Horsetail, also known as Equisetum arvense in the scientific community, is a perennial herb that grows in sandy soil in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.1 It’s a non-flowering weed similar to the fern but with hollow stems and shoots. The plant has been used as a herbal remedy as far back as the ancient Greek and Roman times. During these times, it was used to treat tuberculosis, kidney problems, and ulcers as well as to stop bleeding. It is still used in herbal medicine today in both fresh and dried forms.2
Horsetail Uses and Health Benefits
Among horsetail benefits, it acts as a diuretic and contains antioxidant properties, which may inhibit cancer cell growth.2 Most notable of its medicinal properties, however, horsetail contains more silicon content than any other known plant species.1 Silicon is important to the body because it aids in binding protein molecules to promote healthy connective tissue formation. Collagen, for example, is partially made from silicon. Because of this, it’s widely believed to help in connective tissue disorders like sprains, torn ligaments, and brittle nails.1,2 Other horsetail uses include for:
- Osteoporosis - Osteoporosis refers to a condition characterized by thinning bones. Studies suggest that the silicon content in horsetail may help maintain bone density.
- Celiac Disease (Gluten Intolerance) - Horsetail’s anti-inflammatory properties may help celiac disease patients when taken orally.
- Fractures - Studies suggest that a horsetail diet may help in faster recovery from fractures.
- Kidney Stones - Among horsetail uses, it may help kidney stone patients thanks to its diuretic properties.
- Prostatitis - Horsetail may be used to treat enlargement of the prostate gland.
Horsetail Side Effects and Precautions
Talk to your doctor before taking a horsetail supplement as it may lead to horsetail side effects and interactions. Among horsetail side effects, it can break down the vitamin thiamine and lead to a thiamine deficiency when taken long-term. Do not take horsetail if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, suffer from alcoholism, have diabetes or gout, or have known deficiencies in thiamine or potassium.2,4
Tell your doctor about any prescription medications you’re taking before starting a horsetail herbal remedy. Due to its diuretic effects, the herb may interact with anticoagulants and medications like phenytoin taken for seizures and digoxin taken for congestive heart failure.5 It is not recommended to take horsetail for extended periods of time.