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Medicinal Trees: Aesculus, Buckeye

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Medicinal Trees: Aesculus, Buckeye

Ten varieties of Buckeye are used medicinally: Aesculus californica - Californian Buckeye, Aesculus flava - Sweet Buckeye, Aesculus glabra - Ohio Buckeye, Aesculus hippocastanum - Horse Chestnut, Aesculus chinensis - Chinese Horse Chestnut, Aesculus indica - Indian Horse Chestnut, Aesculus parviflora, Aesculus pavia - Red Buckeye, Aesculus turbinata - Japanese Horse Chestnut, Aesculus x carnea - Red Horse Chestnut

Of the above, only three are native to my region, Aesculus flava (Yellow Buckeye), Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye) and Aesculus sylvatica (Painted Buckeye), with one naturalized, Aesculus hippocastanum (Horsechestnut). They are remarkably tough trees. Even as seedlings, they are weedy and very hard to kill. You can cut them down to the ground, and they simply grow right back! Their fruit looks like chestnuts, but is inedible for humans. They are good for firewood, and may be coppiced. Generally, though, Buckeyes are considered a nuisance… they tend to pop up in one’s hedges and landscape and are very difficult to remove. For that reason, I was very glad to learn of the herbal use of the Buckeye tree!

Useful parts are the peeled seed or live, inner bark. The bark can be taken from pruned branches. It is used for poor circulation and claudication (swelling of the ankles). Improves the charge of venous capillaries and veins. Blood rising from the legs is thick and when you stand a lot, fluid pools in the feet and ankles. Buckeye is good for venous congestion in the legs - purple, spidery veins. It can be used topically and internally. Buckeye can be used as a tea with witch hazel or hyssop and is best Combined with Butcher's Broom.

Caution should be used with any internal use of Buckeye, but very small amounts of the tincture may be useful for spasmodic coughs and bronchial tightness.

Externally, Buckeye is most often used for varicose veins, hemorrhoids and rheumatism.

The Buckeye, or “horse chestnut” has long been used as an astringent and anti-inflammatory herb. It is analgesic and diuretic, hemostatic and vasoconstrictive, tonifying the veins. The root may be useful for chest pains.

Mrs. Grieves lists its medicinal uses as:

The bark has tonic, narcotic and febrifuge properties and is used in intermittent fevers, given in an infusion of 1 OZ. to the pint, in tablespoonful doses, three or four times daily. As an external application to ulcers, this infusion has also been used with success. The fruits have been employed in the treatment of rheumatism and neuralgia, and also in rectal complaints and for haemorrhoids.

Brother Aloysius wrote of Horse Chestnut:

The horse chestnuts and the flowers are used medicinally. The fresh plucked flowers, steeped in 75 percent alcohol, are an excellent remedy for rheumatic pain; the affected area should be rubbed twice daily with this tincture. Chestnut powder, carried in a linen bag over the heart, is to be recommended for cramps; very finely powdered chestnut is an excellent snuff; the powder is also most efficacious taken internally for colic and cramps. The dose it 2 to 3 pinches per day. Chestnut powder mixed with vinegar and barley meal, cures hardened breasts and dissolved the clotted milk. The powder alone is an excellent remedy for headaches and eye complaints, it should be sniffed up the nose.

Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests states:

AESCULACEAE. (The Horse Chestnut Tribe).

The seeds contain a great quantity of nutritive starch; also a sufficient amount of potash to be useful as cosmetics, or as a substitute for soap.

HORSE CHESTNUT ; BUCKEYE, (Aesculus pavia, L.)

