Also known as shavegrass, scouring rush, bottle brush, joint grass and pewterwort
Horsetail is in the horsetail family (imagine that..LOL It has it's own family). This particular species dates back millions of years (Paleozoic era-paleozoic actually means "ancient life" in greek). It is found in two forms, one in which resembles that of a horse's tail (this is the part of the plant that has been used to wash pots and pans which is where "scouring rush" comes from). The second form is the fertile portion of horsetail. It looks like a slender stem with joints (joint grass) an a spore bearing strobilus (kind of like a pine cone top). It is often found among the banks of rivers or other damp areas. It is best collected between the months of June and September.
Meridians/Organs affected: lungs, liver, gallbladder
Parts used: leaves, stems
Properties: analgesic, astringent, antiseptic, styptic, antimicrobial, tonic, diuretic, emmenogogue, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, alterative, antispasmodic
Used: tincture, tea and in capsule form
It has been shown in labs to be effective against strep and other fungi and bacteria that can infect wounds. Native Americans have used it for hundreds of years for skin injuries. Perhaps it is best known for its use as a diuretic. It aids the body in ridding itself of unwanted toxins n the system, kind of like an internal toilet flush if you will. Due to this it has been used to great effect for prostate and urinary tract infections.
Horsetail is high in silica-a mineral that is needed for hair, teeth, nails and bone structure. As such it has been used to help in the healing of bones and for osteoporosis. It facilitates calcium absorption and is high in vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and zinc.
Horsetail is an astringent herb so it tightens and tones certain tissues in the body. It has been used in this capacity for such things as diarrhea, hemorrhoids, dysentery, entenorrhagia (intestinal hemorrhaging) and anal fistula (the medical dictionary defines this as: an abnormal opening on the cutaneous surface near the anus, usually resulting from local abscess of the crypt and common in Crohn's disease).
Horsetail has also been used for an eyewash for inflammation of the eyes.
The Doctrine of Signatures would say that horsetail is good for joint inflammation and gout due to its multiple joints that appear on the plant. As such it has been used for rheumatoid like conditions.
Horsetail is also known as "bottle brush" which some think pertains to its ability to clean pots, pans, etc. Actually it has a wonderful effect on cleansing the body's channels helping to some extent to guard against arteriosclerosis (fat deposits in the arteries). Teas from horsetail have been taken for kidney and bladder complaints, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, stomach problems, menstrual irregularities, water retention, etc. The plants have been used in poultices to aid in the healing of cuts, sores and wounds. Their ashes (yes I did say ashes) have been applied to mouth sores (there is 80% more silica in the ash than in the fresh herb).
Contraindications: Do not use horsetail in combination with high blood pressure medication, digitalis, heparin, corticosteroids or lithium. If using it for extended periods of time (more than 1-2 weeks), one should add a thiamine supplement (B1) as horsetail can interfere with thiamine absorption (don't take thiamine and horsetail at the same time, spread them several hours apart).
Whatever the case may be, horsetail grows abundantly all around us if we just look close to our water supplies (generally where it can be found). It should be considered for an herbal kit when thinking of urinary aids or bone aids. It is such an amazing plant and so under utilized.
As with all my other posts I have some links below to some other information/items of interest with regard to horsetail. I also have recipes for using horsetail for a variety of medicinal purposes. Please email me personally through this site if you wish to have those. Be well and stay healthy!
You can also get horsetail grass/powder from the following companies (there are actually lots of companies but these are the two I use the most).
Mountain Rose Herbs - www.mountainroseherbs.com
Starwest Botanicals - www.starwest-botanicals.com