Gold has always been a miner’s dream and an herb that indicates the presence of gold in its vicinity is Horsetail. However, Horsetail has other benefits especially those related to the human health. This article elaborates more about Horsetail and its many herbal properties.
What Is Horsetail?
Horsetail is botanically known as Equisetum arvense and is said to be the only living genus from the Equisetaceae family. This herb is a type of vascular plant that multiplies through its spores and not by its seeds. As can be guessed the herb resembles a horse’s tail and also looks like an asparagus shoot. The botanical name Equisetum is derived from the Latin word equus which means horse and seta which means bristle.
The herb is often referred as a living fossil as Horsetail along with other species belonging to the Equisetopsida family had dominated the Paleozoic era terrain one hundred million years ago. During those days some of the Horsetail species were 30 m tall and looked like trees. Today, the only close relative of this herb is the common fern. It is said that apart from Antarctica, Equisetum genus is found in all other parts of the world.
The medicinal properties of this herb were first discovered by the Greeks and the Romans. During ancient times, Horsetail was used to treat wounds and bleeding, and also to solve kidney related problems and tuberculosis.
There are many interesting facts associated with Horsetail. It is said that the discovery of Logarithms by John Napier was inspired by the pattern of spaced out nodes in Horsetail. The stems of the herb are coated with abrasive silicates and when dried are popularly used in cleaning metal utensils particularly those with tin surface. In Japan, horsetail is used to polish wooden crafts items in place of sandpaper.
Another interesting fact about Horsetail is that it can absorb dissolved gold into its structure. Therefore by analyzing this herb scientists can understand the gold concentration in a particular area. Horsetail also has 108 pairs of chromosomes with a very high diploid number (216) that is five times higher than the human diploid number.
Other common names by which the herb is known include the following – candock, scouring rush, Zinnkraut, Bottle brush, cola de caballo, field horsetail, horse willow, mokuzoku, paddock pipes, shave grass, pewterwort, mokjeok, toadpipe, etc.
This perennial herb is predominantly found in the northern hemisphere especially in regions like Europe, Asia and North America. Some plants from this genus need wet sandy soil to grow, some need wet clay soil and many are semi-aquatic in nature. However, all Horsetail plants grow deep underground and are near impossible to dig out. Many plants from this family have been declared noxious weeds.
The above ground parts of this herb in fresh and dried forms are used as herbal supplements.
How Does It Work?
The exact chemical composition of Horsetail is still not clear. However, it is said that the chemicals present in the herb offer anti-oxidant, diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Bone & Nails
The high concentration of silicon in Horsetail makes it an ideal herb for treating bone related ailments. The herb is used to strengthen bones and is used to treat osteoporosis. According to German Physician Rudolf Weiss, Horsetail can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Some herbalists even claim that the herb can be used by athletes to treat sprains, hamstring injuries and dislocated joints. The herb also can be used to treat internal damages in connective tissues and also increases the elasticity in newly formed ones. However, not many reliable scientific studies have been conducted to verify these benefits of the herb.
Historically, Horsetail has been used as a diuretic as it helps in flushing out excess body fluid by increasing the urine production. The herb is also used to treat kidney and bladder stones, urinary tract infections and issues of urine incontinence. The German Commission E has approved the usage of this herb in the treatment of edema.
Hair & Skin
Since the herb has the highest amount of silica it is considered an apt choice for hair and skin problems. It is said that the herb can improve the texture and strength of hair and skin tissues. Traditionally, in folk medicine Horsetail was extensively applied to the skin to treat minor wounds and burns. However, medical practitioners do not recommend using any herb to open wounds.
Scientific research has proved that the herb has anti-oxidant properties and therefore may inhibit cancer. Traditionally and in folk medicine, Horsetail has been used to treat the following – balding, jaundice, gout, heavy menstrual periods, frostbite, hepatitis, stomach ulcer, gonorrhea, aging etc.
An effective dosage of Horsetail extract may start from 300 mg and can go up to 600 mg taken thrice daily. Horsetail tea can be made by using 1.5 grams of dried extract of the herb. To treat osteoporosis, one clinical study used 270 mg of a drug twice daily containing horsetail and calcium.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
Overdose of the herb may lead to the following – low potassium levels, thiamine deficiency, nicotine toxicity, dermatitis, allergic reactions, fever, weight loss, cold hands & feet etc. Avoid the herb in the following categories of people – diabetes patients, those with kidney disorders, pregnant women, lactating mothers and children.
In the market, Horsetail is found in the following forms – dried herb, capsules and in liquid form. The plant is not considered entirely safe when taken by mouth. Horsetail contains a chemical called thiaminase that may lead to thiamine deficiency in humans.
However, some of the commercial products available in the market are labeled ‘thiaminase free’. There are different varieties of Horsetail found in different parts of the world, such as – field horsetail, rough horsetail, dwarf horsetail, branched horsetail, variegated horsetail, giant horsetail etc. It is recommended to take the opinion of a qualified medical practitioner before going ahead with Horsetail supplementation.
Interactions With Drugs
Horsetail may interact with the following – diuretic drugs, steroids and laxative drugs, dogoxin, Nicotine, stimulant drugs, anti-gout agents, diabetes medications etc.