Diffused. I have observed it in Greenville, Fairfield and Charleston Districts; vicinity of Charleston, Bach.; North Carolina. Fl. May.Shec. Flora Carol. 105; Griffith's Med. Bot. 214. The fruit is about the size of a small lemon, and of a beautifully polished mahogany color externally; it contains a great deal of starch. Dr. Woodhouse prepared a half a pint from the nuts, which retained its color for two years. It is superior to the famous Portland starch, and does not impart a yellow color to cloth. It is said that the washing from this is narcotic and poisonous. Dr. McDowol tried the powder of the rind, and states that ten grains were equivalent to three of opium; a strong decoction is recommended as a lotion to gangrenous ulcers. A strong decoction of the root is said to relieve toothache when held in the mouth. The fresh kernels, macerated in water, mixed with wheat flour into a stiff paste and thrown in pools of standing water, intoxicate fish, so that they float on the surface, and may be taken; reviving, however, when placed in fresh water. I am informed that large quantities were formerly caught in this way in the swamps along the Santee River. See, also, Ell. Bot. Med. Notes. The roots are preferred even to soap for washing and whitening woollens, blankets, and dyed cottons—the colors of which are improved by the process. Satins washed in this manner and carefully ironed, look almost as well as new. The Buckeye has been used in St. John's, Berkeley, S. C, (186.3,) to fix the color of cotton fabrics, muslins, etc., when alum ox gall, sugar of lead, etc., had proved inefficient. Bedsteads made of the horse chestnut are said not to be infested by bugs. I am told that in the West they use the buckeye to prevent piles, worn about the loins as an amulet!

King's American Dispensatory, 1898 tells us:

Aesculus.—Ohio Buckeye.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This agent influences the nervous and circulatory systems, having a selective affinity for the portal circulation. In over-doses it affects the cerebro-spinal system somewhat after the manner of nux vomica. Dizziness, fixation of the eyes, impairment of vision, vomiting, wry-neck, opisthotonos, stupor, and tympanites are among its effects. In lethal doses these symptoms are increased, coma supervenes, and death finally takes place. The dried powder of the nut inhaled causes violent sneezing. The action of buckeye is similar to, but more powerful than that of the horse-chestnut (A. Hippocastanum), though some think it less powerful than the latter in its effects upon the portal circulation. It probably acts more powerfully on the spinal than upon the sympathetic nerves. When an excited circulation, with frequent 20 pulse, depends upon disorders of the respiratory and sympathetic nerves, it acts as a decided sedative. The difficult breathing of non-paroxysmal asthma, where the dyspnoea is persistent, but does not amount to a paroxysm, is markedly benefited by aesculus glabra, while in coughs, associated with post-manubrial constriction—a sensation of grasping and tightening—its action is positive. The latter sensation without the cough quickly yields to it. Phthisis, bronchitis, etc., with dyspnoea and oppression, are palliated by it. Intestinal uneasiness and irritation, with a sense of contraction and colic-like pains in the region of the umbilicus, are indications for its use. It is asserted valuable in intestinal dyspepsia with these symptoms, and in hepatic congestion and chronic constipation. Its control over the portal circulation and its attendant disorders is pronounced, and as a remedy for hemorrhoids depending upon portal derangements, it has attained a reputation. A sense of constriction in the rectum is the guide to its use. In female disorders, with tumid and enlarged cervix uteri, with too frequent and profuse menstruation, it may be employed with advantage. Owing to its powerful action upon the nervous system the drug will repay study. It has been employed with asserted success in rheumatism and as a stimulant in paralysis. The dose of specific aesculus glabra is from 1 to 5 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses.—A sensation of grasping or constriction in the post-manubrial space, or at the supra-sternal notch; cough of spasmodic character, with but little expectoration; asthma, with continual dyspnoea, non-paroxysmal; tightness in the chest and about the heart; bronchial irritation with constriction; sense of constriction, tightness or uneasiness in the rectum, accompanied or not with hemorrhoids; intestinal irritation with constriction and colicky pains near the umbilicus.

Related Species.—Aesculus pavia, Linné. Red buckeye. United States. Southern states, from Georgia and Virginia westward.

Jolanta Wittib writes of Horse Chestnut:

I use the seeds of Horse chestnut. It is my home medicine, my laundry liquid, my dishwasher and material for creative activities with children and grandchildren. As a home medicine, I make a tincture from fresh chestnut seeds. I fill 1/3 of a jar with chopped chestnut seeds, add high percentage alcohol, keep it tightly closed for at least two weeks, and shake it daily. Then I strain the liquid and pour it into a dark bottle for storing. I use it as a prevention for varicose veins. My father and mother suffered a lot from varicose veins. So far I am very lucky and I have no problems at all. Is it thanks to this tincture or to my habit to sit with legs up, whenever I have a chance....

