Reprinted with the kind permission of Dr. Mercola.
Horsetail, or equisetum, is a group of grass plants from the Equisetaceae family, a plant family that has been around for about 400 million years. Because of this, horsetail has been deemed as a “living fossil,” because its existence dates back even before the dinosaurs.1
One of the members of the Equisetum group is the Equisetum arvensis, which is commonly called horsetail or field horsetail. This article will primarily focus on the Equisetum arvensis variant of the horsetail group, with the name “horsetail” referring exclusively to the Equisetum arvensis.
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, horsetail has been distributed all throughout the world and has been used as either an ornamental2 or a medicinal plant. As an ornamental, its symmetrical and linear appearance lends patios and lawns a clean-cut aesthetic, which a lot of people appreciate. As a medicinal plant, its use dates back to the Roman and Greek civilization, where it was believed to help treat ulcers, wounds and kidney problems.3
Unfortunately, farmers usually treat horsetail as a pest, and a very hard pest to get rid of at that. This is because horsetail propagates through spores. What’s more, these spores are equipped with elaters, which allow them to move around once they land on the ground. This means that they can spread easily and more effortlessly than any other weed.4
But How Can You Benefit From Horsetail?
Despite its status as a weed, horsetail can deliver surprising advantages for your well-being. Numerous studies have focused on the medicinal uses of horsetail and the possible health benefits you can get from this plant. Some of these benefits include:
•Helps promote bone health. Horsetail contains high amounts of silica, a mineral essential for strong bones. In an Italian study, women with osteoporosis were observed to have increased bone density after a year of horsetail supplementation.5
•Helps regulate blood flow. This herb promotes blood clotting and helps stop bleeding in wounds and ulcers. It’s been used to regulate excessive menstruation in women as well.6
•Functions as a diuretic. Horsetail may help in getting rid of excess fluids and salt in the body. This may be beneficial for people who have kidney problems or edemas. A 2014 study showed that horsetail is just as effective as hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic medication.7
•Aids in maintaining skin and hair health. The high levels of silica in horsetail assist in the production of collagen, an important factor in preventing signs of aging in the skin. It also makes hair appear shinier and less frizzy when used with coconut oil.8
•Assists in easing infections. This herb has been observed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties, which may assist in easing various infections.9
Here’s How You Can Use Horsetail Herb
If you’re curious on how you can use horsetail to improve your health, here are some ideas you can try out:10
•Try this soak for foot infections. Infuse 10 teaspoons of horsetail extract powder in 4 cups of water. Soak your feet for 15 minutes every other day.
•Use horsetail extract for brittle nails. Soaking your nails in horsetail extract daily can help improve nail strength and repair damaged nails.
•Make a warm compress or poultice for boils and sores. Crush dried horsetail and soak in warm water for 15 minutes. Wrap horsetail herb in cheesecloth and apply to the sore or boil. Do this twice or thrice a day.
•Apply horsetail tincture to boost hair strength. Mix 3 to 4 drops of horsetail tincture with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Massage onto your scalp to promote blood circulation and strengthen hair follicles.
•Inhale its vapors to relieve nasal congestion. Boiling horsetail tea and inhaling the vapors can help alleviate nasal congestion.
Apart from its therapeutic uses, horsetail is important in biodynamic farming as well. Horsetail tea is used as a plant spray to help regulate water levels, control fungal growth and prevent fungal diseases in plants. The two ways on how horsetail is used in biodynamic farming are:11
•As tea. Add 200 to 300 grams of dried horsetail to about 10 liters of water. Boil in a saucepan or a pot, and let simmer for 20 minutes to 60 minutes. Leave the horsetail submerged for 24 hours to extract the silica.
•As a ferment. Do the same steps as with the tea, but after boiling the horsetail, transfer it to a barrel or an earthenware vessel. Store it in a dark room for two weeks. After the fermentation, the tea usually gets a sulfur-like smell. Store it for six months in an airtight container before using.
Grow Your Own Horsetail in Your Backyard
Horsetail is a perennial plant, which means that it does not have an annual growth cycle. It usually thrives in dry and boggy soil and is extremely hard to control if not managed well.
This is one of the reasons why horsetail is normally planted in containers and pots, so as to control their spread. If you want to plant your own horsetail to add a tinge of green to your home or you want to reap this plant’s numerous benefits, follow this guide from SFGate:12
1.Choose a shady part in your garden. A shady location will ensure that the horsetail will keep its color throughout the year. Make sure that you have soil that is rich in organic matter. You can ensure this by adding a layer of compost or organic manure on top of your soil.
2.Make a hole in the soil for your plant and set the plant down into the hole. The crown should be at ground level.
