Aesculus hippocastanum. Horse-chestnut.
Nat. Ord. — Hippocastanaceae — Sapindaceae, and Aesculaceae. Sex. Syst. — Heptandria Monogynia.
Bark and Fruit.
Description. — The Aesculus Hippocastanum is a beautiful and lofty tree, with numerous, spreading branches, covered with a rough, brown bark. The wood is white and soft, and is very liable to decay. The leaves are large, on long footstalks, and are composed of seven leaflets arising from a common center, the middle one being the largest ; they are of a spathulate form, acuminate, serrate, much varied, and of a bright-green color. The flowers are in thyrsoid racemes or panicles, at the extremity of the branches. Calyx pale-green, five-toothed, and spreading. The corolla is formed of five petals, which are irregular, unequal, spreading, inserted into the calyx by narrow claws, waved at the edges, of a white color, marked below with a yellowish-red spot. The stamens are seven, with awl-shaped filaments, supporting reddish, oblong, double anthers. The ovary is roundish, and furnished with a short style and pointed stigma. The fruit is prickly, coriaceous, roundish, three-celled, and usually containing two seeds, which are exalbuminous, with a brown, shining testa, and a large, paler hilum.
History. — This plant is a native of Asia, and was introduced into Europe and this country, about the middle of the sixteenth century. It is of rapid growth, flowers in May and June, and ripens its fruit late in autumn. The bark has little odor, and an astringent, bitter, not disagreeable taste. It contains tannin.
The Aesculus Glabra, or Buckeye, common to Ohio, and other Western States, is said to be useful as a substitute for the Aesculus Hippocastanum.
Properties and Uses. — Horse-chestnut Bark is tonic, astringent, febrifuge, narcotic, and antiseptic. It has been found very efficacious in the treatment of intermittent fever, given in doses of from half an ounce to an ounce of the bark, in the course of twenty-four hours. It is inferior, however, to cinchona. Ten grains of the powder of the rind of the nuts, have been found equivalent, in narcotic power, to three grains of opium. A strong decoction of the bark has been recommended as a lotion to gangrenous ulcers. The powdered kernel of the fruit produces sneezing, and has been used as a sternutatory in complaints of the head and eyes.