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Horsetail

Uses

Common names:
Bottlebrush Plant, Scouring Rush, Shave Grass
Botanical names:
Equisetum arvense

Parts Used & Where Grown

Horsetail is widely distributed throughout the temperate climate zones of the Northern Hemisphere, including Asia, North America, and Europe.1 Horsetail is a unique plant with two distinctive types of stems. One variety of stem grows early in spring and looks like asparagus, except for its brown color and spore-containing cones on top. The mature form of the herb, appearing in summer, has branched, thin, green, sterile stems and looks like a feathery tail.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
1 Star
Brittle Nails
Refer to label instructions
Anecdotal reports suggest that horsetail may help treat brittle nails, possibly due to its high content of silicic acid and silicates.

Anecdotal reports suggest that horsetail may be of some use in the treatment of brittle nails.3 This may be due to the high content of silicic acid and silicates in horsetail, which provide approximately 2 to 3% elemental silicon.

1 Star
Edema
Refer to label instructions
Horsetail has a diuretic action that accounts for its traditional use in reducing mild edema.

Horsetail has a diuretic (urine flow increasing) action that accounts for its traditional use in reducing mild edema. Although there is no clinical research that yet supports its use for people with edema, the German government has approved horsetail for this use. The volatile oils in juniper cause an increase in urine volume and in this way can theoretically lessen edema;4 however, there is no clinical research that yet supports its use for people with edema.

1 Star
Osteoarthritis
Refer to label instructions
Horsetail has anti-arthritis actions and is rich in silicon, a trace mineral that plays a role in making and maintaining connective tissue.

Horsetail is rich in silicon, a trace mineral that plays a role in making and maintaining connective tissue. Practitioners of traditional herbal medicine believe that the anti-arthritis action of horsetail is due largely to its silicon content. The efficacy of this herb for osteoarthritis has not yet been evaluated in controlled clinical trials.

1 Star
Osteoporosis
Refer to label instructions
Horsetail is a rich source of silicon, and preliminary research suggests that this trace mineral may help maintain bone mass.
Horsetail is a rich source of silicon, and preliminary research suggests that this trace mineral may help maintain bone mass. Effects of horsetail supplementation on bone mass have not been studied.
1 Star
Urinary Tract Infection
Refer to label instructions
Horsetail may relieve UTI symptoms by increasing urinary volume and helping to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis), birch (Betula spp.), couch grass (Agropyron repens), goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea), horsetail, Java tea (Orthosiphon stamineus), lovage (Levisticum officinale), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), spiny restharrow (Ononis spinosa), and nettle are approved in Germany as part of the therapy of people with UTIs. These herbs appear to work by increasing urinary volume and supposedly helping to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.5 Juniper is used in a similar fashion by many doctors. Generally, these plants are taken as tea.

1 Star
Wound Healing
Refer to label instructions
Horsetail can be used both internally and topically to decrease inflammation and promote wound healing.

Comfrey has anti-inflammatory properties that may decrease bruising when the herb is applied topically.6 Comfrey is also widely used in traditional medicine as a topical application to help heal wounds.7 Witch hazel can also be used topically to decrease inflammation and to stop bleeding.8 Native Americans used poultices of witch hazel leaves and bark to treat wounds, insect bites, and ulcers.9 Horsetail can be used both internally and topically to decrease inflammation and promote wound healing.10

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Reportedly first recommended by the Roman physician Galen, several cultures have employed horsetail as a folk remedy for kidney and bladder troubles, arthritis, bleeding ulcers, and tuberculosis. In addition, the topical use of horsetail was used traditionally to stop the bleeding of wounds and promote rapid healing. The use of this herb as an abrasive cleanser to scour pots or shave wood illustrates the origin of horsetail’s common names—scouring rush and shave grass.2

How It Works

Common names:
Bottlebrush Plant, Scouring Rush, Shave Grass
Botanical names:
Equisetum arvense

How It Works

Horsetail is rich in silicic acid and silicates, which provide approximately 2–3% elemental silicon. Potassium, aluminum, and manganese, along with fifteen different types of flavonoids, are also found in this herb. The presence of these flavonoids, as well as saponins, is believed to cause the diuretic effect, while the silicon content is thought to exert a connective tissue-strengthening and anti-arthritic action.11 Some experts have suggested the element silicon in horsetail is also a vital component for bone and cartilage formation.12 Anecdotal reports suggest that horsetail may be of some use in the treatment of brittle nails.13

How to Use It

The German Commission E monograph suggests up to 6 grams of the herb per day for internal use.14 A tincture can also be used at 2 teaspoons (10 ml) three times per day. A horsetail tea may be made by boiling 2–4 teaspoons of the herb in one cup (250 ml) of water for five minutes. Steep the tea for an additional 15 minutes, strain, and drink two or three times daily. The tea can also be used externally as well as internally.

Interactions

Common names:
Bottlebrush Plant, Scouring Rush, Shave Grass
Botanical names:
Equisetum arvense

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

The Canadian Health Protection Branch requires supplement manufacturers to document that their products do not contain the enzyme thiaminase, found in crude horsetail, which destroys the B vitamin thiamine. Since alcohol, temperature, and alkalinity neutralize this potentially harmful enzyme, tinctures, fluid extracts, or preparations of the herb subjected to 100°C temperatures during manufacturing are preferred for medicinal use.15

Interactions with Medicines

Certain medicines interact with this supplement.

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • none

Reduce Side Effects

  • none

Support Medicine

  • none

Reduces Effectiveness

  • none

Potential Negative Interaction

Explanation Required

  • none

The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Common names:
Bottlebrush Plant, Scouring Rush, Shave Grass
Botanical names:
Equisetum arvense

Side Effects

Horsetail is generally considered safe. The only concern would be that the correct species of horsetail is used. Equisetum palustre is another species of horsetail, which contains toxic alkaloids and is a well-known livestock poison. Due to a lack of clear safety information, horsetail should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

References

1. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 306–8.

2. Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1991, 219–21.

3. Hamon NW, Awang DVC. Horsetail. Canadian Pharm J 1992;Sep:399–401.

4. Tyler V. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 76–7 [review].

5. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 428.

6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council, 1998, 115–6.

7. Weiss R. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1988, 342.

8. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council, 1998, 231.

9. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 221.

10. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council, 1998, 150–1.

11. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 238–9.

12. Seaborn CD, Nielsen FH. Silicon: a nutritional beneficence for bones, brains and blood vessels? Nutr Today 1993;28:13–8.

13. Hamon NW, Awang DVC. Horsetail. Canadian Pharm J 1992;September:399–401.

14. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 150–1.

15. Fabre B, Geay B, Beaufils P. Thiaminase activity in Equisetum arvense and its extracts. Plant Med Phytother 1993;26:190–7.

16. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 102–3.

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