The Striking Sweet Chestnut Tree (Castanea Sativa)

On a recent walk I found several plants to forage including the sweet chestnut tree. This is a beautiful tree and produces some of the longest leaves you can find on Britain’s trees.

Also known as the Spanish chestnut this tree is found in woods and copses. Especially growing on light sandy soils. There is even one growing near me beside a path. Its no good for foraging though because heavy traffic passes it daily and therefore their toxic emissions will cover it.

In Roman times the sweet chestnuts were relied upon for its nuts which were ground and used for flour.



Bees and other insects love the nectar of the flowers. I also found this beautiful blue tit nestling within a sweet chestnut’s branches.

The nuts of the trees are important food for squirrels,  jays, pigeons, wild boar and deer.


Its the leaves that I use on this occasion but the bark and fruits have uses too.

The leaves are very striking and easy to recognise. They are beautifully glossy, narrow and dark green in colour with sharply-toothed edges.

The above photograph also shows the male flowers. They are known as catkins and are cylindrical flowering spikes of wind-pollinated flowers.

The bark of the sweet chestnut tree is also striking. It has deep, spiral, parallel ridges and they tend to twist sharply near the ground.

I recently bought a book simply called “Trees” published by Collins Gem. I’m very keen to find out as much as I can about trees because I’m hoping to move near a woodland area soon.

This “Trees” book is great because its pocket sized and therefore goes foraging with me. Its also inexpensive and contains all you need to know to enable you to identify trees in Northern Europe.

Take a look at this link to find out more;


If you are new to foraging or fancy giving it a try take a look at my “Foraging Tips for Beginners” post;

Preparing Sweet Chestnut Leaves after Foraging

Returning home from foraging I take my herbs outside. Next I open the bags containing the different herbs and leave them on my garden table for a couple of hours. I do this because it allows some of the insects to leave which may still remain on or in the herbs.

Bringing the herbs inside I wash them as well and when the water has evaporated they are ready to use.

Sweet Chestnut Decoction

My first forage for sweet chestnut leaves was last year while searching for supportive help for my husband’s chronic coughing.

From the leaves I make a decoction because it does seem to ease his symptoms a little. A decoction is basically a way to extract a herbs properties by boiling it in water.

How I make a sweet chestnut decoction;

  1. Roll the fresh leaves and shred them with a knife or a pair of scissors.
  2. Measure two teaspoons of the shredded leaves per cup of bottled water.
  3. Place the leaves and water into a saucepan then bring it to the boil.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Strain and drink.

Drink 1/2-1 cup as required.


Sweet Chestnut Tincture

Although the decoction helps my husband a little, this time around I’m making a tincture as well. This is because I want to see if the tincture is more effective

I make the tincture as follows;

  1. Use electronic scales to weigh 1/2 oz of leaves.
  2. Measure 1/2 pint / 10oz of vodka into a Pyrex jug.
  3. Roll and shred the leaves in the same way as making the tea above.
  4. Place the shredded leaves into a glass jar which has a lid.
  5. Pour over the vodka covering the leaves.
  6. Put the lid on the jar and label with tincture name, ingredients, and preparation date.
  7. Store in a cupboard away from sunlight to macerate for 8 days. This will soften the leaves and absorb its properties into the liquid.
  8. After 8 days using a sieve strain the liquid into a fresh jar and discard the leaves.
  9. Label the new jar with tincture name, preparation date, ingredients, uses and dosages.

Tinctures made with alcohol have a long shelf life and I look at using them within two years.

Furthermore with tinctures patience is required because you need to start with a low dose and increase slowly if required.

Example dosages are;

  • As a tonic take 5 drops to 1 teaspoon once a day.
  • Standard dose take 1 teaspoon 3 times a day.
  • For acute conditions take 1 teaspoon 6 times a day.

Take a look at my “Herbal Preparation Dosages” post for more information on why getting dosages right is important;


Tinctures should not be used for those with alcohol intolerance or a history of alcoholism.


Here are some ways that the sweet chestnut leaves may help to support the body with regards to ;

  • Bronchitis
  • Dry and violent spasmodic coughs
  • Whooping cough
  • A gargle for a sore throat when making a decoction of the leaves
  • Diarrhoea
  • Polymyalgia and this is inflammation which causes stiffness in the muscles around the shoulders, neck and hips
  • Rheumatic conditions to ease lower back pain, stiff joints and muscles
  • Copius catarrh because of its tightening of the mucous membranes

Sweet Chestnut and Safflower Salve

I love to make salves / ointments and sweet chestnut gives me another opportunity to do this. It also leaves me with a salve which is a beautiful green in colour.

How I make my sweet chestnut salve;

  1. Put a good handful of shredded sweet chestnut leaves into a small 500ml saucepan.
  2. Pour in safflower oil covering the leaves.
  3. Heat gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Strain the liquid into a measuring jug using a sieve. Ensure to squeeze as much of the precious liquid from the leaves as possible.
  5. Then add beeswax in a measurement of 1:10 – measuring the liquid at 3oz I therefore add 0.3oz of beeswax.
  6. Melt and stir the beeswax into the liquid.
  7. Let the salve cool slightly.
  8. Pour into pots to set.

I use safflower oil because of it is high linoleic acid content which is said to be nourishing to the skin.

It was very difficult for me to find safflower oil because I couldn’t find it in any of the supermarkets or local shops. Therefore I ended up buying it online;


Uses for the Sweet Chestnut and Safflower Oil Salve

The salve may support the body with regards to;

  • Boils
  • Cuts
  • Grazes
  • Skin Infections
  • Pimples

I thank Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal for their book “Wayside Medicine” because they inspired me to make this salve, but with my safflower oil twist.

I love their books which have great illustrations for identification, brilliant recipes to try and loads of useful information about the herbs themselves. Here is a link to “Wayside Medicine” if you wish to take a look;

 Sweet Chestnut Bud Bach Remedy

Bach flower remedies are complementary medicine preparations which are made from flowers. These remedies may help to balance the emotions and  allow peace and happiness to return so that a sufferer’s body is free to heal itself.

The sweet chestnut bud remedy is for despair and hopelessness, when there seems no way out of a situation. It is also for people who are slow to learn because they lack interest, and fail to learn from their mistakes.

The essence may help people to keep their attention focused on the present, become attentive and more observant to nurture learning.


Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.


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