Historical note The horse chestnut tree is commonly found in ornamental gardens throughout Europe, growing up to 35 metres in height. The seeds are not edible due to the presence of alkaloid saponins, but both the dried seeds and bark of the horse chestnut tree have been used medicinally since the 1 6th century. The seeds are also used for the children's game 'conkers' and were used to produce acetone during World Wars I and II. In modern times, a dry extract referred to as horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) is standardised to contain 1 6-21 % triterpene glycosides (anhydrous escin). HCSE has been extensively researched for its beneficial effects and is commonly used by general practitioners in Germany for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency. Homoeopathic preparations of both the leaf and seed are also used for treating haemorrhoids, lower back pain, and varicose veins and the buds and flower are used to make the Bach flower remedies chestnut bud and white chestnut. The active component escin is also used intravenously and topically in cosmetics (Bombardelli et al 1 996, Herbalgram 2000, PDRHealth 2006).
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