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Horsetail

Equisetum arvense

Herbs gallery - Horsetail



Common names

  • Bottlebrush
  • Horsetail
  • Mare's Tail
  • Scouring Rush
  • Shave Grass

Horsetail is a well known herb; it is a perennial herb growing in moist loamy or sandy soil found in much of the North American continent, as well as in similar climates in Europe and Asia. The morphology of the horsetail herb is very strange and the plant has a creeping, or string like rootstock which gives it its name. The roots at the nodes are turned into numerous hollow stems of two kinds. Horsetail begins growth in two stages, initial growth of the plant is through a fertile and flesh colored stem, this stem can grow to a height of four to seven inches and comes out a cone like spike - this spike contains spores of the plant. The initial stem does not last long and withers away. The second stem is a green and sterile structure reaching a length of eighteen inches in height and crowned by whorls of small branches - this is the final shape that the plant will take for its life span. Horsetail plants have an ancient lineage, for example, related plants belonging to the era of the dinosaurs could reach very incredible heights of forty feet or more, the ancient horsetails probably resembled skinny lodge pole pines - though they lacked the green boughs of pines. Horsetails have been used in a variety of roles in Europe, for example, during the Middle Ages, horsetail clumps were normally used as scouring pads to facilitate the cleaning of iron cookware and hard pewter dishes - the plant has a high silicon content and is very effective in this role.

The silicon content of the horsetail is the highest in the entire plant empire, and no other herb comes even near to the silica levels found in the plant. Silica is an important trace element for the body; it helps in binding protein molecules together in tissues such as the blood vessels and other connective tissues in the human body. Collagen, an important constituent of the tissues is largely made from silicon. The role of the collagen in the body is to act as the "body glue", enabling the skin and muscular tissues to stick together as an integrated whole. The growth and stability of the skeletal system in the body is also promoted by the mineral silicon - the mineral is required in trace amounts in the diet. The properties of the horsetail have been measured in a few European clinical studies - where it was determined that broken and fractured bones tend to heal quicker if horsetail supplements were taken by the patients. When horsetail is added to the diet of patients, it also led to a reduction in the incidence of osteoporosis - thus, there is direct health benefits associated with the use of the horsetail. Some herbalist and folk healers suggest that athletes suffering from problems such as sprains and dislocated joints, and pulled hamstrings or torn ligament injuries could benefit from supplements of the horsetail herb in the diet. Dosages of the horsetail is usually three tablets or capsules taken a day and continuously, till such times as total healing from the physical injury is achieved.

The herb also has other uses, and the horsetail herb can be seen as one of those rare and exceptional cosmetic agents - that work to beautify from the inside rather than just altering external appearances. The texture, strength and tone of hard tissues such as the hair, the nails and the skin is also greatly improved by horsetail, at the same time the herb is very good at greatly strengthening the bones and the teeth of people. A positive hidden "youth factor" present in the horsetail is also alluded by some individuals.

Problems such as minor edema can be treated by drinking an herbal tea made from the horsetail. If half a cup of this tea is consumed every forty five minutes during the day, it can effectively put a stop to bleeding problems resulting in blood specks in the urine and the stool of the person. Topical injuries of a minor nature can also be treated using the horsetail, a minor cut or bruise can be treated using some herbal horsetail powder from a capsule or a crushed tablet. Urinary problems of all types can also be treated using the horsetail herb, which is a reliable diuretic. To prepare horsetail herbal tea, put two tbsps. of the herb and steep it for half an hour in one pint of boiling water. Dosage for this herbal tea can be three cups of the herb taken on a daily basis or three tbsps. taken once every one to half an hour during treatment.

Supporters of the horsetail herb suggest the great value of the horsetail in the role of a diuretic as well as an astringent - they point out the capability of the herb and its potential in the treatment of all kinds of kidney and bladder conditions. These herbal promoters of the horsetail also stress the effectives of the herb in disorders ranging from kidney stones to cystic ulceration - they suggest its great effectiveness as a rapid acting remedy for the disorder called dropsy. The beneficial effects of the horsetail also lie in its ability in treating tuberculosis - particularly when the disease has progressed and is accompanied by behaviors such as the spitting of blood by the patient. Horsetail remedies when externally used are said to promote rapid healing of cuts and bruises as well as being able to stop the bleeding of wounds. The horsetail on chemical analysis is also found to contain approximately five percent of a saponin, called equisetonin, and several types of flavone glycosides such as isoquercitrin, the compound galuteolin, and equisetrin aside from the silica fraction. Horsetail also contains minute traces of nicotine at 0.00004 percent of total volume. The diuretic action of the horsetail is probably due to a combined effect of the flavone glycosides and the saponins. This diuretic action has been demonstrated experimentally in the laboratory, though it is a rather mild effect. The belief that the silica and silicic acid derivatives found in the horsetail medication actively promote healing in bleeding tubercular lesions found in the lung is not supported by any experimental studies and thus, this hypothesis is incorrect.

