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
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
The aboveground parts of horsetail (fresh or dried) are used for medicinal
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
Horsetail also can be applied externally to treat the following
Wounds (especially poorly healing ones)
Horsetail is available in the following forms:
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
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
People with heart or kidney disorders should not use
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.
Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded
Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications;
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.
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