Castanea sativa / Tamme kastanje

De Tamme kastanje, Castanea sativa Mill., hoort met Beuken en Eiken tot de Napjesdragersfamilie of de Fagaceae. Je vindt de Tamme kastanje in loofbossen, vooral in de heuvelachtige gebieden. Oorspronkelijk komt de Tamme kastanje uit Zuid-Europa. Volgens een lang bestaande legende zouden de Romeinen de soort meegenomen hebben tot ten noorden van de Alpen.

De bladeren van de Tamme kastanje staan verspreid in twee rijen in één vlak aan de takken. Ze zijn enkelvoudig, veernervig, lancetvormig en spits tot toegespitst. De grootste breedte is onder het midden. De rand is toegespitst of scherp getand. Ze zijn leerachtig, dun, van boven glanzend donkergroen, maar van onderen bleekgroen. De schors van de tot 30 m hoge bomen vertoont lengtegroeven die op scheuren lijken.

De bloeiwijzen zijn katjesdragende rechtopstaande, lange scheuten dicht bezet met toefjes mannelijke bloemetjes met witte meeldraden, die een zoetig weeïge geur verspreiden. Ze staan rechtop in de oksels van de bladeren. De vrouwelijke bloemen vormen onder in deze rechtopstaande scheuten een of twee kluwens binnen een napje. Tijdens de bloei gaan de bloeiwijzen steeds meer hangen. De napjes groeien na kruisbestuiving uit tot een stekelige bolster, waarbij de twee of drie vruchtbeginsels zich ontwikkelen tot een noot, de bekende eetbare kastanjes. De Tamme kastanje produceert ontzettend veel pollen en nectar. Pollen en nectar worden veel verzameld door bijen, kevers en vliegen. In juni als de boom bloeit is hij van veel belang voor nectar en pollen verzamelende bijen. Maar de productie van pollen is zo groot dat de helmknoppen ook heel veel pollen aan de lucht afgeven en in dat opzicht is de Tamme kastanje ook als windbestuiver te betitelen. Voor diegenen die gevoelig zijn voor het licht allergene pollen van de Tamme kastanje is hij een van de soorten die bijdragen aan het optreden van hooikoortsachtige verschijnselen in de maand juni.

Opmerkelijk is dat het strooisel van de Tamme kastanje veel beter verteert dan dat van de nauw verwante Beuk en Eik.

Edible Uses                                        
Edible Parts: Seed.
Edible Uses: Coffee;  Sweetener.
Seed - raw or cooked[2, 4, 5, 9, 12, 34]. A somewhat astringent taste raw, it improves considerably when cooked and is delicious baked with a floury texture and a flavour rather like sweet potatoes[K]. The seed is rich in carbohydrates, it can be dried, then ground and used as a flour in breads, puddings, as a thickener in soups etc [7, 63, 132, 183]. The roasted seed can be used as a coffee substitute[183]. A sugar can be extracted from the seed[183].

Medicinal Uses: Antidiarrhoeal;  Antiinflammatory;  Astringent;  Bach;  Expectorant.
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[4, 7, 165]. They are harvested in June or July and can be used fresh or dried[4]. 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[4, 7]. The leaves can also be used in the treatment of rheumatism, to ease lower back pains and to relieve stiff muscles and joints[254]. A decoction is a useful gargle for treating sore throats[254]. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Extreme mental anguish', Hopelessness' and 'Despair'[209].

Other Uses: Basketry;  Fuel;  Hair;  Starch;  Tannin;  Wood.
Tannin is obtained from the bark[46, 223]. The wood, leaves and seed husks also contain tannin[223]. The husks contain 10 - 13% tannin[223]. On a 10% moisture basis, the bark contains 6.8% tannin and the wood 13.4%[223]. The meal of the seed has been used as a source of starch and also for whitening linen cloth[4]. A hair shampoo is made from the leaves and the skins of the fruits[7]. It imparts a golden gleam to the hair[7]. Wood - hard, strong, light. The young growing wood is very durable, though older wood becomes brittle and liable to crack[4]. It is used for carpentry, turnery, props, basketry, fence posts etc[4, 6, 7, 23, 46, 100]. A very good fuel[6].

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[6]Mabey. R. Plants with a Purpose.Details on some of the useful wild plants of Britain. Poor on pictures but otherwise very good.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[12]Loewenfeld. C. and Back. P. Britain's Wild Larder.A handy pocket guide.
[23]Wright. D. Complete Book of Baskets and Basketry.Not that complete but very readable and well illustrated.
[34]Harrison. S. Wallis. M. Masefield. G. The Oxford Book of Food Plants.Good drawings of some of the more common food plants from around the world. Not much information though.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[59]Thurston. Trees and Shrubs in Cornwall.Trees and shrubs that succeed in Cornwall based on the authors own observations. Good but rather dated.
[63]Howes. F. N. Nuts.Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.
[75]Rosewarne experimental horticultural station. Shelter Trees and Hedges.A small booklet packed with information on trees and shrubs for hedging and shelterbelts in exposed maritime areas.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[98]Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs.Very comprehensive guide to growing trees and shrubs from seed. Not for the casual reader.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[132]Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth.Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.An excellent small herbal.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[209]Chancellor. P. M. Handbook of the Bach Flower RemediesDetails the 38 remedies plus how and where to prescribe them.
[223]Rottsieper. E.H.W. Vegetable TanninsA fairly detailed treatise on the major sources of vegetable tannins.
[229]Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal PlantsAn excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

Anticancer Activity
C. sativa also displays strong anticancer activity against at least three human cancer lines. In one study, the ethyl acetate bark extract of sweet chestnut was applied to LoVo colon cancer cells, PC3 prostate cancer cells, and U373 glioblastoma cancer cells. The C. sativa extract eliminated 50% of the cancerous cells at 25 µg/mL for the colon cancer, 31 µg/mL for the prostate cancer cells, and 24 µg/mL for the glioblastoma cells (Frederich et al., 2009). Earlier studies showed that the cytotoxic activity was due to polysaccharides, but analysis of this extract showed little polysaccharides present (Frederich et al., 2009). Thus, Castanea sativa is an excellent in vitro anticancer agent for multiple cancer types 
and deserves further study in animal models to determine its mechanism of action. Frederich, M., Marcowycz, A., Cieckiewicz, E., Megalizzi, V., Angenot, L., & Kiss, R. (2009). In vitro anticancer potential of tree extracts from the Walloon Region forest. Planta Med, 75(15), 1634-1637. 

C. sativa has numerous medicinal uses, some of which have been in use for thousands of years whereas others have only recently been discovered. Capable of preventing oxidative stress, inhibiting bacterial quorum sensing, eliminating bacteria and parasites, protecting the heart, stopping cancer and relaxing muscles, sweet chestnut shows tremendous potential as both a medicinal food and as a source of novel 
medicines. Due to its high concentration of phenolic compounds, including hydrolysable tannins and condensed tannins, C. sativa displays extraordinary antioxidant capabilities that establish its importance as a medicinal food that promotes general health by preventing causes of disease. 
Numerous other properties, such as its anticancer, cardioprotective and antibacterial activities, warrant further study and show promise in the development of pharmaceuticals using chestnut compounds to improve human health and treat illnesses. Considering the wide breadth of traditional uses that have not been validated, there may be other medicinal applications of C. sativa found in future studies. Sweet chestnut’s excellent taste and health benefits deserve a place in the diet of all seeking to maintain and improve their health, and its potent ability to treat several diseases could dramatically improve our well being and recovery from disease.