Horsetail is a unique and primitive plant with two distinctive types of stems. In spring the horsetail grows a short brownish scape with a cone-like tip containing spores. When the air is dry the spores are released and dispersed by the wind. If the spores land in a wet or damp place, they can germinate and grow into a plant. The second type of stem, which is green and has whorled branches, resembles a horse's tail, thus giving the name to the plant. Its Latin name, Equisetum, derives in fact from the roots equus, meaning horse, and seta, meaning bristle.
Horsetail grows in Europe, Asia, Middle East and North America. Its silica content makes a natural abrasive, thus horsetail was used already in ancient times for cleaning or polishing metal. It was also sold in powder form to clean cooking utensils and delicate handicrafts.
Peasants used it as a substitute of meat and fish: the young shoots were boiled and then fried, or steeped in vinegar for later consumption.
The medicinal properties of horsetail were known since ancient times, and the Roman physician Galen recommended this bitter and astringent herb to heal wounds and treat dysentery and stomach ulcer.
Since the XVI century, horsetail was used as a diuretic and to treat kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Its powder was mixed to food to treat tuberculosis.
The healing properties of horsetail are connected to its high silica content. Silicon helps to fix calcium, and if the body stores more quantity of this mineral, it is able to form stronger bones and tendons. Thus horsetail supplements increase mineral absorption and help treating rickets and osteoporosis.
Silicon plays an important role in building, strengthening and repairing connective tissue, cartilage and blood vessel walls, this is why horsetail supplements are also used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, arthrosis, connective tissue diseases, and to accelerate the healing of wounds.
The properties of silica are connected in horsetail to equisetin, a triterpenoid present in the stems which improves the absorption of the active ingredients of the plant and seems to stimulate suprarenal activity and the biochemical processes involved in the use of silicates.
Due to the presence of flavonoids (isoquercetin and kaempferol) and mineral ions, horsetail has a diuretic action.
Horsetail is used to treat inflammation of blood vessels and joints, connective tissue diseases, hematuria, poor diuresis connected to electrolyte imbalance, mineral deficiency and poor calcium absorption.
Horsetail can be poisonous to animals, especially if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms of weakness, staggering, nervousness and muscular weakness were observed in poisoned horses, causing in some cases the death of young animals. In humans, horsetail may lower the levels of potassium, thiamin and vitamin B1 in the body. Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding should not take horsetail.
DIURETIC HERBAL TEA
1 teaspoon for each cup. Boil for 2 minutes. Drink 2-3 cups per day sweetened with some honey.
HORSETAIL FIRMING CREAM
1 capsule 3 times a day during meals
by Dr. Ernesto Riva