I love nature and I am really conscious of the damage we humans cause by polluting nature and ourselves, thus I systematically try to replace all the synthetic and nature polluting laundry, washing and cleaning liquids and powders in my home. I want to contribute to preserving nature. I want my grandchildren to learn how to cherish nature, to be able to enjoy the green, the fresh, the beautiful. Telling is one, teaching by example is something else. I try to teach by example.

For my laundry I use either dark green ivy (hedera) leaves, or fresh or dried Sweet William herb or horse chestnut seeds. I cannot imagine laundry with any synthetic powder or liquid anymore.

As this is a chapter about chestnut - here is my recipe:

Collect chestnuts, chop them fresh (do not remove the brown shell), dry well and store in tightly closed jars. For a laundry you pour 300 ml of boiling water onto 3 spoons full of dried chestnuts, let it soak for about 30 minutes, strain the liquid through a sieve and pour it into the washing machine. Do not throw away the thick mass. You can use it once or twice again for washing if you do more laundry in the coming days.

Peterson Field Guides Eastern and Central Medicinal Plants tells us of the Buckeye family:

The Ohio Buckeye, aesculus glabara: Traditionally, powdered nut in minute doses used for spasmodic cough, asthma with tight chest, intestinal irritations. External tea or ointment used for rheumatism and piles. American Indians put ground nuts in streams to stupify fish, which floated to the surface for easy harvest. Warning: nuts toxic, causing severe gastric irritation. Still, Indians made food from them after elaborate processing.

Horsechestnut, aesculus hippocastanum: as in A. glabara; Also, peeled roasted nuts of this tree were brewed for diarrhea, prostate ailments. Thought to increase blood circulation. In Europe, preparations of the seeds are believed to prevent thrombosis, and are used to treat varicose veins and hemorrhoids; thought to help strengthen weak veins and arteries. Also used in gastritis and gastroenteritis. Leaf tea tonic; use for fevers. Flower tincture used on rheumatic joints. Bark tea astringent; used in malaria, dysentery, externally, for lupus and skin ulcers. Warning: outer husks poisonous; All parts can be toxic. Fatalities reported. Seeds (nuts) contain 30 to 60% starch, but can be used as a foodstuff only after the toxins have been removed.

The Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines notes that, “Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded.” However, it cautions that Horse Chestnut/Buckeye may interact negatively with persons taking warfarin, salicylates and other drugs with anti-coagulant properties, and that, “The intake of larger quantities of Horse Chestnut seeds (in one case of a child with 5 seeds) can bring about vomiting, diarrhea, severe thirst, reddening of the face, enlargement of the pupils, vision and consciousness disorders.

This article is an excerpt from The Medicinal Trees of the American South, An Herbalist's Guide: by Judson Carroll

His New Book is:

Growing Your Survival Herb Garden for Preppers, Homesteaders and Everyone Else

Read About Growing Your Survival Herb Garden for Preppers, Homesteaders and Everyone Else: http://southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2022/04/growing-your-survival-herb-garden-for.html

Available for purchase on Amazon: Growing Your Survival Herb Garden For Preppers, Homesteaders and Everyone Else: Carroll, Judson: 9798449186683: Amazon.com: Books

His other works include:

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Christian Medicine, History and Practice:


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Look Up: The Medicinal Trees of the American South, An Herbalist's Guide


The Herbs and Weeds of Fr. Johannes Künzle: https://southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2021/05/announcing-new-book-herbs-and-weeds-of.html

Author: Judson Carroll. Judson Carroll is an Herbalist from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

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The information on this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. Nothing on this site has been evaluated or approved by the FDA. I am not a doctor. The US government does not recognize the practice of herbal medicine and their is no governing body regulating herbalists. Therefore, I'm just a guy who studies herbs. I am not offering any advice. I won't even claim that anything I write is accurate or true! I can tell you what herbs have "traditionally been used for." I can tell you my own experience and if I believe an herb helped me. I cannot, nor would I tell you to do the same. If you use any herb I, or anyone else, mentions you are treating yourself. You take full responsibility for your health. Humans are individuals and no two are identical. What works for me may not work for you. You may have an allergy, sensitivity or underlying condition that no one else shares and you don't even know about. Be careful with your health. By continuing to read my blog you agree to be responsible for yourself, do your own research, make your own choices and not to blame me for anything, ever.
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