Horsetail in herbal medicine: the plant, what it is used for, uses, contraindications. Dr. Comollo, graduate in herbal techniques, will illustrate for you about the Horsetail benefits, properties, scientific curiosities.
Some plants, although they have very ancient traditions, have remained the exclusive domain of folk medicine and among these is horsetail. Used in antiquity for its diuretic and haemostatic action, only at the beginning of our century it was valued and taken into consideration, both from a clinical and pharmacological point of view, thus confirming its triple diuretic-hemostatic-remineralizing action (2).
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is a perennial herbaceous plant, without leaves or flowers, 20-60 cm tall (but can even reach 2 meters), which grows in damp, siliceous and clayey places, throughout Europe , Asia, Africa, North America. It is very common in France and the fact that it is trampled every day has made it take little account of it in the last 20-30 years.
“Equisetum” comes from the Latin equus (horse) and silk (bristle, mane). Horsetail looks like a horsetail. Also arvense comes from the Latin “arva” = fields. Equisetum arvense is the horse’s tail of the fields. Parts used in phytotherapy: the stems or the whole plant. As an herbalist, I add that the ponytail has fertile stems that sprout in spring and sterile stems that appear in May. The latter are used, harvested in the summer, either fresh or dried in the sun or baked.
Horsetail is one of the most precious plants that we should remember most often for asthenic, demineralized, atherosclerotic, plethoric, common sick, sick affected by degenerative diseases (1).
Properties: diuretic; hemostatic, astringent; mineralizing; hematopoietic; encourages menstruation; antidegenerativo; healing (1).
Equisetum is considered by the German E Commission, for internal use, as a mild diuretic to be used for the treatment of static and post-traumatic edema, as well as for “diluent therapy” in cases of inflammatory and infectious states of the lower urinary tract, kidney and treatment of the gravel; for external use it is recommended to promote wound healing (3) and according to Dr. Valnet for canker sores and hair loss (1).
Horsetail what it contains
The horsetail (aerial parts) contains flavonoids (mainly isoquercitin), organic acids (eg ascorbic, cinnamic and dicaffeicotartaric), mineral salts (18-20%, abundant potassium salts), saponins and traces of alkaloids. The plant is also rich in silica (5-6%).
The aerial parts of the horsetail are the highest vegetable source of silica, such as silicic acid and water-soluble silicates. The “horsetail silica” is predominantly of an organo-colloidal nature, because it is bound to proteins, lipids and starches: for these reasons this complex is called “organ-soluble” also due to its easy absorbability in the tissues. However, it is also quantitatively interesting the presence of other mineral salts, such as those of potassium (1.8%), calcium (from 1% and up to 2.4%, depending on the calcareous content of the collection sites), magnesium , phosphorus, sulfur. The remineralizing and diuretic properties of the drug are attributed to these substances (4).
Horsetail benefits: how to take it
Horsetail can be taken: the fresh juice, the decoction of the fresh plant or powder, the powder (in cachet, capsules or as it is), the integral solution of fresh plant, the fluid extract, the mother tincture. Some considerations on this:
- for the Chiereghin (4) the silica of the horsetail seems to have a better absorption in an acid environment and is greater in the concentrated aqueous extracts, in the nebulized or in the total concentrates, rather than in the Mother Tincture, because the reduced water content of this galenic form reduces the possibility of a significant presence of the various mineral salts which are predominantly water-soluble. However, recently (Fabre, Geay, Beaufils, 1993) the thiaminic activity of horsetail extracts has been highlighted. This activity consists of the enzymatic cleavage of thiamine in a pyrimidine derivative and in a thiazole. Therefore, to avoid this inconvenience, the use of horsetail should not be continued for long periods (treatment should normally not exceed 15 days). Equally careful should be observed for people with poor kidney function (poor elimination, calculosis), in order to avoid dangerous salt accumulations, in particular potassic ones. Horsetail today is still considered safe, as long as it is not used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Over 45-50 years, however, its use requires caution, limited use and appropriate periods of suspension (4).
- the Canadian health Protection Branch requires that the thiaminase enzyme capable of destroying vit B (thiamine) is not present in the preparations: alcohol, high temperature and alkalinity neutralize this enzyme and therefore mother tincture or galenic preparations that subject the plant to heat will be the preferential galenic forms in therapeutic use (2). The literature does not report secondary and toxic effects at therapeutic doses, unless there is a particular individual sensitivity. As with all plants with diuretic action, pay attention to the simultaneous intake of diuretic drugs (summation of effect) (2). Regarding the doses of intake of the Horsetail Mother Tincture: Campanini (2) recommends 30-50 drops three times a day.
Horsetail benefits for external use
In cosmetics, horsetail is widely used for the production of anti-cellulite and anti-wrinkle creams, against skin aging and for the production of peeling products. The richness of mineralizing substances that stimulate the production of collagen makes the horsetail extract very suitable to keep the tissues toned and the skin elastic. In case of weak and very fine hair it can be a good idea to do the last rinse of the wash with a concentrated horsetail infusion obtained with about ten stems per half liter of water: it is an excellent remineralizing remedy that gives more body to the hair (5).
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- J. Valnet, “Fitoterapia”
- E. Campanini, “Fitoterapia”
- Capasso, “Fitoterapia”
- P. Chiereghin, “Fitoterapia per il farmacista”
- F. Fiorenzuoli et al. “Dimagrire con le erbe”