I’m looking at the theory stuff first, the herb and practical parts are much more fun but I know this has to be related to what happens in our bodies. I recall looking at cells at school, but couldn’t remember all the functions, so here’s a recap. I’ve found a colourful diagram, of an animal cell and the names of different structures are starting to come back to me, I’m listing the functions in simple terms so as I might remember.
This controls what goes in and out of the cell.
Stores and separates particles and acts as the cell’s transport system. There are rough and smooth types, rough endoplasmic reticulum have ribosomes on the surface.
This is where the chromosomes are and our DNA. It contains a smaller nucleolus where protein is manufactured. Red blood cells do not have a nucleus.
There are thousands of these little protein factories in each cell.
These digest material brought into the cell; they contain enzymes which break down molecules. They take undigested material to the cell membrane for removal.
Have a double-layered outer membrane with inner folds called cristae where energy producing chemical reactions take place. They control water levels, recycle and decompose materials and form urea.
Found near the nucleus, these are protein packaging plants.
Research the structure of human blood cells. How does horse chestnut help to strengthen them?
Horse chestnut is used for strengthening and toning the walls of veins. Keeping the veins toned helps with varicose veins and haemorrhoids by preventing them from being able to bulge and preserving their elasticity. Horse chestnut also helps reduce oedema, as the permeability of the vein walls is reduced; fluid is restricted from seeping into surrounding tissue.
The ability of Horse chestnut to tone the skin has led to it being used in anti-aging and cellulite treatments.
The active ingredients in Horse chestnut are thought to be aecin which is a mixture of anti-inflammatory saponins and flavonoids known as proanthocyanidins which are antioxidant. Some commercial preparations isolate aescin but as with all herbs it is probably a synergy of all the constituents together that makes it effective.
Aescin is thought to constrict the walls of veins making it more difficult for blood and fluid to pass through, they become less leaky and this prevents fluid retention in the legs. It is also thought that it does this by preventing the chemicals serotin and histamine from being able to make blood vessels more permeable. Aescin inhibits lysosomal enzymes; these are the ones inside the lysosomes in cells (refer to diagram) which break larger molecules into smaller ones. The action of lysosomal enzymes is a natural one and the body balances it by constructing new tissue at the same time. It is thought that in people with chronic vein insufficiency and varicose veins the lysosomal enzymes are more active, this is why the aescin in Horse chestnut can be useful.
The flavonoids protect blood vessels and tissues from inflammation by reducing oxidising agents and free radicals that can damage them. A flavonoid called Rutin is well documented as giving protection to capillaries.
Studies have been done which show improved circulation, vein tightening and reduced pain, redness and swelling but all seen to use horse chestnut extracts orally, our task has been to make a salve from horse chestnut bark which herbalists find effective but drug companies are not so interested in researching.
To make my oil I stripped the bark with a pen knife from my small branches. I made a double infused oil by putting half of the bark in a double boiler, covering it with sunflower oil and heating for 2 hours. After 2 hours I strained the oil and used it again with the unused bark for 2 more hours and strained again to get my completed oil. I made some into a salve by melting a teaspoon of beeswax in 60ml of oil.