The Horse Chestnut is a highly ornamental tree, and is greatly admired for its majestic proportions, and for the beauty of its flowers and foliage. It grows rapidly and often attains the height of forty or fifty feet. It is a native of Middle Asia, but flourishes well in the temperate climates of both hemispheres. Its genus comprises about twelve known species: the genus Aesculus, however, is incomparably the finest, and is the only one found in the Northern States, and this even is not indigenous in New England.
It was introduced into Europe nearly three centuries ago by Baron Ungnad, ambassador of the Ottoman Porte, who, in the year 1576, sent the seeds of the common Horse Chestnut to Clausius at Vienna. It is now extensively cultivated as an ornamental tree in Europe as well as in this country.
The name Aesculus was originally applied to a species of oak, also to a tree which bore esculent fruit, and probably is derived from Esca, “food.” It was transferred to this genus by Linnaeus to the exclusion of the earlier and more appropriate name of Hippocastanum, Horse Chestnut, on account of the resemblance of the large seeds to chestnuts, and because the Turks often grind them into a coarse flour, which is mixed with other food and given to horses that are broken-winded.
The beauty of the Horse Chestnut consists chiefly in its inflorescence, surpassing that of almost all our native forest trees; the huge clusters of gay blossoms, which every spring are distributed with such luxuriance and profusion over the surface of the foliage, and at the extremity of the branches, give the whole tree the aspect rather of some monster flowering shrub, than of an ordinary tree of the largest size. Early in June this beautiful tree puts forth large pyramidal racemes or thyrses of flowers of pink and white, mottled with red and yellow, finely contrasting with the dark green of its foliage which has great grandeur and richness in its depth of hue and massiveness of outline.
Its botanical description may be briefly stated as follows: Order, Hippocastanacae, (Sapindaceae, Gray.) Genus, Aesculus.Species, Hippocastanum. Leaves opposite, digitate, of sevenobovate-cunate, acute, toothed leaflets, serrate and straight veined.Flowers, showy, in large, terminal thyrsoid racemes or panicles; pedicels articulated. Calyx campanulate of five united sepals. Corolla spreading white, spotted with purple and yellow, and composed of four or five petals, which are irregular, unguiculate and nearly hypogynous. Stamens usually seven, unequal, inserted on the hypogynous disk. Ovary large, round, echinate when young, dehiscent, loculicidal, three cornered, three celled, crowned with a single filiform conical style; containing two ovules in each cell, only one of which, sometimes two or even three matures. These seeds are very large, shining, roundish, coriacious, mahogany colored, with a broad round pale hilum, without albumen.
The Aesculus Ohioensis, Ohio Buck eye, differs from the Aesculus Hippocastanum in having five leaflets, stamens red, curved, much longer than the corolla, which is of four upright yellow petals. Fruit prickly when young but smooth at maturity, about half the size of the Hippocastanum. This tree is small in size and exhales an unpleasant odor, particularly while in flower.
The timber is not valuable; The large farinaceous seeds contain a considerable amount of nourishment, which is rendered unavailable because of the intensely bitter and narcotic principle with which they are charged. Common Horse Chestnuts, nevertheless, with some precautions, are largely and advantageously used in Switzerland for fattening sheep. They are also eaten eagerly by deer, horses and oxen. Starch prepared from them is superior to that of wheat, and excels as an article of diet that of the potatoe. Paste prepared from them is preferable to any other, not only because possessing great tenacity, but also from the fact that no moths or vermin will attack anything cemented with it. They have been recommended as a substitute for coffee. They contain sparingly a saponaceous principle.
The bark has little odor, but an astringent and bitter though not disagreeable taste. It contains among other ingredients bitter extractive and tannin, and imparts its virtues to boiling water. Its active constituent is supposed to be tannin, hence it has been employed in tanning. It is recommended as a tonic, astringent, narcotic and antiseptic; in fevers as a febrifuge; for gangrene, and as an errhine. A strong decoction is recommended as a lotion to gangrenous ulcers.
It has attracted much attention in Europe, as a substitute for cinchona, although it certainly cannot be considered comparable to the Peruvian bark in its power over Intermittents. It is at present seldom used, and never in this country. The bark of the branches from three to five years old is considered the best. It should be collected in spring.