Care should be taken with the use of some species of horsetail herb, as several species belonging to the genera Equisetum have been known to induce poisoning in livestock - especially with regard to horses. This poisoning action has been experimentally verified in horses, the disease is called equisetosis, where a thiaminase or thiamine destroying enzyme in the herb had been implicated in the toxic activity in the body of horses. The consumption of large doses of thiamine and the complete elimination of the horsetail containing hay from the diet of poisoned horses is the only treatment for cases of equisetosis. For example, in Canada, the department of Health and Welfare Canada requires the manufacturers of the horsetail feeds to prove that the E. arvense they sell is free of thiaminase enzymes. A toxic alkaloid compound known as palustrine is found in a related European horsetail species called Equisetum palustre L. The necessity of examining all of the commercial supplies of E. arvense species sold in the German market for any possible adulteration with the other Equisetum species, like the E. palustre is a policy of German Pharmacopoeia in Europe. There is very little scientific support for the traditional healing virtues attributed to the horsetail, and strong pleading from herbalist does not change this fact. At most, the horsetail is a weak diuretic herb and has few other uses.

Parts used

Aerial parts.

Uses

Traditionally used to stop bleeding in wounds, the horsetail herb is said to be an excellent clotting inducer. The herbal horsetail remedies have been used to staunch all kinds of wounds; it has been used to stops excessive nosebleeds, and also in bringing about a reduction in the coughing up of blood during different diseases. The urinogential system of the human body is also positively affected by the astringent effect of the horsetail herb; this property is especially valuable in those cases of bleeding occurring within the urinary tract of a person - including disease such as cystitis and urethritis in patients. The internal tissue damage in connective tissue is also repaired and corrected by the horsetail herbal remedies, which speeds up the rate of tissue repair, thereby promoting the strength and elasticity in the newly formed tissues. Symptoms caused by rheumatic and arthritic problems are also treated utilizing horsetail based remedies, the horsetail is also used in the treatment of various chest ailments like emphysema, it is used for the treatment of chronic swelling affecting the legs, and also in the treatment of various other conditions affecting people. Slow healing sprains and fractures can also be topically treated using a decoction of the horsetail herb added to bathwater.

The horsetail herb has a long lineage and is a descendant of prehistoric plants; these ancient relatives of the herb were tall as trees. The horsetail is also known to be the richest plant source for the mineral silica aside from other useful and beneficial minerals. This makes the plant a very valuable herbal remedy for the treatment and healing of tissues as well as a useful and effective herbal nutritious tonic. The horsetail herb strongly affects the functioning of the urinary system in people, and endows a mild diuretic as well as soothing effect on the affected urinary tissues. It is also capable of healing all manners of irritation and infection affecting the urinary tract in general. Children affected by frequent urges to urinate, by bed wetting behaviors and incontinence for a long time can be treated using the horsetail as the astringent properties of the herb make it a very useful remedy to check such problems. Inflammation in various tissues of the body is frequently treated using the horsetail based remedies and the herb is also used in the treatment of problems like the benign and harmless enlargement of the prostate gland in patients. The herbal remedies made from the horsetail are also useful as general tonics for boosting the performance of the kidneys and the urinary system in people. The reproductive system is also beneficially affected by the horsetail herbal remedies; the herb is very effective at reducing hemorrhage and heavy bleeding in patients affected by such disorders. The horsetail is also effective in treating such disorders which affect the functioning of the digestive tract, it is capable of healing inflammation and ulcers in the stomach, and similar problems affecting the respiratory tract - traditionally the horsetail was the remedy used for treating TB and coughing of blood streaked sputum. Lusterless hair and brittle nails can also be treated using the herbal horsetail remedy, and the herb is also useful for treating debility and anemia in patients. Horsetail has a lot of silica, which actively aids in the rapid absorption of calcium from the food, and this action of the herb so helps guard the body against the danger of osteoporosis and muscular cramps, and for this reason horsetail can greatly help in the prevention of atherosclerosis in patients. Irritated skin and skin conditions like eczema can be topically treated using a herbal horsetail lotion, this can also be used to heal all manners of cuts and wounds, it can be applied to alleviate sores and ulcers, and it can also be applied to areas of skin affected by chilblains and related problems. Horsetail based mouthwash and gargle can also be used for the treatment of problems such as mouth ulcers, it can be used to stanch bleeding gums and in the treatment of sore throats and other oral problems.

