Equisetum arvense (Equisetaceae) / Horsetail is also known as shavegrass, bottlebrush, scouring rush, tin weed, toad pipes, joint grass and bull pipes.
Parts used: The herb consists of the top 80% of the vegetative stalk. It is harvested in early spring when the branches are less than 5 cm long. Usually this period is from mid May to early June. The branches should still be pointing up when it is harvested. Horsetail contains thiaminase – an enzyme that breaks down thiamin. For this reason horsetail should not be harvested later than mid June.
Habitat: Horsetail is a perennial that prefers to grow in moist soil and is often found near water. The plant is very adaptable and while it prefers partial shade it can grow in any area that receives any amount of sunlight. Native to our area, horsetail is found throughout the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. It is very difficult to get rid of once it has established itself in an area. Horsetail is a descendent of one of the world’s most ancient plants with its ancestors having been predominant four hundred million years ago. Its ancestors grew up to 40 feet or more in height.
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antilithic, antirheumatic, astringent, depurative, diuretic, hemostatic/styptic, lymphatic, prostate tonic, vascular tonic and vulnerary.
Uses: Horsetail has a very high silicon content. It is excellent to help repair bones, cartilage, and connective tissues. It can be used to help strengthen hair and nails. Used for inflammatory skin conditions, swollen lymph glands, conditions of the urinary tract. Those tissues in the body with a high silica content can benefit from horsetail – including the lungs. It is an excellent tonic for the blood vessels of the body.
Preparation/Dosage: Fresh fruit or dried herb infusion or tincture. While the fresh herb preparations are preferred the dried herb preparations are very effective. Can be used as a hair rinse, mouthwash, foot soak.
Safety Considerations: Not for long-term use during pregnancy. Horsetail can be somewhat tough on the kidneys and bladder and so should be combined with a strong demulcent to soothe the tissues and should not be used for periods longer than 6-8 weeks at a time.