This chapter appraises the seeds of horse chestnuts (. Aesculus hippocastanum [AH]) and their derived products. Escin, the major bioactive principle in AH seeds, has shown satisfactory evidence of clinically significant activity in the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency, hemorrhoids, postoperative edema, and mammary induration. There is some evidence that various escin molecules, such as saponins and sapogenins, show beneficial effects when administered at the right concentration, exhibiting an ethanol absorption inhibitory effect and hypoglycemic activity in the oral glucose tolerance test in vivo. Horse chestnut extract has a higher antioxidant activity than vitamin E, showing one of the highest "active-oxygen" scavenging abilities compared to other natural products. β-Escin from AH extracts was also tested to evaluate the chemopreventive efficacy of its dietary intake on azoxymethane-induced colonic aberrant crypt foci. The main adverse effects of escins in humans are due to their hemolytic activity. Research efforts in this field are devoted to improving the selectivity for aberrant red corpuscles, promoting the β-escin fraction as a useful candidate agent for exploring new potential antileukemic drugs. Fresh or naturally desiccated seeds are usually treated by long leaching with water or wooden ashes to remove harshness and bitterness. These treatments cause a variation in the molecular structures of escin fractions, reducing the toxicity but maintaining their nutraceutical potential and anti-obesity effects. Alternatively, the slow roasting of nuts makes the escins harmless and the seeds edible. The claimed toxicity of these extracts makes them natural antibacterials, antimicrobials, antivirals, and antifungals, to some extent, that also act as environmentally biocompatible phytotherapeutics.
Seeds of Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum L.) and Their Possible Utilization for Human Consumption / Foca, Giorgia; Ulrici, Alessandro; Cocchi, Marina; Durante, Caterina; LI VIGNI, Mario; Marchetti, Andrea; Sighinolfi, Simona; Tassi, Lorenzo. - (2011), pp. 653-661. [10.1016/B978-0-12-375688-6.10076-3]