Horsetail, whose botanical name is Equisetum, is a herb that belongs to the family Equisetaceae. The name has been derived from the Latin words equus, that means 'horse' and seta meaning ' bristle'. This perennial herb got its name because it bears a close resemblance to a horse's tail. This is an ancient herb that grew around 270 million years ago, and is related to the family of ferns. Some other common names for the horsetail herb are bottlebrush, scouring rush, and mare's tail. There are around 15 species of horsetail, and the extract is usually taken from the common horsetail species also known as Equisetum arvense.
Equisetum arvense or common horsetail is a tuberous, hairy rhizome with an erect stem. It does not have any leaves or flowers. When the stem is fertile, it resembles an asparagus. It withers and begin to turn brown in early summer, giving way to fresh, green stems of horsetail. The withered stems, which are hollow, are gathered to make horsetail extract. There are numerous benefits, both medicinal and cosmetic, of this extract.
Horsetail contains more silicon than any other herb. It also has many antibacterial, antiseptic, and astringent properties. Since it has got healing powers for a myriad ailments, horsetail extract is quite popular as a herbal medicine. It can be consumed in the form of tea, used as poultice for soothing swellings and aches, and also used in baths.
- It is used as a dietary supplement, since it is a good source of silica and calcium, and is beneficial for the proper growth of bones and muscles.
- It is rich in antioxidants that help the body in fighting against infections and diseases.
- Gargling with horsetail extract helps fight tooth decay and other diseases of the gums and teeth.
- Consuming a cup of tea made with horsetail extract will soothe inflammation of the gastroesophageal tract and heal stomach ulcers. It is also an effective remedy for curing ailments like gout, diarrhea, common cold, and flu.
- It is replete with silica, which helps in tissue repair, torn ligaments, and healing fractures, and strengthens the connective tissues. It promotes the absorption of calcium, and is used to treat bone-related disorders like arthritis, rheumatism, and osteoporosis.
- Using horsetail extract is also an effective remedy to promote hair growth, as it contains various amino acids and phytosterols, which strengthen hair follicles. It also improves the circulation of blood in the scalp, stimulates hair follicles, and reduces the production of sebum in the scalp.
- It is also good for the skin, as it gives a healthy glow to the skin.
Contrasted to the many beneficial uses of horsetail extract, there are also a few side effects that can arise from over-consumption of it. These include nausea, abnormal pulse rate, weakness in the muscles, and fever. It can also cause an imbalance in the levels of electrolytes in the body and a deficiency of thiamine. In case of topical application on the skin, horsetail can cause many minor skin-related disorders, such as irritation, inflammation of the skin, and dermatitis. Since it also contains nicotine, it must not be taken with alcohol. Pregnant women and lactating mothers must avoid taking this herb, as it many cause harm to the child.
Though horsetail extract is used as a herbal remedy, it can also interact with certain medications and cause side effects. Before consuming horsetail, or any other herbal supplement, always consult your health care provider, who may prescribe the appropriate dose according to your requirement, or an alternative remedy.