Horsetail, a relative of the fern, is a perennial herb whose relatives populated the forests over 270 million years ago. Modern-day horsetail has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years, dating back to the ancient Romans and Greeks. Its scientific name, Equisetum arvense, is derived from the Latin words equus meaning “horse” and “seta” meaning bristle. Over the years, horsetail has been used for treating wounds, digestive disorders, nosebleeds and infections. Currently, it is most often used as a diuretic and for treating osteoporosis, kidney and bladder problems.
Appearance and Forms
Horsetail is also known by other names, including bottle brush, paddock pipes, toadpipe and pewterwort. It has no flowers or leaves and grows in two stages, first producing an asparagus-like stalk which fills in with the bristly stems that are harvested for medicinal use. Horsetail has a reedy exterior and contains a high amount of silica, which made it an effective natural abrasive. English dairy maids used it to scour their milk pails. There are 20 species of horsetail, but only one is used for medicinally. Horsetail extract is available as a powder, tablets, capsules and tincture. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends using one to four ml of a 1:5 tincture three times per day or 300 milligrams of standardized extract three times daily. It can also be taken in a tea or used in a compress.