3.Water the horsetail after planting. Make sure that you keep the soil moist at all times.
How to Correctly Harvest and Store Horsetail Herbs
The best time for harvesting horsetail is during late spring, when its leaves are still bright green. After harvesting, storing a whole year’s supply of horsetail is easy enough. The thing that you should remember is that the leaves should be thoroughly dried before storage. Here is a step-by-step guide from The Daring Gourmet on how to correctly store horsetail leaves:13
1.After harvesting, rinse the leaves to get rid of dirt. Dry them in the sun for a few minutes before hanging them up.
2.Bundle a few horsetails together, making sure that they still get enough air exposure. Tie them with a string.
3.Hang them up in a dark place with good air circulation. Drying them would take two to three weeks. You can determine whether they’re completely dry by breaking a stem with your fingers and no moisture comes out anymore.
4.Chop the leaves up and store them in an airtight glass container. Place the container in a dark place. Stored leaves usually last for up to one year.
Horsetail Tea and Its Impressive Health Benefits
One of the most popular horsetail products is horsetail tea, which is widely utilized to ease a variety of conditions. There are numerous shops that offer horsetail tea, either as loose tea or in teabags, but if you currently have adequate supply of this herb, there is the option of brewing your own.
Horsetail tea is normally taken as relief for stomachaches or colds, although some people claim that this tea can also provide you with more health benefits. Some of the horsetail benefits you can get include the following:
•Relieves menstrual cramps
•Promotes blood clotting
•Relieves canker sores14
•Clears off eye infections, like conjunctivitis and corneal disorders15
To help you brew your first batch of horsetail tea, here is a recipe from The Right Tea:16
•2 to 3 teaspoons of horsetail per cup of water
•Spring or filtered water
•Raw honey, optional
•Boil water in a kettle.
•Place 2 to 3 teaspoons of horsetail (per cup of water) in a teapot.
•Pour water onto the herb. Let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
•Strain your tea. Add a teaspoon of raw honey to sweeten the tea.
However, it should be noted that long-term use of horsetail tea is not advisable. Taking a break after a week of daily ingestion is highly recommended, so as to give your body time to heal and replenish its vitamin levels, especially vitamins that horsetail has a direct effect on.
Contraindications and Possible Side Effects of Horsetail
Take note that the use of horsetail, like other herbs, can lead to various side effects, especially if taken without the assistance of a health practitioner. Some of the side effects that you could suffer from prolonged horsetail use include the following:
•Thiamine deficiency. People who suffer from thiamine deficiency should steer clear from this herb because it’s been observed to destroy thiamine during digestion.17
•Potassium deficiency. Horsetail’s diuretic property may increase your risk of potassium deficiency by depleting your body’s supply.18
•Lowered blood sugar levels. The ingestion of horsetail can alter glucose levels in the blood, which may be hard to manage for people with diabetes. If you are diabetic, it is best that you don’t medicate with horsetail unless otherwise stated by a health professional.19
You should also remember that the Equisetum arvensis is the focus of this article and not the other types of Equisetum plants. Equisetum palustre, another variety of horsetail, is highly toxic to horses and cattle and should never be ingested by humans. Before ingestion, make sure that you have the correct herb.20
For pregnant or breastfeeding women, it is best that you do not take any horsetail products to ensure your and your child’s safety. This is due to its nicotine content21 and the lack of conclusive studies that determines its toxicity.22
Sources and References
1, 3 University of Maryland Medical Center, Horsetail
2 NSW Department of Primary Industries, Horsetails
4 PNWMG.org, Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
5 ResearchGate, Female Climacteric Osteoporosis Therapy with Titrated Horsetail
6, 21 HomeRemediesWeb, Horsetail Health Benefits
7 PubMed.gov, Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial to Assess the Acute Diuretic Effect of Equisetum Arvense in Healthy Volunteers
8 Kosmea, What is Horsetail Extract and What Can It Do for My Skin
9 Natural Alternative Remedy, Sixteen Horsetail Benefits
10 HomeRemediesWeb, Horsetail Health Benefits
11 BioLogic, What and why Biodynamic Preparation BD508?
12 SFGate, How to Grow Horsetail
13 The Daring Gourmet, Wild Foraging: How to Identify, Harvest, Store and Use Horsetail
14 StyleCraze, 19 Amazing Benefits of Horsetail for Skin, Hari and Health
15 Articles Factory, Horsetail Herb Remedies Eye Inflammations and More
16 The Right Tea, Horsetail Tea: The Repairing Tea
17 Living Naturally, Thiamine (Vitamin B12)
18 Herbal Resource, Horsetail – Benefits and Side Effects
19, 20 Love to Know, Using Horsetail Herb
22 Natural Standard, Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Guide
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