by Fiona Chapman.
One of the highlights of walking in the woods in autumn is coming across glossy, tactile and richly coloured horse-chestnuts or conkers.
I so understand the obsession of little boys – and girls in my case – of finding the biggest, strongest one to play conkers in the playground. Sadly, you are probably not allowed to do that anymore. Now I just pick them up and rub them – they are rather like worry beads and very comforting to hold.
Aesculus hippocastanum is the glorious Latin name for the tree. The hippocastanum being the ‘horse’ bit of the name. The bark and the conkers themselves have been used for many years as a herbal remedy for varicose veins, haemorrhoids and venous insufficiency. Edward Bach also used ‘white chestnut’ flower remedy for circling, obsessive thoughts and insomnia. I use this flower essence lots and it really can just calm the mind if you have it in some water by your bed, allowing sleep to come. I will often put it into sleep mix tincture as well, particularly when the brain needs calming.
There have been extensive clinical trials on Aesculus. It can be taken internally to help relieve any congestion in the veins where there is a dull aching and full feeling, particularly around the liver, where it will help with any headaches associated with congestion of the blood. In specific cases it can be used for high blood pressure. It is very astringent and the tincture can really make it feel as though all your cells shrink and pucker up.
I mostly use it in creams for varicose veins and haemorrhoids with good results. I use a calendula oil base with aesculus tincture mixed with witch-hazel water and then add lavender and frankincense essential oils. I also like to add a little bit of capsicum oil which is definitely slightly off-piste! Chilli is excellent for stagnating blood – it relieves pain and itching and will help to shrink down the vein. If using it for haemorrhoids, it unquestionably takes your mind off the pain of the piles and is a remarkably quick and soothing cream.
It is said that Napoleon was suffering from incredibly painful strangulated piles, constipation, cystitis and exhaustion before the Battle of Waterloo – all of which are linked. History may have been very different if he had had an effective cream for his piles!
Fiona Chapman is a naturopathic herbalist (Pellyfiona@gmail.com)