I always look forward to finding horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) in autumn, the shiny brown ‘conkers’ once beloved by schoolchildren for their games, but they are so much more useful than that. The tree is so named because the nuts used to be made into liniments to treat muscle sprains in horses. They contain aescin, a compound which has anti-inflammatory properties equally effective for human sprains and bruises, as well as treating varicose veins, spider veins, haemorrhoids and cellulite. NB: Horse chestnuts are slightly toxic and must not be eaten.
Horse Chestnut Salve
Vegetable oil (you can use olive oil, sunflower etc.)
Horse chestnut tincture (optional)
Small glass jars
First peel the nuts. Pup them into a coffee grinder and powder them up as much as possible. Put powdered/chopped nuts into a double boiler and just cover them in vegetable oil. Put this on the stove over a low heat for around two hours, making sure the water in the double boiler does not boil away. You don’t want the nut/oil mixture to boil or simmer, just be gently warmed for the duration. Remove from the heat and allow the oil to cool before straining through a coffee filter. Now take the oil and gently warm it through again over a low heat and add your beeswax. How much wax you add depends on how runny or set you want your salve to be. I use about 20 gm beeswax per 100 ml of oil, but you may like to vary this. There is no right or wrong way, and part of the fun is using your initiative. (Remember, you can always reheat and add more wax, but you can’t take it away.) Take it off the heat. At this stage, you can also add some horse chestnut tincture for an extra boost to the salve’s effectiveness if you wish (at about 5%), whisking briskly until it is incorporated. Pour into small glass jars, fit the lids and label. Use the salve on affected areas once or twice a day.
© Anna Franklin, October 2020