encyclopedia

Horsetail

Scientific Names:     

Equisetum arvenseL. [Fam. Equisetaceae]

Forms:     

Horsetail, cut and dried; horsetail powdered extract.

Traditional Usage:     

– Anti-aging
– Baldness
– Bone and Joint Disorders
– Breathing Disorders
– Bursitis
– Diuretic
– Eye Problems
– Hair Problems
– Nail Problems
– Osteoporosis
– Skin Disorders
– Teething
– Tendinitis
– Urinary Tract Gravel
– Vascular Problems
– Wounds (externally)

Overview:     

Horsetail, Equisetum arvense L. [Fam. Equisetaceae], also known as scouring rush, was traditionally used in Europe and is approved by the Commission E as a diuretic to treat post-traumatic and static edema (water retention) and to treat urinary tract problems including gravel. Horsetail also served as a food for many First Nations Peoples and the roots were traditionally given to teething babies. American Indians also used the tea as a diuretic to treat kidney gravel, urinary incontinence and to treat constipation. Horsetail extract is used medicinally to stimulate healing of broken bones, treat connective tissue injuries and to promote healthy eyes, hair, skin and nails. The essential element, silicon, is present in very large amounts in horsetail. Because silica is essential for growth and healing and is a major constituent of bones, cartilage, connective tissue and skin, horsetail is recommended to prevent and treat disorders pertaining to these areas of the body. A developing fetus contains high levels of silica and this element makes up part of the mucopolysaccharides (glycosaminoglycans) that play critical structural roles in bone, cartilage and connective tissues. Horsetail extracts are also well known as anti-aging beauty aids with products often promoted by famous actors and actresses in Hollywood. It is true that with age and declining hormonal activity, levels of silica decline in the arteries and skin. Horsetail extracts also abound in selenium, and because this element and silica help to promote circulation to the scalp, it helps to maintain hair, according to naturopaths. Because of its antibacterial and astringent effects, horsetail tea is also used externally to treat wounds and prevent infections. Horsetail is often recommended to treat bone and joint inflammation and to strengthen bones in osteoporosis. Horsetail has also been traditionally used to treat respiratory catarrh (mucous), respiratory inflammation, bronchitis, cough and tuberculosis.

Active Ingredients:     

Horsetail contains: More than 10% inorganic compounds, two-thirds of which are silicic acid (10% in the form of water soluble silicates) and potassium salts. Horsetail also contains significant levels of selenium, manganese and magnesium. Flavonoids are also abundant in horsetail, including: apigenin, luteolin, quercetin and genkwanin. Other compounds include: alkaloids (nicotine and spermidine); polyenic acids and rare dicarboxylic acids (i.e. equisetolic acid); saponins including equisetonin which is largely a mixture of various sugars (saccharose, glucose, fructose, lactose) and flavonoids; some mannitol and inositol; and phenol-carboxylic acids including caffeic acid.

Suggested Amount:     

Horsetail extract standardized for silica content is recommended at a dosage corresponding to 20-30mg of silica per day (for extracts containing 8-11mg of silica per capsule, this would mean three capsules per day). As a tea, German authorities recommend using 6g of finely chopped or coarsely powdered horsetail (ca. 6 teaspoonfuls) in approximately 150ml of boiling water, boiling this for five minutes, infusing for ten minutes and then straining. Some authors also recommend infusing powdered horsetail in cold water for 10-12 hours before extracting. A cupful of the freshly prepared tea is drunk several times per day. For external use: 10 grams of horsetail is infused in 1 liter of water.

Drug Interactions:     

None known.

Contraindications:     

Horsetail and other diuretics are contraindicated in edema resulting from impaired heart or kidney function.     

Side Effects:     

None known. Horsetail and other diuretics should be taken with abundant fluid intake.     

References:     

Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World's Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. pp. 36-37; 98; 132-133; 415. Rodale Press.
 
Foster S, and Duke JA. 1990. Horsetail in Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 304.
 
Flynn, R. and Roest, M. 1995. Your Guide to Standardized Herbal Products. One World Press, 601 Granada Drive, Prescott, AZ, 86301; Library of Congress: 94-80040;  pp. 50-51.
 
Turner N, and Kuhnlein H. 1991. Traditional plant foods of Canadian indigenous peoples. Nutrition, botany and use. In Food and Nutrition in History and Anthropology Vol. 8. Gordon & Breach Science Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, p. 48.
 
Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Equiseti herba – Equisetum (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 188-191.

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