules, liquid extracts, and creams) and all have different potential health advantages, depending on your unique needs.
- Capsules – This is perhaps the easiest way to get your daily dose of safely processed horse chestnut. Because the capsules are pre-measured, you can rest easy knowing that you are getting the exact dosage recommended for your health. Oral capsules are generally recommended for people who suffer from chronic venous insufficiency, which are weak, poor performing veins in the legs. Studies show that a horse chestnut supplement such as this one from Planetary Herbals may help support strong vein walls, valves, and capillaries, making them more efficient and stimulating healthy blood flow.
- Liquid Extracts – For those who have trouble swallowing pills, or just prefer a liquid extract, this one from Herb Pharm is very popular. The liquid can easily be added to drinks or food. Horse chestnut extract not only provides support for healthy vein function, but people also use it to get temporary relief from hemorrhoids. Some studies suggest that it may be beneficial to males struggling with infertility by helping to promote sperm quality.
- Creams – For people who don’t want to ingest horse chestnut supplements but still want to reap the potential benefits, a topical cream like this one from Planetary Herbals may be useful. The cream can be applied to the areas affected (typically the lower legs) to help soothe symptoms associated with painful, swollen, underperforming veins. It may also help regulate normal fluid retention and extraction. You can also find horse chestnut creams included in many beauty products as it’s thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.
So, is horse chestnut a nut? No, but it does have a lot of useful potential health benefits when extracted and used properly.
Which form do you prefer to take your horse chestnut? Tell us about your daily routine and its successes in the comments below!