Horsetail

Equisetum arvense

Description

Horsetail is a herbal remedy that dates back to ancient Roman and Greek times, when it was used to stop bleeding, heal ulcers and wounds and treat tuberculosis and kidney problems. The plant is named for its appearance, from the Latin equusseta, meaning ‘bristle’. And this perennial plant does indeed resemble a horse’s mane and feathery tail. Horsetail is descended from huge, tree-like plants that thrived 400 million years ago during the Palaeozoic era.

Parts used

The parts that grow above the ground.

Constituents

Horsetail contains silicon, which plays a role in strengthening bone. It has also been shown to contain flavonoids such as quercetin, luteolin and apigenin, sterols such as campesterol, vitamin C, volatile oil, manganese and potassium.

Medicinal uses

The silicon content of horsetail ensures it a place on the herbal pharmacopoeia for osteoporosis. It is also considered to be antimicrobial and antiseptic, and can prevent inflammation. It can aid digestion problems, renal disorders, bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as arthritis, headaches and tiredness. Although few studies have been done on the benefits of horsetail for humans, one suggests that the herb’s traditional use as a diuretic (to help rid the body of excess fluid by increasing urination) may be effective, and the plant is approved by the German Commission E as a treatment for urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder stones. Other studies support horsetail’s antioxidant properties and its potential to inhibit cancer cell growth.

Horsetail is prescribed to:

  • Build and maintain healthy bones and cartilage, supporting patients with osteoporosis.
  • Ease the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Improve the function of the urinary system (kidneys and bladder).
  • Act as bladder antiseptic, relieving irritation and inflammation of the bladder.
  • Loosen excess bronchial secretions.
  • Promote healthy nails.
  • Relieve headache and migraine.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Horsetail remedies prepared from Equisetum arvense are generally considered safe when used according to your medical practitioner’s recommendation. As other horsetail species have toxic side effects, such as Equisetum palustre, which is poisonous to horses, always select products with guaranteed potency or standardised extracts. Prolonged use of even the safe form of horsetail is also not advised. It is not suitable for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for people with heart or kidney disorders, diabetes or gout. Patients taking diuretic and a variety of other medications should consult their healthcare professionals before embarking on a course of horsetail. Avoid horsetail if you drink a lot of alcohol.

Flora Force Products containing Horsetail

Domestic & culinary uses

Horsetail does not appear to be use in cooking.

Cultivation

Horsetail, a close relative of the fern, is indigenous to the northern hemisphere, where its tendency to spread has earned a reputation as a weed. As the plant dries, silica crystals form in the stems and branches, giving the plant a scratching effect, which accounts for the plant’s use in historic times as a polish for metal, particularly pewter. Human activities have resulted in the plant spreading to other parts of the world such as New South Wales, Australia, where it has become a troublesome weed.

Photo credits

  1. Carl Axel Magnus Lindman
[Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.