Conker season has just passed and in addition to the usual games, my children have been enjoying pulverising them in a (rather heavier duty) blender. When broken up and left to soak in alcohol for a few weeks, the filtered horsechestnut tincture (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a rather useful vein strengthening medicine, used both topically and orally.

Horsechestnut and the major active principle aescin, have been the subject of several human studies (Sirtori, 2001) on chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) (e.g. Suter et al., 2006), varicose veins and haemorrhoids. It has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms such as leg swelling, pain, heaviness, itching and bleeding and was as effective as compression therapy in CVI.

There are several mechanisms of action through which horsechestnut may exert its benefits; it may inhibit dilation or induce contraction of veins due to molecules such as histamine, serotonin and certain prostaglandins and may inhibit enzymatic breakdown of tissue compounds supporting veins and capillaries such as hyaluronic acid.

In addition to its common use in venous problems, horsechestnut extract has also been shown to protect the liver in an animal model and the component escin has been shown in initial studies to have antitumour effects.

Caution: The tincture may have an irritating effect on the digestive system and should be used with caution; the unprocessed seeds should not be used. The information is offered for its educational value only and should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent disease; please contact your health care practitioner.


Sirtori CR. (2001) ‘Aescin: pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and therapeutic profile’. Pharmacol Res. 44(3):183-93. Review.

Suter A, Bommer S, Rechner J. (2006) ‘Treatment of patients with venous insufficiency with fresh plant horse chestnut seed extract: a review of 5 clinical studies’, Adv Ther. 23(1):179-90.