Horsetail, scientifically named as Equisetum arvense is an herb from the Equisetaceae family. Horsetail is known for its excellent medicinal properties. Primarily horsetail is used for improving bone, skin, hair health. Let us explore more about the uses, health benefits and also side effects of horsetail.
Horsetail was used traditionally as a medicinal herb for treating osteoporosis, tuberculosis and various kidney problems. It was even used as a diuretic to offer you relief from fluid retention and also to stop bleeding and wound healing.
This perennial plant, is also considered as a weed at times, spreads quickly, and can invade a garden, or other moist habits rapidly. Horsetail plant has a hollow and pointed stem and scaly leaves, and it grows to 12 inches in height approximately.
Horsetail has been in use since ancient Roman and Greek times and is believed to have lots of medicinal properties and used as an excellent herbal remedy.(1) The common or field horsetail is a perennial fern belonging to the genus Equisetaceae.(2,3 ) Horsetail wildly grows in Northern Europe and America, and also in other moist places having temperate climates. This perennial fern grows from spring to fall.(1,3)
There are several beneficial compounds present in the horsetail plant that confer its multiple health-promoting effects. Some of these compounds include antioxidants and silica.(1,3)
Antioxidants are molecules that are known to fight free radicals in your body for preventing cell damage. Silica is a compound that is comprised of oxygen and silicon. It is thought to be responsible for the exclusive benefits of horsetail for skin, hair, nails, and bones.(2,3)
Horsetail is generally consumed in the tea form. You can make the horsetail tea by steeping the dried herb in hot water. However, this is also available in the tincture and capsule form.
Uses Of Horsetail:
Traditional Or Ethnobotanical Uses Of Horsetail:
Traditionally, horsetail has been used as an antitubercular drug, diuretic, and also in treating genitourinary and respiratory disorders, bleeding ulcers, and arthritis. It contains a high amount of silica that has an abrasive nature and this is the reason why horsetail has been used for cleaning sand wood, dishes, and polish metal. Horsetail has also been used in cosmetics and also as an astringent for stopping bleeding and stimulating the healing of wounds.
Miscellaneous Uses Of Horsetail:
Horsetail might exert slight activity, though more studies are required to prove this. The historical data that reports the use of horsetail for treating tuberculosis, urological disorders, or to enhance wound healing lacks clinical evidence.
However, you might find horsetail products in the market for skin, nail, and hair remedies. Some products that claim to manage kidney and urinary conditions.(2)
Health Benefits Of Horsetail:
Bone Health Benefits of Horsetail:
Research has suggested that horsetail might help in bone healing. Through bone metabolism, osteoclasts and osteoblasts, or the bone cells continuously remodel your bones for avoiding imbalances that can cause brittle bones. Bone synthesis is handled by osteoblast cells, while the osteoclast cells break down through resorption.
According to some test-tube studies, it is found that horsetail might inhibit osteoclasts and stimulate osteoblasts. This shows that it is useful in treating bone diseases, such as osteoporosis that is characterized by overly active osteoclasts resulting in fragile bones.(1,4)
Similar results were found in a rat study that determined that a regular dose of 55 mg horsetail extract per pound of the body weight improved bone density significantly as compared with a control group.
Researchers believe that the high silica content found in horsetail makes the horsetail’s bone-remodeling effect. About 25% of its dry weight is silica, and no other plant boasts such a high concentration of this mineral.(1,4)
Silica, which is also found in bones, improves bone density, bone formation, and the consistency of bone and cartilage tissue by enhancing collagen synthesis and by improving the absorption and the utility of calcium.(5,6)
Horsetail Is Beneficial For Wound Healing:
The horsetail ointment when applied topically can promote wound healing.
One 10-days study in 108 postpartum women who underwent an episiotomy during their labor (a surgical cut for facilitating childbirth), showed that application of an ointment with 3% horsetail extract has promoted wound healing in them and also helped them relieve pain.(7)
The same study also determined that wound swelling, redness, and discharge significantly improved compared with the controlled group. These positive effects of horsetail are due to the silica content present in the plant.
In rat studies, rats those who were treated with ointments containing 5%-10% of horsetail extract showed a wound closure ration of 95% to 99% and also greater skin regeneration as compared with the control group.
Nail Health Benefits of Horsetail:
Horsetail extract might also be used in nail polish to manage nail psoriasis. This nail psoriasis is a skin condition that causes nail deformities.
A study determined that signs of nail psoriasis can be decreased by using a nail lacquer that comprised of a mixture of horsetail extract along with other nail-hardening agents.(8,9)
However, research on the direct effect of horsetail on nail health is still required to verify the benefits.
