Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Horsetail, sometimes called Shave-grass or Shave-brush, is a primitive, non-flowering plant in the Equisetaceae family that grows across North America, Europe, and Northern Asia, often in wet or damp gravely areas, such as by roadsides and railroads. This plant grows from a creeping root-stalk, reaching up to two feet in height. It coexisted at the time of the dinosaurs and was a descendant of huge trees that lived in the Paleozoic era (375-600 million years ago). It has no true leaves, just whorled jointed stems from which tiny scale leaves grow. The tapering stems are either brown and fertile, containing upright cones that bear spores, or green and infertile. The plant should be collected in the early summer and hung to dry.

Parts Used
Stems and leaves

Medicinal Uses
Horsetail functions as an alterative, diaphoretic, hemostatic, diuretic, and lithotriptic herb. It’s high in silica, minerals and salts that enrich the blood, strengthening the eyes, hair, skin, and nails. The silica content of horsetail promotes regeneration, elasticity, and strengthens the connective tissues of the joints and muscles, helping to treat arthritis, rheumatism, and recovery from injuries. In addition, it supplies nutrients to bone tissue, helping to speed the recovery of broken bones. It also has homeostatic, astringent properties that can help stop minor internal bleeding of the intestines and stomach, genitourinary disorders, and although it’s a mild diuretic, it’s toning and astringent qualities help children stop bedwetting. It’s indicated for inflammation and benign enlargement of the prostate. It is an effective blood cleanser and useful for removing stones from the kidney, bladder, and glass bladder, and can help with discomfort and difficulty when urinating. It’s also considered to be a good general tonic for weakened systems and can be useful for excessive menstruation. Externally, it is a vulnerary herb, used to heal wounds. Horsetail can be somewhat irritating, so avoid prolonged use without supervision.

Folk Uses
Many native American tribes used horsetail to treat kidney and bladder issues. In Aryuvedic medicine, horsetail is used to clear Pitta and fiery emotions from the nerves and the mind. The stems can be eaten boiled or pickled, or dried and used in teas. It’s used in natural dyeing to produce a yellow color, and the stems were used in both North America and Mexico to scour pots and polish hardwood and brass. In Russia, it is combined with vodka to make Nastoika, used to treat dropsy and poor circulation.

Flavor Profile and Energetics
Bitter, sweet, cooling, pungent, reduces Pitta and Kapha, increases Vatta.

1-2 teaspoon of dried herb per cup of boiling water, infused for 15-20 minutes, taken three times a day, or 2-4ml of tincture taken three times a day. Externally, it should be made into a powder or a compress for old injuries, bleeding and putrid wounds, and ulcers can be helpful for both humans and their pets. As a bath, 3.5 ounces steeped in hot water for an hour, and then added to a bath.

For bone and muscle injuries, use with boneset, comfrey, gelatin, turmeric, and gotu kola. For urinary troubles, it combines well in a tincture of 1:4:2 horsetail, couch grass, and cornsilk. For prostate trouble, combine with hydrangea. As horsetail tends to break down B vitamins, it should be taken with B vitamin supplements if using for prolonged periods of time.

Individuals with severe edema should avoid.

(s) 1, 4, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17

A closer look at the joints of the Equisetum plant

A closer look at the joints of the Equisetum plant

Equisetum sprouting near a pond

Equisetum sprouting near a pond