What is Horsetail?
So named because of its stem that resembles a horse’s tail, this plant belongs to Equisetaceae species of plants that date back millions of years. It is the sole surviving descendant of an ancient species which grew to the height of trees during the prehistoric era. Many of our current coal deposits descend from this family of plants.
Other common names for horsetail include pewterwort, scouring rush, candock, shavegrass and horsetail fern. It has been used to polish wood and pewter, scour metal pots and as a sandpaper. It is also used by the cosmetic industry as an ingredient in shampoos and make-up.
But that is not all; horsetail is also valued for its many potential benefits on human health. It contains many minerals and nutrients such as calcium, iron and manganese. It also possesses saponins, tannins, flavonoids, phenolic acid, alkaloids and silica.
Today, horsetail is available as an herbal supplement in a variety of forms including capsules, tinctures and tea.
What are the Health Benefits of Horsetail?
Horsetail has been used through the ages by several cultures around the world for various conditions including ulcers, kidney conditions, bladder problems and arthritis. In China, traditional practitioners use it to treat fevers, flu, inflammation, and eye problems like conjunctivitis.
These days its silica content means that it is recommended for bone problems like osteoporosis and to repair tissue and collagen. It is also popular for general debility and anemia.
It contains many medicinal properties including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, diuretic and astringent actions.
The list of potential medicinal uses is quite extensive and includes the following.
Several studies have showed that the silica contained in horsetail might help the body’s ability to absorb and utilize its calcium supply. This could potentially help protect bones from weakness, enhance flexibility and strengthen connective tissues by increasing bone density.
One Italian study found that supplementing with horsetail extract improved the bone density of women suffering from osteoporosis. (1)
Horsetail may also help relieve the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism because of its excellent anti-inflammatory properties.
A combination of calcium and horsetail supplements seems to be an excellent choice for people suffering with weak bones or painful joints.
2) Brittle nails
Horsetail also contains minerals which could help to strengthen weak or brittle fingernails. While taking horsetail extract is believed to help, an alternative option is to soak the nails in an infusion made with horsetail.
- To make this infusion, simply steep a few teaspoons of the dried herb in some boiling water for 15 minutes.
- Allow the mixture to cool then soak your nails for 20 minutes or so a few times each week.
3) Respiratory Tract Complaints
Many people use horsetail to relieve respiratory problems brought on by the cold and flu or to treat congestion and bronchitis. Horsetail tea is considered to be an effective respiratory tract remedy while inhaling its vapors can help to alleviate nasal congestion.
Horsetail tea is readily available online and at many health food stores. It is easy to make and you can safely drink it several times a day until you feel better.
It is believed that horsetail has a coagulant activity which means it may help reduce external and internal bleeding and also minimize heavy menstruation. The anti-inflammatory properties in horsetail might also ease inflammation and pain caused by swollen wounds or injuries and even menstrual cramps.
5) Oral health
If you are suffering from toothache because of an infection or sore gums, horsetail can help. You can easily make a horsetail mouthwash by steeping a teaspoon full of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water and allowing it to cool sufficiently.
After it has cooled, use the mixture as a regular gargle and repeat several times each day until your symptoms have cleared up. The same treatment may help clear up the symptoms of tonsillitis and mouth sores.
The hemostatic activity and anti-inflammatory properties in horsetail might help to alleviate pain and reduce the bleeding resulting from hemorrhoids. It is recommended that you drink a cup or two of horsetail tea with a meal rich in fiber.
Fiber can ease the constipation which can cause hemorrhoid related pain.
7) Kidney Stones
Horsetail may be a beneficial supplement for people suffering from kidney stones. According to studies, the diuretic activity of horsetail may be especially useful with regard to the type of kidney stone formed by excessive uric acid.
Drinking a few cups of horsetail tea each day might help to increase your production of urine and the frequency of urination which helps to flush out kidney stones. It may also help hasten the healing process from a bout of gout which is a painful condition also caused by the build-up of uric acid in the blood.
8) Urinary Tract Infections
Several studies indicate that horsetail can help treat conditions related to the urinary tract including infection, bladder weakness and nocturnal incontinence. Reports suggest that taking two or three capsules a day can help treat bladder complaints while drinking the tea several times each day may also help.
9) For the Skin
Because of its silica content and its anti-inflammatory, anti- septic and antibacterial properties, horsetail can be used to treat numerous skin problems including burns, rashes, acne and minor wounds.
Silica helps to produce collagen which is vital for healthy skin and connective body tissue. It is a common ingredient in many cosmetic skin products.
Horsetail can be made into a paste and applied topically to any affected areas while drinking several cups of horsetail tea can also give you antioxidant and anti-inflammatory skin benefits. You can also use your horsetail tea as a nightly toner on the face.
10) For the Hair
Horsetail may also be good for the health of your hair. Some people even claim that it can promote hair growth but there is no scientific evidence for this. However, you can add some of your horsetail extract or tincture to your regular shampoo to help nourish your hair. Its antibacterial properties can help treat dandruff while its powerful antioxidant properties are good for overall hair health.
Availability of Horsetail
Horsetail can be bought in several different forms including tinctures, capsules, dried leaves, tea bags and powdered extract. Capsules are considered reliable because they usually have standardized ingredients.
Horsetail is usually safe when taken short term but is not recommended for long term consumption.
Precautions and Side Effects
There are few side effects associated with the short-term use of horsetail. However, some mild reactions include diarrhea, stomach upset and excessive urination. Some more serious side effects have been reported including nerve damage and amnesia.
- Allergic reactions include wheezing, rashes and facial swelling. If you experience an allergic reaction, stop using horsetail immediately.
- Children, pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid horsetail because of its nicotine content.
- If you are already taking a diuretic medication, horsetail may increase urination to excessive levels.
Have you ever used horsetail and if so how did you use it.? If you found it effective or otherwise, we would like to hear from you.
(1) Corletto F. [Female climacteric osteoporosis therapy with titrated horsetail (Equisetum arvense) extract plus calcium (osteosil calcium): randomized double blind study]. Miner Ortoped Traumatol 1999;50:201-206.