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Monday, 20 October 2014

"Conkers"....and what to do with them!

I remember the excitement as a child as I waited for my Dad to drill a hole in the biggest conkers we'd found, and thread them on strings for me to take into battle in the school playground the following day!

How times have changed! That's a million miles away from what I do with them now......

Medicine making (tinctures macerating) L to R: Horsechestnut, Ginkgo, Marigold, Elderberry, Hops

Conkers (the seeds of the horsechestnut tree, Aesculus hippocastanum) are rich in saponins, flavonoids and tannins. Saponins are able to bind to both water-soluble and also fat-soluble molecules, a property which enables them to act as emulsifiers in herbal medicines, so allowing the oily constituents to better dissolve in the medicine.

Saponin rich herbs are not for everyone though! Large doses can be irritant to the digestive tract, so dosage is important, and they may be unsuitable for some people.

Herbalists use Aesculus hippocastanum to strengthen the walls of blood vessels, although other herbs appropriate for the person will also need to be added to the combination to help achieve the effect. Old herbal books refer to this action as a "venous tonic", used for varicose veins, haemorrhoids, oedema, sprains and bruises, to name just a few.

A simple ointment (or a more complicated cream!) can be made by infusing the conkers (broken up first) into good quality organic oil for a number of hours, then solidifying with beeswax (or similar).

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