The horsetail plant is an original plant from a botanical standpoint. It is cryptogamous and like 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 twenty 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 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 satisfactory 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.
The horsetail plant, also known as shavegrass, is a dependable diuretic used to treat urinary tract disorders. A decoction using one cup twice daily or two tablespoons every hour is beneficial. Early settlers utilized the plant as a diuretic for dropsy and kidney problems. It is not only used for urine retention but also internal bleeding. Its ability to halt bleeding is a result of its blood coagulating properties.
Horsetail is a beneficial plant for eye and skin conditions and is excellent for pus discharges and glandular swelling. It breaks fevers, calms an overactive liver, and releases nervous tension. It can strengthen the heart and lungs and remove kidney and bladder stones. Taking horsetail can help fractured bones heal more quickly.
In China, the herb is used for spitting blood, edema, skin diseases, gallbladder disease, bed wetting, and as an eye wash. You can also use it for muscle spasms, cramps, and bone diseases like rickets and osteoporosis. Early settlers used the plant to scrub their pots and pans, hence the other name, “shavegrass.”
It is an excellent scrubbing pad because of its ridged silica. Cabinet makers used it to polish wood finishes. It can be placed on burns, ulcers, and bleeding wounds in external fomentations.
NOTE: It is best to use shavegrass in the early spring.
WARNING: Overuse of the horsetail plant can irritate the intestines and kidneys; therefore, only use it sparingly in small doses for a limited time. After using it for two to three weeks, please do not use it for an entire week. The treatment can then be replaced. Also, prolonged use can interfere with thiamine (vitamin B) absorption.
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 zero, 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 like those mentioned above are slightly more concentrated (one hundred – 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 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.
Infusion: Steep for forty-five minutes and take a mouthful four times or one to two cups daily. Tincture: Take five to thirty drops three to four times a day. Fluid Extract: Take five drops three to four times daily. Powder: Take five to ten #0 capsules (30 to 60 grains) three to four times daily.
- 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]
- Vance Ferrell Harold M. Cherne, M.D. The Natural Remedies Encyclopedia [Book]. – Altamont, TN: Harvestime Books, 2010. – Vol. Seventh Edition: 7: pp. 163. 164.