Herb: Red Horse Chestnut


Latin name: Aesculus x carnea


Family: Hippocastanaceae (Horse-chestnut Family)



Medicinal use of Red Horse Chestnut:

The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are "Excessive fear" and "Anxiety for others".

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
25 m
(82 feet)

Flovering:
July

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Edible parts of Red Horse Chestnut:

We have no details for this species, but the following notes almost certainly apply to it. Seed - cooked. It can be dried, ground into a flour and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, about 20mm in diameter, and is also easily harvested. Unfortunately, it is rich in saponins and these toxins need to be removed before the seed can be eaten. See also the notes above on toxicity. The following notes apply to A. californica, but are probably also relevant here:- The seed needs to be leached of 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. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment.

Other uses of the herb:

Saponins in the seed are 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.

Propagation of Red Horse Chestnut:

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. This species is a garden hybrid though it breeds relatively true from seed.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Known hazards of Aesculus x carnea:

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.