Sunday, 4 April 2010

Horsechestnut salve for varicose veins

Never did I imagine as a child that the conkers I gleefully threaded with string and prepared for the seasonal fun of playing conkers would later be ingredients that I would heat, brew and infuse into therapeutic products!

Horse chestnut (Aesculus hipposcastanum) bark and seeds are used both internally and externally in tinctures and salves to treat varicose veins and piles. They contain a saponin called aescin which has apparently been shown to promote circulation and tone the vein walls.

I'm a bit out of season you might say for talking about conkers, and its true, but I needed to make a horse chestnut salve and wanted to explore how I could make it as potent as possible. This lead me to making a double-infused horse chestnut oil using fallen twigs and a few dried conkers donated by a neighbour (later in the year you can bet I'll be out there, along with the children and other herby types, collecting conkers).

There is an excellent post on how to make the double-infused oil by Sarah Head on the Herb Society website, so I won't repeat what is already there. I used a combination of olive and safflower oils, plus about 0.5% Vitamin E oil to act as an anti-oxidant so that the oil will keep without going rancid for longer (added at the end of the process). In the second infusion I also added some Butcher's Broom (Ruscus Aculeatus) bark, which is a veinous tonic.

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to make this salve as effective as possible, so as well as using the horse chestnut oil I also added horse chestnut tincture when making the salve. This makes the salve a bit softer, which I think is better for application, especially if the skin is sore. The tincture can make up about 5% of the total salve mixture. So I used:
  • 15g beeswax
  • 80ml horse chestnut oil
  • 5ml horse chestnut tincture
  • 5-10 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
Make sure you have the pots you will use for the salve ready before you start, as there won't be so much time at the end as the mixture is cooling down. The horse chestnut tincture and essential oil are added as late as possible to retain as much as possible of their properties.

Heat the beeswax and horse chestnut oil in a bain-marie (bowl over hot water) until the beeswax has fully melted. Take the mixture off the heat (out of the bain marie) and whisk as it cools - you need to be a bit patient at this stage. Once the mixture is starting to go cloudy (but still liquid) add the tincture and whisk quickly. Then add the essential oil and whisk in then pour the mixture straight into your pots. If you have any residue in the bowl you can place it back in the bain-marie briefly to soften the mixture so that none is wasted.

The end salve is beautiful and soft, and packed full of horse chestnut goodness!
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1 comment:

  1. Such a pretty blog! I will spend some time on here. I'm curious about helping a friend of mine who is a smoker :-( but wants some help with his skin. Any suggestions for bags/darkness under the eyes?