Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is a therapeutic plant found in Europe, Asia, North America, and the Middle East. Also known as horse bristle, scouring rush, and shave grass, horsetail is a legitimate living fossil that even predates the dinosaurs. Some of these prehistoric plants grew to be 100-foot tall, towering, tree-like giants. Today’s common horsetail, however, tops out at about 4 feet. Despite the shorter stature, there’s nothing small about the health benefits of horsetail.
Horsetail Health Benefits
The aboveground parts of horsetail are used therapeutically because of the plant’s many health-boosting properties. Ancient Grecians and Romans used it as an herbal remedy for wounds, ulcers, and kidney ailments. Traditional use also includes promoting normal fluid balance in the body—a use supported by evidence today. Horsetail has many other traditional uses that have yet to be formally established, some of which include:
- Encouraging kidney and bladder health
- Promoting a healthy body weight
- Supporting healthy hair and nails
- Easing heavy periods
- Maintaining urinary tract health
Horsetail contains silicon, which supports skeletal health. Studies confirm that horsetail extract supports normal bone density when combined with calcium. Silica has also been evaluated for its contributions to hair and nails.
Horsetail contains beneficial phytochemicals like saponins and antioxidant flavonoids. It’s a rich source of potassium. A 2006 study found that horsetail essential oil may be effective in supporting the body’s natural reaction to harmful organisms. One study even reported that horsetail ointment eased discomfort and hastened healing following surgery.
Horsetail has seen thousands of years of use as a natural herbal remedy. Despite this history, it’s only recently received serious scholarly attention. There’s still much to be discovered about horsetail and we look forward to further research.
How to Consume Horsetail
Horsetail shoots taste similar to celery. Pick them when they’re young and eat them fresh after peeling off the tough, outer covering. Except for the young shoots, horsetail should not be consumed raw. Consuming large quantities of horsetail can lead to vitamin B depletion, and its high concentration of silica can erode tooth enamel.
The simplest way to enjoy horsetail, and reap its health benefits, is to prepare a horsetail tea. Just add 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried horsetail to hot water, steep for 5 minutes, and strain.
You can also enjoy horsetail in a sun tea. Find fresh horsetail from your local grocer, farmer’s market, or grow it in your own garden. Chop up 1 to 2 tablespoons as fine as you can and place into a large mason jar. Fill the jar to the top with purified water and let it sit in the sun for a day. Strain, if desired, and enjoy. Keep in mind that sun-brewed tea should be stored in the refrigerator and discarded after 24 hours because it’s made at temperatures which allow bacterial growth.
Tips for Growing Horsetail
If you can’t find horsetail at your local grocer or farmer’s market, you can always try growing your own. Horsetail is a hardy plant and makes a striking addition to any garden.
Horsetail does not seed. Instead, it grows from a rhizome—a root-like underground stem. You should be able to find young plants or rhizomes at your local nursery. Plant horsetail in early spring in full or partial sun. Horsetail is native to boggy areas, so it prefers wet soil, high heat, and humidity. If you live in a colder climate, the aboveground part of horsetail will turn brown in the winter, but the underground rhizome will survive and grow new green shoots in the spring.
Horsetail can be grown in the ground or in a container. In fact, it’s fairly invasive, so you may want to do both at the same time. Planting horsetail in a container, then planting that container in the ground will help prevent its roots from spreading. Choose a deep container and bury it in the ground with the lip of the container just above the soil line. Check occasionally and trim any horsetail roots that are creeping over the edge of the container. Horsetail will grow about 4 feet tall and will take over your garden if you let it.
One caveat—and it seems ironic—be careful with growing horsetail if you own horses. Long-term consumption of horsetail is toxic to horses.
Supplementing with Horsetail
There are many ways to supplement with horsetail. It’s available as a dried herb or in liquid form, so choose what best suits your needs.
There are two excellent supplements I recommend that contain horsetail. The first is Renaltrex®, a blend of horsetail and other herbs that help promote normal kidney function. I also recommend ArthrOrganics, a liquid blend of organic botanicals, including horsetail, for joint health support.
Horsetail offers amazing benefits, but it does carry a few precautions as well. Horsetail contains trace amounts of nicotine. Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take it in any form. Horsetail contains thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down the B vitamin thiamine, potentially leading to thiamine deficiency. As with any supplement, the best way to choose what meets your needs is to evaluate those needs carefully with your trusted healthcare advisor.
Have you used horsetail? Have you grown it? Leave a comment below and share your experience with the natural health community.
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.