The Indian Chestnut tree is closely related to the horse chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanea) although the “chestnuts” are smaller and not good to play ‘conkers’ with. They don’t have spines on the outer casing either, so are easy to distinguish. They were introduced into Britain in 1851 and can be seen in many open places such as public parks and gardens. They originally come from the North West Himalayan regions of Pakistan and India, but are grown around the world now. The trees are smaller than the horse chestnuts as they usually reach heights of only 60 feet. They flower later than other trees and are a good source of food for bees in late spring.
   Native Americans used to use the seeds to make a kind of porridge, but as the fruit contains saponins, these must be removed before they are eaten. This can easily be done by boiling them in water or leaving them to soak in water for more than 12 hours. Deer and squirrels eat the nuts without having any harmful effects. They contain aesculin which is a toxic saponin. They also contain aescin which seems to have anti-inflammatory properties. This is a mixture of triterpene glycosides and can be used externally to prevent thrombosis and it has been shown to inhibit oedema.
   In Nepal the seeds are roasted then eaten and also dried then ground into flour, mixed with wheat flour and used to make bread etc. They are dried and ground into a powder before soaking in water to remove the saponins.
   Traditionally they are used in medicine to get rid of intestinal worms in both horses and people, and they are also used for a number of other purposes, including to help with rheumatism. They are narcotic, stimulant and astringent (particularly the seeds).The oil extracted from the seeds is used for skin problems and diseases, and when the fruit is chopped and boiled in water, the water is used for washing the body, clothes etc, as it has properties like the soapberry (reetha). If you don’t mind the lingering smell of horse chestnuts, this is a good natural “soap.” The residue or oil cake left after the oil has been extracted is applied to the forehead to relieve headaches, and juice from the tree bark is used for rheumatism.
  The wood from the Indian Chestnut tree is useful for fuel and used in construction and to make spoons and other household items as well as to make agricultural implements. Sometimes in the Indian subcontinent people inscribe psych-spiritual remedies on these trees for others to use. The wood can also be used in the dying process.
  A recent study has shown that an extract of leaves when picked fresh then dried and ground to a powder can regulate the immune system and has the ability to help kill cancerous cells. It is believed that the flavonoids present in the leaves and seeds are the reasons for this anti-cancer activity, but more research still needs to be done, as the study quoted here was on lab animals.
The hydrosycoumarin glycoside, aesulin extracted from the bark and branches of the tree, is used in suntan oil as it is able to absorb Ultra Violet rays from the sun.
  The seeds have astringent properties so are good for wounds, and are also nutritious. They can be used to treat stomach disorders too, while the roots are used for leucorrhea. Medical research has shown that the tree is useful in the treatment of problems associated with the veins and blood circulation, for example, varicose veins, phlebitis, piles, ulcers, problems in the joints and frostbite.


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