Herb: Ohio Buckeye
Latin name: Aesculus glabra
Family: Hippocastanaceae (Horse-chestnut Family)
Medicinal use of Ohio Buckeye:Minute doses of the seed are used internally in the treatment of spasmodic coughs, asthma and internal irritations. It is used externally as a tea or an ointment in the treatment of rheumatism and piles. An extract of the bark has been used as an irritant of the cerebro-spinal system.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Usually found in moist sites such as river bottoms and streambank soils, but it is sometimes also found on drier sites though does not grow so well there.
Edible parts of Ohio Buckeye:Seed - cooked. It can be dried, ground into a flour and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, up to 35mm in diameter, and is easily harvested. It is quite rich in saponins and needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat - the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 - 5 days. By this time most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out.
Other uses of the herb:Saponins in the seed are used as a soap substitute. The saponins can be easily obtained by chopping the seed into small pieces and infusing them in hot water. This water can then be used for washing the body, clothes etc. Its main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts. Wood - close-grained, light, soft, white, but often blemished by dark lines of decay. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot. It is easy to carve and resists splitting. Ideal to use in making artificial limbs, it is also used for woodenware, pulp etc and is occasionally sawn into lumber.
Propagation of Ohio Buckeye:Seed - best sown outdoors or in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. The seed germinates almost immediately and must be given protection from severe weather. The seed has a very limited viability and must not be allowed to dry out. Stored seed should be soaked for 24 hours prior to sowing and even after this may still not be viable. It is best to sow the seed with its "scar" downwards. If sowing the seed in a cold frame, pot up the seedlings in early spring and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer.
Cultivation of the herb:Usually found in moist sites such as river bottoms and streambank soils, but it is sometimes also found on drier sites though does not grow so well there.
Known hazards of Aesculus glabra:The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.