Facts About Horsechestnut Extract
Extracts of horse-chestnut seed standardized for escin (a key compound) appear to be as effective as compression stockings without the nuisance. For example, in a well-designed study, the effectiveness of horse-chestnut-seed extract versus leg-compression stocking was examined in 240 patients with varicose veins. Patients received either horse-chestnut-seed extract (50 mg of escin per day), compression stockings, or a placebo. Patients were treated over a period of twelve weeks. Effectiveness was evaluated by a machine that measures the volume of fluid in the leg (a phlethysmograph). After the twelve-week trial, lower-leg volume of the more severely affected leg decreased an average of 56.5 ml with compression therapy and 53.6 ml with horse-chestnut-seed extract, while it increased by 9.8 ml with the placebo.
Compression stockings and horse-chestnut-seed extract produced nearly identical reductions in edema. So why take the horse-chestnut-seed extract rather than wear the stockings? These are not regular stockings, they are made of special material, cost about seventy dollars each, and are quite difficult to put on, not to mention uncomfortable to wear.
Horse-chestnut-seed extracts standardized for escin exert anti-edema and anti-inflammatory properties, and decrease capillary permeability by reducing the number and size of the small powers in the capillary walls. The reduction in capillary permeability and edema appears to result from inhibition of the enzymes that break down the support structures of the vein.
Investigators have also demonstrated that escin had venotonic activity. A venotonic is a substance that improves venous tone by increasing the contractile potential of the elastic fibers in the vein wall. Relaxation of the venous wall contributes greatly to the development of varicose vines. This venotonic activity may be the key factor in the positive effects of horse-chestnut-seed extracts in the treatment of varicose veins.
Excerpt from Varicose Veins,
in Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised 2nd Edition. 1998, pgs 828-829.