The buckeye, also known as the horse chestnut, grows abundantly in the east and central United States. This plant is often used as an ornamental plant in landscapes and, with the moniker "Ohio Buckeye," is the state of Ohio's official tree. Although this tree is pleasant to look at, it also has many uses as well as some dangers to children, pets and adults.
Although many fully grown trees can injure people when they fall, the buckeye is distinctly more likely to fall than some others. This is because the root system of the buckeye tree grows close to the top and is weaker than other trees of its size. The average full grown buckeye is 50 feet and could easily cripple or kill an individual if it came down. This problem is compounded for buckeyes growing in their natural habitat near rivers and streams. A flash flood or heavy rain can wash away the soil the tree clings to. In most cases, this results in leaning, but a strong storm can blow a buckeye over.
The buckeye produces nuts in the fall and winter called horse chestnuts. Although these are similar to chestnuts, they do carry a poison called Aesculin along with other poisons called saponins. These poisons can affect children, cats, dogs, horses and other animals. When ingested, symptoms of sickness include vomiting, depression, convulsions, loss of balance, diarrhea, dilated pupils and even coma. Because of this, buckeye trees are not suitable for homes with free roaming pets or small children. Humans consume horse chestnuts in the form of extracts and herbal essences, but only after a heating and leaching process that removes the poison and in fact, some use the horse chestnut as alternative medicine for rheumatism and arthritis. The Aesculin poison is also located in the leaves, bark and flowers of the Buckeye, although the dosage is lower.
Horse chestnuts can be unhealthy even after leaching. Extract of buckeye can inhibit blood clotting or aggravate the liver and kidneys when taken in conjunction with aspirin and even non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, or NSAID, drugs such as ibuprofen, Motrin, naproxen sodium and Advil. Additionally, individuals with preexisting conditions such as blood clots should not consume horse chestnut.