Horsetail is probably the most abundant source of silicon among plants. One practical use of the herb is for polishing pewter, which contains tin and lead. In the field of herbology, horsetail acts as a mild diuretic and astringent for the genito-urinary tract. The astringency makes it invaluable in cases of incontinence and bed-wetting. It is used in the treatment of inflamed or enlarged prostate glands and for the dissolving of kidney stones. Because of its high silicon content, it reduces heavy bleeding and helps prevent hemorrhage. The silicon in horsetail also helps the body to absorb calcium and plays a vital role in preventing arteriosclerosis, since high amounts of bound silicon are present in the arterial wall.
Horsetail can be applied externally as a lotion to treat skin conditions, such as eczema, wounds, cuts, ulcers and sores. It can also be used as a mouth wash to treat bleeding gums, mouth ulcers and sore throats. Horsetail can be applied to the hair to aid and strengthen brittle hair.
Common Name of the Herb: Horsetail
Latin Name: Equisetum arvense
Parts Used: Above-ground parts
Actions: Astringent, vulnerary, and diuretic
Preparation and Use: Pour a cup of boiling water onto two teaspoons of dried horsetail, or twice that amount of fresh. Let it infuse for 15 to 20 minutes and drink three times a day. As a tincture, take two droppersful several times a day, or add a dropperful or two to horsetail tea. For a bath to help in rheumatic pain and chilblains, steep 3-4 ounces horsetail in hot water for an hour and add to the bath water.
Cautions and Limitations of Use:
- Limit the amount of overall diuretics to avoid excessive potassium loss, or make up for the loss by taking extra potassium, such as organic potato-peeling soup (the peel plus 1/2 inch of the potato).
- Horsetail contains nicotine. Large doses of horsetail may cause symptoms of nicotine overdose, including fever, cold hands and feet, abnormal heart rate, difficulty walking, muscle weakness, and weight loss. People who smoke or who use nicotine patches or nicotine gum should avoid horsetail. Avoid its use with products that have theobromine or caffeine to avoid an overstimulation of the nervous system.
- Caution for all herbs and foods: Stop using if you experience symptoms of allergy. Seek emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; or hives. People who are allergic to other foods in the equisetaceae family or nicotine may be allergic to horsetail.
- Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking prescription medications, regarding possible interactions.
- If in doubt about the safety of any herb, consult a doctor with special knowledge and experience with herbs.
- Constituents: Alkaloids, flavonoids, sterols, silicic acid, saponin equisitonin, thiaminase, aconitic acid, dimethylsulphone and small amounts of nicotine
- Growing the Herb: You can grow horsetail in moist soil in spring. No maintenance is required and you need not worry about diseases or pests.
- How to Gather: Harvest the stems in early summer. Hang in bundles and let it dry in an airy location.
- Other English Common Names: Scouring rush, shavegrass, and field horsetail
- Where it Grows: You can find it almost everywhere in the world except in Antarctica and Australasia. It thrives on wet ground and waste areas.
- How to Identify: Horsetail has hollow stems and shoots that look like asparagus.