The powdered kernel snuffed up the nostrils produces sneezing, and has been used with advantage as a sternutatory in complaints of the head and eyes. Ten grains of the powder of the rind have been found equivalent in narcotic power, to three grains of opium. In Europe the oil is at present a fashionable remedy for gout and rheumatism. Maceration in an alkaline solution removes the bitter principle. AEsculine is the name given to the extractive matter.
“We can from the morbid effects which the bark is able to produce, form a just estimate of its medicinal powers, and determine whether it is suitable for pure intermittent fever, or some of its varieties. The sole phenomenon we know belonging to it is, that it produces a constrictive feeling in the chest. It will accordingly be found useful in (periodical) spasmodic asthma.”
The following digest of the symptoms of Aesculus has been arranged from provings made by Dr. Woodland Warren, and by Dr. O. A. Buchanan, upon himself and six other persons, four females and three males, all in middle life.*[See British Journal of Homoeopathy, vol. XVIII, p. 188, 194.]
“Horse Chestnuts have been occasionally used as a popular remedy, and the favorable results heard of from their use in glandular swellings of horses, in chronic catarrhs of the respiratory passages and of the intestinal canal, determined me to undertake a careful proving of them in the healthy, in order to ascertain if their vaunted curative powers were on the homoeopathic principle.”
Feeling of extreme illness. Great weakness. Totters when walking. (2) Weariness. (3) Fatigued feeling, as from a long walk. Sensation as if she would faint. General feeling of malaise. Duration of action from two to six hours.
Feeling as if a board were on the head. Aching in the forehead. Feeling as during a cold in the head. Sensation as if intoxicated. Confusion of the head. (2) Giddiness. Vertigo, with sensation of balancing in the head. Formication in the front of the temple. Heaviness in the head. Heat in the head and eyes. Headache over the left eye. (2) Headache over the right eye. Dull pains in the head, here and there, chiefly in the right temple, and occiput, followed by dull stitches in the forehead. Throbbing in the right frontal eminence. Fine stitches in the left temple. Dull pain in the left temple. Sharp pressing pain in the right temple. Dull stupefying pain in the head. Dull pain in the occiput. (3) Bruised feeling in the occiput. Heat in the integuments of the occiput. (3) Heat extending from the occiput to the ears. (2)
Burning in the internal canthi. Burning and stinging deep in the left orbit, as if the pain surrounded the eyeball. Weight and heat in the eyes. Coldness in left eye. Jerking in the right eye. Quivering of the lids. Lachrymation. (2) Flickering before the eyes. (2) Can see well at a distance, can read without spectacles which she could not do before.
Severe fluent coryza. (8) Burning in the nostril. Raw feeling throughout the whole nasal cavity. The nasal mucus becomes watery. Thin mucus from the nose, causing a frequent use of the pocket handkerchief. Dry feeling and sensation of heat in the nose, especially its point, as when a severe coryza is about to come on. Disposition to sneeze. Feeling as after having taken a pinch of snuff. Formication in the nose. (3) Sensitiveness of the nasal mucous membrane to the respired air. (3) The respired air causes a feeling of coldness in the nose. (2) Drawing in the right nostril as in violent coryza. Twisting sensation in the front part of the nose. Shooting pain in the nose.
The taste was something like that of aloes. Bitter taste. (3) Coppery taste, acting as an astringent in the month and esophagus. At first bitter, then sweet. Sweetish taste, (6) as after taking Dulcamara, like liquorice. Burning in the mouth. (3) Biting and stinging at the tip of the tongue. Increased flow of saliva, (9) producing an inclination to swallow.
– Contractive pain in the throat. (2) Sort of constricted scraped sensation, causing a disposition to hawk. Irritation in the throat and esophagus. All the throat was excoriated and constricted. Dryness and contraction of the throat. Dryness in the throat. Burning in the throat, (12) like fire, when swallowing; at one time slight, then severe; with raw feeling. Constant shooting and raw pain in the throat. Scraping sensation in the throat. The mucus in the throat becomes thinner. Hawking of thick, (2) afterwards watery mucus. Frequent call to expectorate mucus, which becomes watery. The mucus in the throat excites a cough. Tickling in the throat, (2) causing a cough. Inclination to swallow. Formication in the fauces. Dull pressing and pricking in the fauces. Biting and stinging pain in the fauces. Stinging and burning in the soft palate, and posterior nares. Increased pain in the throat, after eating a grape.
