Chestnut

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  • Botanical: Castanea sativa
  • Family: Fagaceae
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Chestnut

Botanical

Castanea sativa

Family

Fagaceae

Known as

Castanea vesca, Castanea vulgaris, Sweet chestnut, Maroni, Marone, Esskastanie, Essbare Kastanie, Echte Kastanie, Cheste, Cheschtene, Keschte, Edelkastanie

Collection Times

Fall

Parts Used

bark, leaves, seed

Medicinal

asthma, bronchitis, back pain, bronchitis, coughs, knee pain, rheumatism

Muscle & Joints

arthritis, back pain, lower back pain (lumbago), rheumatism

Respiratory System

bronchitis, cough, difficulty breathing, whooping cough

Stomach & Intestinal

diarrhea

Properties

antispasmodic, antirheumatic, anti inflammatory, astringent, expectorant

Description

C. sativa attains a height of 20–35 m (66–115 ft) with a trunk often 2 m (7 ft) in diameter. The bark often has a net-shaped (retiform) pattern with deep furrows or fissures running spirally in both directions up the trunk. The oblong-lanceolate, boldly toothed leaves are 16–28 cm (6–11 in) long and 5–9 cm (2–4 in) broad.

The flowers of both sexes are borne in 10–20 cm (4–8 in) long, upright catkins, the male flowers in the upper part and female flowers in the lower part. In the northern hemisphere, they appear in late June to July, and by autumn, the female flowers develop into spiny cupules containing 3-7 brownish nuts that are shed during October.

The female flowers eventually form a spiky sheath that deters predators from the seed. Some cultivars ('Marron de Lyon', 'Paragon' and some hybrids) produce only one large nut per cupule, rather than the usual two to four nuts of edible, though smaller, size.

The tree requires a mild climate and adequate moisture for good growth and a good nut harvest. Its year-growth (but not the rest of the tree) is sensitive to late spring and early autumn frosts, and is intolerant of lime. Under forest conditions, it will tolerate moderate shade well.

Properties & Uses

Although more commonly thought of as a food crop, sweet chestnut leaves and bark are a good source of tannins and these have an astringent action useful in the treatment of bleeding, diarrhoea etc. The leaves and bark are anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant and tonic. They are harvested in June or July and can be used fresh or dried. An infusion has been used in the treatment of fevers and ague, but are mainly employed for their efficacy in treating convulsive coughs such as whooping cough and in other irritable conditions of the respiratory system. The leaves can also be used in the treatment of rheumatism, to ease lower back pains and to relieve stiff muscles and joints. A decoction is a useful gargle for treating sore throats. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Extreme mental anguish', Hopelessness' and 'Despair'. 

Other Uses

Tannin is obtained from the bark. The wood, leaves and seed husks also contain tannin. The husks contain 10 - 13% tannin. On a 10% moisture basis, the bark contains 6.8% tannin and the wood 13.4%. The meal of the seed has been used as a source of starch and also for whitening linen cloth. A hair shampoo is made from the leaves and the skins of the fruits. It imparts a golden gleam to the hair. Wood - hard, strong, light. The young growing wood is very durable, though older wood becomes brittle and liable to crack. It is used for carpentry, turnery, props, basketry, fence posts etc. A very good fuel.

Cautions

None known

Distribution

South Europe. Long naturalized in Britain

Constituents

Carbohydrates, proteins, tannins, tannic acid, betulin, flavonoids, ellagic acid, histidine, zinc