Other medical uses

Habitat and cultivation

The horsetail prefers damp soils for maximum growth and is a very common plant, it is native to much of Europe, to North Africa and can also be seen in parts of northern Asia and the whole of the new world. Harvesting of the horsetail and especially the sterile stems occurs during the summer months and these are carefully dried in preparation for storage, during this process all the discolored parts are thrown away.

Constituents

The silicic acid and the other chemical silicates make up about fifteen percent to total chemical constituent of horsetail, aside from the other compounds such as flavonoids, the phenolic acids, and the alkaloids e.g. nicotine, and sterols which are also present in variable amounts. The high silica content of the horsetail is responsible for most of the therapeutic effectiveness ascribed to the horsetail herb. This silica is largely soluble and is absorbed well in the body. Connective tissue regeneration is one of the main functions supported by the silica.

Usual dosage

Herbal horsetail tea at doses of one to four grams daily is ideal as a supplemental measure. An alternative is to use an herbal horsetail based tincture at a dose of two to six ml daily.

Side effects and cautions

When given at the recommended adult doses, the horsetail is normally seen as being very safe and useful for treating men and non-pregnant women. The use of the correct species of horsetail should be the chief concern of the person using the herbal remedy. Horsetail species such as the Equisetum palustre contain some toxic alkaloids and are traditionally identified as livestock poison - these should never be used as supplements. All supplement manufacturers in Canada, have to follow the Canadian Health Protection Branch requirement that products are certified as not containing the enzyme thiaminase, which is found in crude horsetail of the Equisetum variety - this enzyme destroys B vitamin thiamin in the body and can cause serious problems. For medicinal use, all raw horsetail has to undergo processing, and the alcohol and temperature regulated processes, as well as the alkalinity neutralizes the potentially harmful enzyme in the herb. During processing, all herbal horsetail tinctures, the various fluid extracts, and the other preparations of the herb are also subjected to 100C temperatures and this processing is preferred for medicinal use of the herb.

Applications

Aerial parts:
DECOCTION An herbal decoction made from the horsetail herb is used for the treatment of excessive menstruation in women. The same decoction is also used in the treatment of various skin conditions like acne and eczema in patients. This herbal decoction can be prepared by simmering some horsetail herb a minimum of three hours to extract the main chemical constituents and straining the liquid. Herbal healers often prescribe this decoction for the treatment of problems such as stomach ulcers; they also prescribe this for the treatment of urinary tract inflammations, and for treating various prostate and lung conditions affecting various patients.
POULTICE The horsetail can also be made into an herbal poultice. Use the horsetail powder and form a paste for application on leg ulcers, topical wounds, as well as sores and chilblains of all kinds.
MOUTHWASH/GARGLE The horsetail herbal decoction can also be diluted down with water and used for the effective treatment of mouth as well as gum infections and other throat inflammations in patients.
JUICE An herbal horsetail juice made from liquidized horsetail stems are ideal. A dose of 5 -10 ml of this juice, taken thrice daily, can be good for treatment of urinary disorders in patients. The same juice can be used for the treatment of nosebleeds in people, dip a cotton wool swab in some of this juice and stuff it into a nostril for pain relief. The same herbal horsetail juice is also suggested for the treatment of long term lung damage in patients.
CAPSULES Aside from the juices and the decoctions, another effective way to use horsetail is in the form of powdered horsetail capsules. The same disorders can be treated using these capsules - with the exception of bleeding in the nose.

Horsetail powder

Heat the previously dried horsetail in a cast-iron frying pan at fairly high heat. Stir vigorously with a thick, wooden spoon (boxwood, olive) until a fine powder is obtained. Preserve in a glass jar.
This powder is very useful for stopping bleeding and skin suppurations. Diluted in a little water and taken internally, it soothes heartburn and even digestive hemorrhaging. Combined with flower pollen, it combats tumors.

Horsetail toner

The ingredients required for preparing the horsetail toner include:

  • 2 tablespoonfuls (30 ml) of an infusion prepared from horsetail
  • 1 tablespoonful (15 grams) of oatmeal

Boil the oatmeal in one cup (250 ml) of water for about five minutes and filter the liquid, which is used in the form of gruel. Blend one teaspoon of this gruel with the horsetail infusion and store it in a bottle. Place the bottle in a cool location for about two to four days before using it. Apply this toner to your face and the area in the region of your neck and allow it to dry for anything between 10 and 15 minutes. Subsequently, wash off the toner using warm water or rose water. Use a towel to gently dry the face and the neck.

Comments

From Michael - 2010
I'm fond of this plant. I worked with silicon technology for years before using horsetail as a hand lotion, for which it is excellent freshly collected. Several years later that I noticed my skin is distinctly more comfortable in the siliceous environment.
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