Humorous Herbalist |

Humorous Herbalist

“So, you’re the herbalist?” the guy asked me in a sheepish way.

“That’s right,” I replied.

“I have a problem with … ah … this thing, you know?”

“Thing. Sure,” I said, trying to sound empathetic. “What exactly is wrong with your … thing?”

With that, he proceeded into mime. He motioned toward his backside. He then bent his first finger and wedged it into his other hand, which he had formed to represent a small hole. I was ready to buy a vowel when I noticed the strained look on his face. “Oh,” I said suddenly figuring it out, “you’ve got a hemorrhoid!”

He gave me the thumbs up sign and I proceeded to tell him about a little nut called horse chestnut, considered one of the best remedies for the pain of hemorrhoids.

Horse chestnut strengthens blood vessels and reduces the recurrence of future hemorrhoid outbreaks. Horse chestnut seeds are also very high in tannic acid, which gives them enormous astringent ability.

The horse chestnut capsules that are found in health/herb stores today are generally “standardized” products.

This means that the manufacturer has manipulated the herb to increase what is believed to be the “active” ingredient(s). I’m not a big promoter of standardized herbs, preferring to always use the whole plant. However, my experience has shown that some herbs work more effectively for specific problems when they are standardized. The connection between standardized horse chestnut and hemorrhoids falls into that category.

The other very popular use for horse chestnut is for varicose veins. It should be noted that horse chestnut will take away the leg pain, sensation of heaviness and swelling but it will not make the veins look better on a cosmetic level.

Horse chestnut is thought to strengthen and tone the veins while reducing fluid leakage. Once again, studies in Europe have used the standardized herbal product for testing and found good results within three months.

I would also highly recommend horse chestnut cream (Planetary Formulas puts out a good one) in tandem with taking the herb internally. The cream can be rubbed on problematic areas and can reduce the appearance of the veins if the cream is used consistently (i.e., daily) for at least two months.

Still another use for horse chestnut is in the natural treatment of restless leg syndrome. This malady is thought to be connected to a deficiency in folic acid, magnesium, iron and potassium. It is not unusual for men or women with restless leg syndrome to also have varicose veins.

Thus, early indications show that there is certainly a reason to believe that natural remedies that increase circulation may aid the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

Horse chestnut is number one on the recommended list for increasing circulation in those who suffer from restless leg syndrome. However, I would certainly look for formulas that include other circulatory herbs that are specific to the legs. These would include butcher’s broom, prickly ash bark and ginkgo.

The cautions for horse chestnut are as follows: because the herb has high astringent ability, if you are taking anti-coagulant drugs, have serious kidney or liver disease or are pregnant or nursing, you should not use the herb internally. External use is absolutely safe.

Hemorrhoids may rank up there with constipation in regard to not being acceptable dinner table conversation. So, I suggest you cut out this column and have it ready to hand out the next time somebody you know has that typical strained, pained look on their face that can only come from a hemorrhoid. It’ll make them feel like someone cares while preventing unnecessary miming.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.

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