The horsetail plant is an original plant from a botanical standpoint. It is cryptogamous and similar to ferns in the sense that it reproduces itself with spores. These spores are only found in the so-called fertile stem, which grows in spring, and is shaped like asparagus. Though horsetail plants have roots, they do not have leaves, flowers, or seeds.
There are around 20 species of echisetum that differ in the height of their stems. Their properties are similar; hence we will only describe the most common of them all: horsetail or Echisetum arvense.
Horsetail is a plant that Dioscorides already knew about. It has always held well-deserved fame as a medicinal herb. Presently, it is highly valued because of its content in silicon, a mineral that plays a role in tissue regeneration processes.
Horsetail Plant Scientific Facts
- French: Prele, queue de rat
- Spanish: Cola de caballo
- Environment: Spread all over Europe and America, it grows in cool, shady places in warm climates, though it is also found in rocky soils, roadsides, and drylands. It prefers sandy soils.
- Description: Vivacious, herbaceous plant of the Echisetaceae family, growing from 10cm to 30cm high. It has two kinds of stems: some are fertile, reddish in color, without branches. In their tips, there is a spike with a spore: these stems appear first. The other ones are sterile, grow in late spring, and form several articulated segments from which fine branches grow.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The sterile stems and their branches.
Healing Properties and Indications
The whole plant is rich in minerals, especially silicon and potassium. Moreover, it contains saponin (echisetonine), flavonoids, to which it owes its diuretic properties, different organic acids, and resin. It has remineralizing, diuretic, depurative, hemostatic, and when externally applied, wound healing properties.
Best results are achieved when combining internal use (in herbal teas) and external applications (on the skin). Horsetail plant is also beneficial for the following conditions:
- Degenerative processes of the skin, the conjunctive tissues, and the bones: Latest research on the role played by silicon in our body has proven that this trace element is present on the skin, nails, cartilages, bones, and ligaments. In all these tissues, it stimulates the regeneration of collagen and the elastin fibers that form them, which lose consistency and elasticity with the aging process. Silicon promotes the reconstruction or renewal of our tissues since the synthesis of collagen and elastin fibers cannot occur without it. Although silicon is also found in integral grains and beer yeast, horsetail is the plant with the highest proportion of organic silicon, that is to say, combined with proteins (0.5 – 0.8%). Isolated silicon, when chemically pure, cannot be absorbed and used by our bodies.
- Skin wrinkles and stretch marks, produced by aging, obesity, or sudden weight loss, pregnancy, muscular tension, etc. It improves skin appearance, both taken orally and applied as compresses.
- Fragile nails
- Breast flaccidity: When applied as compresses on the breasts, it strengthens and tones up their tissues. This effect is improved when also taking a decoction.
- Varicose ulcerations, abscesses, infected wounds, eczema, conjunctivitis: Horsetail renders good results because of its wound healing properties when applied as compresses.
- Arthrosis (degeneration of joint cartilage): Because of its content of silicon, and its depurative properties, horsetail is likely to be one of the few back treatments which, at present, can be used for this problematic ailment.
- Osteoporosis (loss of bone consistency). Silicon stimulates osteoblastic and fiberblasti activity. These are the connective tissue cells that synthesize collagen fibers and form the matrix of the bones.
- Decalcification, bone-breaking, rachitis: Silicon eases the assimilation and fixing of calcium on the bones.
- Arteriosclerosis: Recent research shows that the lack of silicon is an important causative factor. Silicon has preventive effects, and perhaps also regenerative ones, on arterial degeneration, by stimulating the regeneration of elastic fibers on arterial walls.
- Edema (retention of fluids), kidney stones, urinary infections, gout, excess uric acid, and whenever a mild but effective diuretic and depurative effect is required.
- Hemorrhages: The horsetail plant has a significant hemostatic effect (stops bleeding), both in local applications and taken orally. For epistaxis (nose bleeds), apply a nose plug with a gauze soaked in a concentrated decoction. For bleeding hemorrhoids, apply compresses soaked in this decoction on the anus. In both cases, the hemostatic effect is improved when taking a decoction.
- For hypermenorrhea (excessive menstruation), gastric hemorrhage (caused, for instance, by gastro-duodenal ulcer), or bronchial hemorrhages (caused by tuberculosis, for example), the use of a horsetail plant decoction helps heal bleeding tissues and stops bleeding. Of course, in any of these cases, please consult a physician.
Horsetail Plant Alkaloids
In horsetail and other plants of the genus Echisetum, some researchers have found minimal amounts of nicotine (traces). With the recommended doses of horsetail, the amount of nicotine taken is practically nil, and it lacks any effect on the body. Alkaloids, such as nicotine, abound more in angiosperm plants. However, algae, mosses, and cryptogamous plants (to which the horsetail plant belongs) almost have no alkaloids.
Preparation and Use
- Decoction with 40 – 50g of plant per liter of water. Boil in low heat for 10 minutes. Drink from three to five cups daily.
- Fresh juice of the plant. Three spoonfuls with every meal.
- Compresses soaked in a decoction similar to those mentioned above are slightly more concentrated (100 – 150g of plant per liter of water). These compresses are directly applied to the affected area, such as breasts or anus.
- Nose packing with a gauze soaked in the aforementioned concentrated decoction.
When applied as compresses, a decoction of the horsetail plant gives strength to breast tissues. This action is improved when ingesting the liquid of this decoction.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 704,705,706. Print.[Horsetail plant]