Horsetail is the common name for perennial plants belonging to the genus Equisetum, from the family Equisetaceae. It probably got its name due to its likeness to a horse's tail. In fact, the name Equisetum is a combination of two Latin words: equus meaning 'horse' and seta meaning 'bristle', which could easily be attributed to its appearance. These plants are relatives of ferns and are the descendants of large plants that grew on earth around 270 million years ago. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as a 'living fossil', as it is the only living genus of the entire class Equisetopsida that was abundant on the Earth in the late Paleozoic era. It is also sometimes mistakenly called shave grass or mare's tail.
Equisetum arvense, or common horsetail, is the species from which extract is made. It has stems, but no leaves or flowers. Its brown, unbranched, and hollow stem is fertile during early spring. At this stage, it appears much like asparagus. The stems wither and die in the beginning of summer, making way for green, jointed stems that are barren. This is when the stems are gathered to make horsetail extract which has many medicinal uses. The hollow, sterile stem contains the highest quantities of silicon found in any herb, apart from many other minerals and elements. You can make this extract at home and store it in a glass jar. To prepare the extract, take some dried horsetail and place it in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir continuously with a wooden ladle till it gets pulverized into powder.
The medicinal value of horsetail extract is not unknown, the healing powers of which are due to silica, manganese, aluminum, potassium, saponins, phytosterols, phenolic acids, caffeic acids, alkaloids, tannins, and flavonoids present in the herb. The extract can be taken internally as a powder or tea, used in baths, or used as a poultice to heal wounds or skin infections. As a dietary supplement, it is a good source of calcium and silica. It is also used as an ingredient in soaps and other skin care products.
Following are some of the benefits of horsetail extracts:
- It has antiseptic, antibacterial, and astringent qualities which help the body fight infections.
- It is used for gargle treatment to treat gum and mouth infections, as well as throat inflammation.
- It is also helpful in healing stomach ulcers.
- The presence of flavonoids in horsetail makes it a strong diuretic.
- Its anti-inflammatory properties are known to provide relief from bladder and kidney disorders.
- It is known to cure bedwetting in children and incontinence in adults. It is also helpful in case of heavy menstruation.
- It is said to cure diarrhea, flu, and common colds. It is also effective in treating gout.
- It is beneficial for people suffering from cardiovascular problems.
- It has a beneficial effect in the metabolism of lipids. The silica content in the extract helps the body absorb and use calcium as well as reduce fatty deposits in arteries.
- The silica and silicic acid content in it strengthen weak connective tissues, fractures, as well as torn ligaments, as it promotes the absorption of calcium by the body which is important for tissue repair as well as bone formation.
- It is used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
- It is a good remedy for eye inflammations, like conjunctivitis.
- The silicon content present in this extract promotes collagen production, which is highly beneficial in maintaining the elasticity of skin. It is not only known to be an effective cure for premature aging, but also heals skin conditions like acne and eczema.
- It is useful in the treatment of edema or water retention.
- It is effective in healing or treating wounds, stopping nosebleeds, and preventing hemorrhages.
- It is known to reduce chronic swelling in the legs and relax muscle cramps.
Use for Hair Growth
Silica present in horsetail not only slows down hair loss in both men and women, but also encourages growth of new hair follicles. It increases blood circulation, nourishes hair follicles, and encourages hair growth. The amino acids and phytosterols in horsetail help strengthen the hair follicles while also reducing oil buildup on the scalp.
For hair growth, you can mix a few drops of the extract (i.e., horsetail powder mixed in hot water) into your shampoo, shake well, and store. Apply this mixture for 5-10 minutes after shampoo, before washing it off with water. Horsetail also has conditioning properties. To prepare the conditioner, you need to steep horsetail powder in boiled water for around 20 minutes. Whether you use it with your shampoo or as a conditioner, do not forget to massage your scalp well. Over a period of time, you will not only find your hair looking shiny and silky, but also notice improvement in hair quality.
Apart from the many health benefits and use as an effective remedy for hair loss, horsetail also revitalizes the skin and improves complexion. It is a good remedy for dry skin. Its soothing quality allows for better absorption of moisturizer and other herbs. One more use of horsetail extract is as an ingredient in diuretic medicines for which the silica from horsetail is utilized. Other than that, it is used in manufacturing toothpaste, paint thickeners, detergents, cleaners, food additives and flavors, and cosmetics.
It is generally a good idea to seek advice of your doctor before using horsetail extract, as using it over a long period of time or in large amounts can lead to certain side effects. There have been evidences that excessive intake of this herb can cause thiamine deficiency, electrolyte imbalance, and low potassium levels or hypokalemia when used with diuretics or laxatives. It can even lead to dermatitis or other skin irritations in case of topical application. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and children are advised to refrain from using it. It is a source of nicotine, so it must be taken with caution. If symptoms like abnormal pulse rate, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, fever, and cold are observed, seek your doctor's advice immediately.
Disclaimer:This article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.