Botanical: Equisetum arvense
Family: Equisetaceae (horsetail)
Other common names: Shavegrass, Pewterwort, Scouring Rush, Equisetum, Queue de Cheval, Bottlebrush, Dutch Rushes, Giant Horsetail
Horsetail is a healing herb, rich in nutrients and high in silica, which helps the body absorb calcium and promotes strong, healthy nails, teeth, hair, skin and, perhaps most importantly, strong bones. This is particularly beneficial for countering the bone loss and osteoporosis experienced by menopausal women. Horsetail has strong herbal astringent properties that have been used for centuries to control bleeding - both internal and external - and it also acts on the genitourinary tract to relieve many urinary ailments.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Horsetail is a resilient perennial, practically unchanged in form since prehistoric times. It is descended from giant fernlike plants that covered the earth two hundred million years ago and is widely distributed throughout the world's northern hemisphere in temperate climates. At the top of the hollow stem of one variety (which may reach six feet in height), there are spore-bearing structures that resemble horsetails, and the other variety (which grows to eighteen inches in height) looks like asparagus with feathery stems, also resembling horsetails (both of which are used in the same manner). Its botanical genus, Equisetum, is derived from two Latin words, equus, meaning "horse" and setum, meaning "bristle," an obvious reference to the plant's brush-like appearance. The aerial parts are used in herbal medicine, and the nutritious plant may also be eaten as a healthy vegetable. Horsetails are easy to grow, and once established are difficult to control. The whole plant yields a yellow ochre dye, and its high silica content has made it an effective way to scour metal and polish pewter and fine woodwork, a practice that was employed until well into the eighteenth century. Some of the stems concentrate gold in their tissues (not in sufficient enough quantities to warrant extraction), but are said to be indicators for gold prospectors. Galen (A.D. 131-199), court physician to the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, recommended Horsetail for a variety of ailments, including internal and external bleeding; and many subsequent cultures throughout the centuries have used it to treat arthritis, bleeding ulcers, tuberculosis, kidney and bladder ailments. Native Americans used Horsetail to stanch bleeding and help heal wounds. The Thompson tribe in British Columbia applied ashes of Horsetail to remedy burns, and Guatemalan tribes have used it for treating abdominal and oral cancers. Many country people are still thought to use Horsetail to stop nosebleeds. Horsetail is an ingredient in many herbal cosmetics and preparations to strengthen hair and nails and improve the skin. Some of the constituents in Horsetail include a high silica content, beta-sitosterol, campesterol, alkaloids (equisetin, nicotine, palustrine, palustrinine), tannic and other acids, luteolin, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, calcium, beta-carotene, a rich source of vitamin D, B-vitamins and vitamin C.
Horsetail is rich in silica, which helps to soothe and strengthen connective tissue. Silicon is a vital component for bone and cartilage formation, and it helps the body to absorb and utilize calcium, which is of great value in treating fractures and bone diseases, including rickets and osteoporosis. Horsetail is used to strengthen bones, teeth, nails and hair. The improved cartilage helps to lessen inflammation and combat joint pain, arthritis, gout, muscle cramps, hemorrhoids, spasms and rheumatism. A French company was awarded a patent that includes isolated silica compounds from Horsetail for treating many bone disorders and rheumatoid arthritis.
The beta-carotene content in Horsetail, a compound closely related to vitamin A and sometimes the precursor to vitamin A, is believed to be beneficial to good eye health. Researchers have claimed that this nutrient may significantly decrease the risk of developing night blindness, dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea and other eye disorders.
The highly nutritious qualities of Horsetail has been effective in promoting healthy hair and nails. The silicon and magnesium content in Horsetail is said to be very helpful for improving the quality of hair. There are claims that silicon (which may be found in vegetables, fruits, horsetails and oats, etc.) will strengthen hair and cause thickening of nails and hair within weeks. There are also reports that it promotes faster growth.
As a mild diuretic, Horsetail has been used to promote urination and helps to relieve kidney and gallbladder disorders. This is also said to be helpful for edema in some cases of arthritis and swelling of the legs, as well as tuberculostatic conditions. Horsetail is an herb used to treat a urine infection and an enlarged prostate gland in men. The herb is used to reduce urinary tract irritation and help relieve prostatitis, cystitis and urethritis.
Horsetail's further effects on the urinary tract have been used to treat enuresis (bed wetting) in children and incontinence (loss of urine) in adults. Horsetail is considered mild enough for use by delicate and weak persons (although not for prolonged periods of time).
Horsetail is a powerful astringent that has made it effective for treating both internal (bleeding ulcers, etc.) and external bleeding. Those same properties have been employed to treat urinary incontinence and bed-wetting.
Women may not only find Horsetail beneficial for strengthening bones, hair and nails, but the silica is also thought to promote the growth of collagen (the protein found in connective tissue), which is a great help for improving skin health. Horsetail may be added to skin care products and to anti-ageing lotions.
When used externally, Horsetail has been used to stop bleeding wounds and promote rapid healing. It is thought to be a good wash for swollen eyelids and when used in a bath, will invigorate the body and increase circulation and metabolic rate by feeding the body through the skin.
Pregnant and nursing women or men with prostate cancer should avoid Horsetail Herbal Supplement. This herb should not be used for prolonged periods of time nor in excessive amounts (many times the recommended dosage). Older adults, children and people with cardiac disease or high blood pressure should not use the herb without first consulting a physician.