Horsetail Acts As A Natural Diuretics:
Diuretics are substances known to increase the excretion of urine from the body. Horsetail has got a diuretic effect and it is thus popularly in folk medicine for this purpose.(10)
A study in 36 healthy men had determined that taking a dose of 900 mg of dried horsetail extract daily in capsule form had a more potent diuretic effect than a classic diuretic drug. This is because of the plant’s high concentration of antioxidants and mineral salts.(11)
But, again we must mention that though these results are promising, now research is limited.
Horsetail Works As A Pain Relief:
Horsetail ointment (3%) is found to reduce pain in a study with 108 healthy women just after giving birth to their child. Half of these women used horsetail ointment on their surgical wounds for 10 days continuously.
No other studies have replicated these findings. Until any other research is done, the pain-reducing effects of horsetail in humans will remain unknown. It is found that horsetail extract reduced inflammation and pain in mice.
Hair Health Benefits of Horsetail:
Research has suggested that horsetail might benefit your hair. This is because of the antioxidant and silicon content present in it.
First, antioxidants found in horsetail help in reducing micro-inflammation and the aging of hair fibers that are caused by free radicals. Second thing is, a higher content of silicon in hair fibers results in a lower rate of hair loss and also an increased brightness.(12,13,14)
A 3-month study in women having self-perceived hair thinning determined that daily taking 2 capsules containing dried horsetail and other essential ingredients increased hair strength, hair growth as compared with the control group.(15)
In other studies that also tested the effect of different blends containing horsetail-derived silica, similar results were obtained.
However, we must mention that most studies focus on a mixture of multiple hair growth compounds. So, research on the effects of horsetail alone should be conducted to know the benefits of the plant for hair health.
Horsetail Might Promote Skin health:
Evidence does not support the benefits of horsetail for treating skin issues. However, some researchers think it holds promising results.
Acne and eczema have several causes, however, inflammation is common to both the skin issues. Acne is usually caused by bacterial infections. Inflammation in eczema results in itchiness, alters the skin barrier, and also makes your skin more prone to infections
Horsetail might be used to treat both eczema and acne. In Japan, horsetail is used commonly in various cosmetic products like lotion, cream, or ointment. Cell studies have confirmed that essential oils have antibacterial properties and its phenolic compounds help in reducing inflammation. Horsetail could be used potentially as a skin therapy product.
Additionally, horsetail is also thought to have anti-aging and skin toning properties. Silicon is present richly in horsetail, and silicon is a component of collagen, which is required for keeping your skin smooth and elastic. Horsetail is thus used in various skincare products and cosmetics for promoting collagen growth in your skin.
Other Health Benefits Of Horsetail:
Some other potential health benefits of horsetail include the following.
Horsetail essential oil tends to have potent activity against microbes like fungi and bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger.
Test-tube studies have shown that horsetail extract might inhibit lymphocytes, which are the main type of defense cells that are involved in inflammatory immune disease.
Research has shown that horsetail is packed with phenolic compounds or a group of potent antioxidants that helps in inhibiting oxidative damage to cellular membranes.
Test-tube and animal studies have suggested that horsetail extract might help in lowering the levels of blood sugar and also in regenerating the damaged pancreatic tissue.
Side Effects Of Horsetail:
Horsetail is not approved by the FDA or the Food and Drug Administration and it should be avoided by breastfeeding and pregnant women. Though research in rats has suggested that horsetail is not toxic, human studies are required.(16)
Talking about the side effects of horsetail, its use might cause drug-herb interaction when it is consumed along with anti-retroviral drugs, which are prescribed for HIV treatment.(17)
It is also essential to note that you might experience a drug-herb interaction if you take horsetail alongside any diabetic drugs or diuretics.
In addition to this, horsetail also contains nicotine in it and you should avoid taking it if you have nicotine allergy or if you are willing to quit smoking.
We would also mention that there has been a case of a 56-year- old woman who presented horsetail-tea-induced inflammation of the pancreas or pancreatitis. Her symptoms started to cease when she stopped drinking the tea.(18)
It is also reported that horsetail has a thiaminase activity. Thiaminase is an enzyme known to break down thiamine, or vitamin B1. So, long-term use of horsetail by people with low thiamine levels (such as those with alcohol abuse disorder), might cause Vitamin B1 deficiencies.(19)
Horsetail has been widely used as an herbal remedy for centuries. It is mostly used for improving bone, skin, nail, and hair health. You can take horsetail in the form of tea, tinctures, or capsules. However, we must mention that horsetail is not approved by the FDA and you should avoid taking it if you are a pregnant or breastfeeding woman. Moreover, individuals having low levels of Vitamin B1 and those people who take antiretroviral drugs should also avoid taking horsetail.
NOTE: Always consult with your doctor before using horsetail as an herbal remedy for treating any of your health conditions.