Aescin, aescine, Aesculaforce®, aescule, aesculetin, buckeye, bongay, chestnut, conkers, conquerors, coumarins, eschilo, escin, escina, escine, fatty acids, fish poison, flavonoids, graine de marronier d'Inde, fraxetin glucoside, fraxin, HCSC, H. vulgare Gaertnhestekastanje, Hippocastabi folium, Hippocastanaceae (family), Hippocastani semen, horsechestnut, horse chestnut seed extract, HCSE, linolenic acid, Marron Europeen, Marronier, NV-101, palmitic acid, quinines, Rokastaniensamen, rosskastanie, scopoletin glucoside, scopolin, Spanish chestnut, steric acid, sterols, tannins, Venastat®, Venoplant®, Venostasin®.
Horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) is widely used in Europe for chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a syndrome that may include leg swelling, varicose veins, leg pain, itching, and skin ulcers. Although HCSE is traditionally recommended for a variety of medical conditions, CVI is the only condition for which there is strong supportive scientific evidence.
Chronic venous insufficiency:
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that is more commonly diagnosed in Europe than in the United States and may include leg swelling, varicose veins, leg pain, itching, and skin ulcers. There is evidence from laboratory, animal, and human research that horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) may be beneficial to patients with this condition. Studies report significant decreases in leg size, leg pain, itchiness, fatigue, and "tenseness." There is preliminary evidence that HCSE may be as effective as compression stockings.
A dose of 300 milligrams every 12 hours, for up to 12 weeks (containing 50 to 75 milligrams of escin per dose), has been taken by mouth. A dose of 600 milligrams of chestnut seed extract per day has also been studied.
A gel preparation of horse chestnut containing 2% escin (applied to the skin 3-4 times daily) has been studied for bruising, without clear benefits.
There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend use of horse chestnut in children. Deaths have been reported in children who ate raw horse chestnut seeds or tea made from horse chestnut leaves and twigs.
Horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) may cause an allergic reaction in patients with known allergy to horse chestnuts, esculin, or any of its ingredients (flavonoids, biosides, trisides of quertins, and oligosacharides including 1-ketose and 2-ketose). Anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reaction) has been reported with intravenous (through the vein) use.
Allergic skin rashes (contact dermatitis) have been reported after use of a skin cream containing horse chestnut seed extract.
Unprocessed horse chestnut seeds have been associated with significant toxicity and death. Symptoms associated with horse chestnut poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, headache, confusion, weakness, muscle twitching, poor coordination, coma, or paralysis. Horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) standardized to escin content should not contain significant levels of esculin and should not have the same risks.
Standardized HCSE is generally considered to be safe in adults at recommended doses for short periods of time. Stomach upset, muscular (calf) spasm, headache, dizziness, nausea, and itching have been reported. Contact skin irritation (dermatitis) has been reported following application of HCSE to the skin.
Based on animal study, HCSE may cause lowered blood sugar. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare provider, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
In theory, horse chestnut may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Monitoring is recommended and dosing adjustments may be necessary. Liver and kidney toxicity has been associated with horse chestnut. Aflatoxins, considered to be cancer-causing agents, have been identified in commercial skin products containing horse chestnut, but not in HCSE.
Several studies report the development of pseudolupus (a syndrome characterized by recurrent fever, muscle pain, and lung and heart muscle inflammation) in patients taking Venocuran or Venopyronum, which contains phenopyrazone, horse chestnut extract, and cardiac glycosides. Because these are combination products, these effects may not be accounted for by horse chestnut alone.
There is not enough scientific research to recommend the safe use of horse chestnut or HCSE during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
In theory, due to its esculin constituents, horse chestnut (but not horse chestnut seed extract, which when properly prepared does not contain esculin) may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
In theory, and based on limited animal study, horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) may have an additive effect when taken with drugs that cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
HCSE has been demonstrated to have antiangiogenic activity, and may thus interact with antiangiogenic drugs.
In theory, due to its esculin constituents, horse chestnut (but not horse chestnut seed extract, which when properly prepared does not contain esculin) may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs or supplements that increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
In theory, and based on limited animal study, horse chestnut seed extract may have an additive effect when taken with other herbs or supplements that may lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
In theory, horse chestnut may interact with neurologic herbs and supplements.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): E-P Barrette, MD (Harvard Medical School); Ethan Basch, MD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center); Samuel Basch, MD (Mt. Sinai Medical Center, NY); Steve Bent, MD (University of California, San Francisco); Heather Boon, BScPhm, PhD (University of Toronto); Wendy Chao, PhD (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Dawn Costa, BA, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Cathi Dennehy, PharmD (University of California, San Francisco); Paul Hammerness, MD (Harvard Medical School); Michael Smith, MRPharmS, ND (Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine); David Sollars, M.Ac, H.M.C. (New England School of Acupuncture); Philippe Szapary, MD (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Natasha Tiffany, MD (Harvard Medical School); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).
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Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.