For HEAVY PERIODS, horse chestnut is an astringent that can slow heavy flow, ease venous insufficiency, and help to maintain healthy hormone balance. Horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) and its active ingredient, the saponin called aescin which is ideally standardized to 20%, have long been known to have a tonic effect on veins, strengthening vein walls.
The horse chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) originated in Asia and Greece, and now grows throughout Europe and North America. Its common name “horse chestnut” originated from the erroneous belief that the tree was a kind of chestnut, together with the observation of the Turkish people that the fruit could help panting horses.1 The fruit has a spiny outer case and contains up to three large horse chestnut seeds. In traditional herbal medicine, horse chestnut seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers have long been used to treat vein disorders, venous insufficiency, and blood flow problems.
Horse chestnut is classified as an astringent herb. Astringent herbs help to reduce inflammation and tonify and improve vasculature that has lost its elasticity. Horse chestnut seed extract can be highly beneficial for heavy periods as it can help to improve the blood flow from the uterus thus clearing toxins, and reducing inflammation. Horse chestnut also has a role in maintaining balanced hormone levels at the cellular level, with an ample progesterone to estrogen ratio, which then helps to slow excessive bleeding with monthly periods.
Horse chestnut seed extract has been shown to effectively relieve Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS), a vascular condition characterized by chronic pelvic pain and menorrhagia, or heavy bleeding. This condition could very well be called the female varicocele; the female version of male varicocele which is well recognized.3 The syndrome, first described as a vascular condition by in 1949, has more recently shown to be the result of venous engorgement of the pelvis due to dilatation and incompetence of the pelvic veins.
In a series of fifty symptomatic patients with either pelvic or vulvar varicose veins who were assessed by ultrasound techniques, the cause was found to be ovarian vein reflux in 71% of cases. Many patients with recurrent varicose veins in their legs were found to have a significant component of their problem arising from impaired pelvic blood flow. Researchers felt these patients’ symptoms were indicative of a female varicocele.2 This is how Pelvic Congestion Syndrome can worsen heavy periods.
Horse chestnut extract standardized for aescin is a compound with a strong anti-inflammatory effect which works to improve venous return and reduce edema. Aescin can reduce the number and size of tiny pores in capillary walls, so they become less permeable, curbing fluid leakage. Aescin improves the ability of small elastic fibers in vein walls of the uterus to contract, and thus to better maintain tone as blood flows through against gravity.
Horse chestnut also contains flavonoids, tannins, quinines, sterols, good fatty acids, and natural coumarins. Horse chestnut inhibits the enzymes linked with chronic venous insufficiency, and it may boost the prostaglandin PGF 2-alpha: This can result in firmer blood vessel tone in the uterus wall. Also, horse chestnut is anti-inflammatory; it slows white blood cell migration, and lowers histamine which can worsen capillary leakage. Some of horse chestnut’s active constituents also foster an ample progesterone to estrogen ratio, which further reduces menorrhagia.
Rutin, a bioflavonoid naturally found in citrus and other fruits, has many synergistic actions with horse chestnut. Rutin magnifies the benefits of horse chestnut for strengthening elastic fibers in vein walls to help veins to be less distensible, and it reduces capillary permeability, bruising, and varicose veins. Over 40 years of clinical trials have shown rutin to help vascular disorders, leaky veins, excess bleeding, and capillary permeability, bruising, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. It can help to relieve heavy periods by improving venous tone and helping veins be less flaccid.
Rutin has antioxidant actions: it increases the amounts of vitamin C within cells and scavenges free radicals, which may then help chronic venous insufficiency. In addition, rutin is anti-inflammatory, and can reduce capillary leaking and venous edema. It improves blood flow by strengthening the cells that line the inside of blood vessels, and by supporting collagen, the protein that helps to hold cells, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and all connective tissues together.
In our clinic, we find that horse chestnut concentrate combined with rutin can work synergistically, to successfully reduce menorrhagia and blood loss during periods. In addition, for varicose veins, rutin can lessen pain, sensations of tired legs, and night cramps. After twelve weeks on rutin up to 90% of subjects with hemorrhoids experienced benefit. Because rutin can strengthen blood vessels, it has been used to prevent hemorrhagic strokes due to broken veins or arteries.
Recommendation: Horse Chestnut Seed Extract 300mg, standardized to contain 20% triterpenoid saponins as aescin, one to three times daily, best absorbed between meals, or as directed by your healthcare provider. Rutin 100-200 mg, one to three times daily, with or between meals.
- Lack, H. Walter. “The Discovery and Rediscovery of the Horse Chestnut”. Arnoldia. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, 2000 17~2/:109-13.
- Hobbs, J. T. “Varicose veins arising from the pelvis due to ovarian vein incompetence.” International journal of clinical practice 59.10 (2005): 1195-1203.
- Richardson, Graeme. “Pelvic congestion syndrome: diagnosis and treatment.” The Vein Book. 2007. 315-321.
- Bisler H, Pfeifer R, Kluken N, Pauschinger P. [Effects of horse-chestnut seed on transcapillary filtration in chronic venous insufficiency]. Dtsch Med Wochenschr 1986;111:1321-9.
- Pittler MH, Ernst E. Horse chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2004. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.