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Table of Contents > Herbs > Horsetail
Botanical Name:  Equisetum arvense
Common Names:  scouring rush, shave grass
Plant Description
Parts Used
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Available Forms
How to Take It
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research


Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), an herbal remedy dating back to at least ancient Roman and Greek medicine, was used traditionally to stop bleeding, heal ulcers and wounds, and treat tuberculosis and kidney problems. The name Equisetum is derived from the Latin roots equus, meaning "horse" and seta, meaning "bristle."

Today, horsetail continues to have medicinal value. The plant's stems are rich in silica and silicic acids, which help mend broken bones and form collagen, an important protein found in connective tissue, skin, bone, cartilage, and ligaments. Horsetail is also used to treat infections of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder stones, and as topical therapy for burns and wounds.

Plant Description

Horsetail is a descendent of huge, tree-like plants that thrived 400 million years ago during the Paleozoic era. A close relative of the fern, horsetail is a non-flowering weed found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America. The plant is a perennial (returns each year) with hollow stems and shoots that look like asparagus. As the plant dries, silica crystals that form in the stems and branches give the plant a scratching effect, thus accounting for its historic use in polishing metal, particularly pewter.

Parts Used

The aboveground parts of horsetail (fresh or dried) are used for medicinal purposes.

Medicinal Uses and Indications

Horsetail has not been extensively studied people, but professional herbalists recognize that the herb has diuretic (promotes the excretion of urine) properties that may be useful for the following health problems:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones

Horsetail also can be applied externally to treat the following conditions:

  • Burns (first-degree)
  • Fractures
  • Rheumatic conditions
  • Sprains
  • Wounds (especially poorly healing ones)

Available Forms

Horsetail is available in the following forms:

  • Dried herb
  • Liquid preparations

Horsetail preparations should be stored in well-sealed containers to ensure protection from light.

How to Take It

Adequate fluid should be consumed when taking horsetail preparations orally.

A tea is prepared by pouring boiled water over 2 to 3 g horsetail herb, boiling for five minutes, and then straining after 10 to 15 minutes. Drink during the day between meals.

An infusion for internal use is made by adding 1.5 g of horsetail herb to 1 cup of boiling water. Let it steep for 30 to 40 minutes.


For fractures, adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore, if the child weighs 50 lb (20 to 25 kg), the appropriate dose of horsetail for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dosage.


  • Internal: 6 g per day
  • Herbal infusion: 4 oz three times per day
  • Tincture (1:5): 1 to 4 mL three times per day
  • External (compresses): 10 g of herb per 1 L water per day


The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

Horsetail remedies prepared from Equisetum arvense are generally considered safe. Another species of horsetail, however, called E. palustre is poisonous to horses. Although it is not known for certain that E. palustre would have the same effect on people, it should never be ingested. Most commercial preparations of horsetail are not contaminated with E. palustre; however, be sure to buy products made by an established company with a good reputation that distributes their products through trustworthy and knowledgeable establishments. Whenever possible, select products with guaranteed potency or standardized extracts.

Prolonged use of even the safe form of horsetail (E. arvense) is also not advised.

People with heart or kidney disorders should not use horsetail.

Possible Interactions

The diuretic effects of horsetail may enhance the toxic effects of digoxin, a medication used to treat irregular heart rhythms and, sometimes, congestive heart failure. For this reason, people taking digoxin should note take horsetail without first consulting a healthcare provider.

Supporting Research

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:208-211.

Bradley P, ed. British Herbal Compendium. Vol. I. Dorset (Great Britain): British Herbal Medicine Association; 1992: 92-94.

Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, Ore: Eclectic Medical; 1998:85.

Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. 4th ed. New York: The Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:219-220.

Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Christof J. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 2nd ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2000: 409-410.

White L, Mavor S. Kids, Herbs, Health. Loveland, Colo: Interweave Press; 1998:22, 33.

Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Enrico Liva, ND, RPh, Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; David Winston, Herbalist (January 2000), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., Washington, NJ. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000), Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

  Uses of this Herb
Kidney Stones
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Sprains and Strains
Urinary Tract Infection in Women
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