Friday, 9 December 2011


The horse chestnut tree is native to Greece and Albania, and was first introduced into Britain as an ornamental in the 17th century. Hippocastanum is Greek for horse chestnut, so we have its English name. Its nuts are quite different to those of the true chestnut (castanea), but these nuts, generally called conkers, are welcomed by children who brave the spiky cases of these inedible nuts and treat them with loving care, and a few other substances to make them hard, so that they can beat their friends’ conkers when they play with them. You thread string through the centre of these nuts and invite an opponent to smash your conker. The winner has his/her conker in tact when the other has broken. Since 1965 the World Conker Championships have been held in Oundle in Northamptonshire in the UK. In different parts of the UK conkers are also called “obblyonkers,” “cheggies” and “cheeses.”
  These trees grow to heights of 115 feet and have a huge spread and have large white candle-like blooms. Other varieties have pink flowers. Unfortunately the trees are under attack from the leaf miner caterpillar and suffer from a disease named Horse Chestnut Bleeding Canker (Pseudomonas syringae pathovar. aesculi) and trees in Britain are being decimated by this new disease which has its origins in the Himalayas.
  Medicinally conkers are used traditionally as a decongestant, expectorant and tonic for rheumatism, neuralgia and haemorrhoids. The tree bark has been used in a decoction to reduce fever, and applied in a lotion or ointment it has been used for skin problems and externally an oil from the seeds has been used to ease the pain of rheumatism and to help with varicose veins. Extracts from the horse chestnut have been combined with bromelian an enzyme extracted from gotu kola (Indian pennywort) and pineapple to help varicose vein sufferers. Horse chestnut tones the veins and strengthens the walls of these, so promoting better blood circulation, and stopping the seepage of fluid from the veins that causes swellings in the legs.
  A decoction of the leaves is said to be useful for whooping cough and for coughs and colds, and has antioxidant properties. Japanese scientists believe that extracts from the nuts can be used along with extracts from witch hazel, rosemary and sage to help prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging of the skin.
  The horse chestnut has astringent qualities and anti-inflammatory properties, so is not just a good toy for children in the autumn.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this site. I've just been out forraging in our local wood in cornwall and found lots of chestnuts. Unsure if they were edible or not I thought I'd better look it up. Yummy!! Mine are edible. Will be roasting them later!!


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