Nausea. (15) Retching. (2) Inclination to vomit. Violent vomiting. Burning in the stomach, (4) Heart burn for half an hour. Water brash. Eructations of wind, (16) of mucus; of thick mucus; of viscid mucus, (3) empty eructations. Flying heat before the eructation.
Fullness of the stomach. (3) Periodical tightness in the scrobiculus cordis, with labored breathing. Twisting in the scrobiculus cordis. Pressure as from a stone in the pit of the stomach. Sensation as if a stone lay on the scrobiculus cordis. Aching and rambling in the stomach. Cutting stomach ache. The aching in the stomach extends downwards. Comfortable feeling in the stomach. Hunger.
Constricted feeling in the bowels. Cramplike constriction in the bowels, followed by stool, (the fourth time.) Griping in the bowels. (2) Cramps in the bowels. Motions preceded by pain in the bowels. Pinching below the navel. Fine pricking pains around the umbilicus. (2) Cutting pain around the umbilicus. Pain from the bowels to the small of the back. Burning in the bowels. Pressing downwards, in abdomen. Bumbling in the bowels, half an hour, without pain. Distention of the abdomen. Pain in the hypochondria, through to the back, especially on inspiration. Tearing pain in the right side. Shooting in the right side, above the hip, deeply seated. Colic, with pinching pains in the right hypochondrium. Stitches in the right hypochondrium. Stitches in the left side; Fine stitching in the left hypochondrium. Dull pressing pain in the left hypochondrium. Cutting in the left inguinal region. Rumbling in hypogastrium.
Eructations of wind with desire to go to stool. Three moderate fecal evacuations half an hour after taking the drug. Four loose evacuations within a quarter of an hour. In two hours several thin evacuations. In two hours after taking the drag, two moderate evacuations; Constant urging to stool, after two hours. Pressure in the rectum, with desire to go to stool. Ineffectual efforts to stool. Difficult scanty stool. Difficult hard stool, followed by burning and constriction in rectum. Constriction in the rectum (2) Itching in the anus, (2) with raw feeling. Stool of a mixed character. Two liquid motions, preceded by griping. Motions preceded by pinching in the bowels. Frequent expulsion of flatus. (2) The usual stool did not take place. (2)
Hoarse voice, speaking brings on a cough; Short cough, increased by swallowing and breathing deeply. The mucus in the throat excites a cough. (2) Tickling in the larynx, causing a cough, with mucous expectoration. Cough from irritation. Dry cough. Repeated cough. Dryness in the larynx. Frequent call to expectorate mucus which becomes watery. Pressure in the throat pit as if something had stuck there which required to be expelled.
Hot feeling in the chest, with cold rising up. (2) Burning and heat in the chest. Raw feeling in the throat and chest. (2) Warm feeling in the chest Shooting pain in the sternum. Pains in the sternum, as if a piece were torn out of the chest Sudden stitches throughout the chest Pains in the right scapula, and in the left side of the chest, increased on inspiration. Rheumatic pain in the right scapula. On the right side of the chest a sensation as if the lung painfully moved up and down at each respiration. (2) Increase of the pain on drawing a deep inspiration. Pain in the chest alternating with pain in the abdomen. Stitches leave the left side of the chest and go to the right. Twitching from the chest to the left shoulder. Tightness in the chest (6) Labored breathing. (2) Palpitation of the heart, (4) severe; periodic; frequent; with great anguish.
The arm and hand of the left side become strikingly warmer, and feel as if they were heavier and swollen. Heat in the shoulders. Burning in the palms of the hands, and soles of the feet Constant jerking in the right arm. Tearing and jerking in the right arm. Paralysis of the right arm, cannot raise it.
Pains in the small of the back, and lame feeling. Pain extending from the abdomen to the small of the back. (2) Weariness in the small of the back. Tearing pain in the back. Lameness, and sensation as if strained, in the right lumbar region, extending to the gluteal muscles. Heat in the back of the neck and shoulders. Weariness in back of the neck. Lameness in back of the neck. (2)
“I trust these provings may induce others to institute more provings, and to test the therapeutic action of this drug. I may merely add that I have succeeded in curing radically a chronic cough with emaciation, which had long been treated without effect, by daily administration of as much powdered chestnut as would lie on the point of a knife; and that I have heard from persons on whom I could rely of the rapid cure of a chronic diarrhea, in which many remedies had been used in vain, by a single dose of powdered Horse Chestnut.”
|The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 02 No. 11, 1860, pages 517-528
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