Horsetail is a funny name for an herb, but don't underestimate this plant that has been used at least since ancient Greek and Roman times. There are many benefits of horsetail, and it really shines as a hair, skin, and nail strengthener.
Several cultures have also used horsetail as food because the shoots are tender and highly nutritious.
Here's more about this very unique herb and the health benefits it has.
What Is Horsetail?
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is a very interesting plant. It comes from an old, old plant family that some experts believe has been on earth for around 300 million years.
Instead of spreading by seed like most plants, horsetail reproduces through spores and underground roots. In fact, it's not a plant you'd want in your garden because it can quickly become invasive in the right conditions (much like bamboo).
Native to North America, Asia, and Europe, horsetail is at home in wetlands and other low-lying, moist environments. The plants are perennials and can be harvested as young shoots for food. The aerial parts are collected later to be used as an herb.
Horsetail has been highly valued by the Native Americans as well as practitioners of traditional and herbal medicine in Europe and Asia. It goes by many other names, including bottlebrush, shavegrass, scouring rush, horse willow, and joint grass.
One of the most notable things about horsetail is that it contains an exceptionally high amount of silica. (1)
Top Benefits of Horsetail
Good for Your Skin + Wound-Healing Power
Horsetail is beneficial for skin because of its high silica content. Silica is a combination of silicon and oxygen. It promotes collagen production in your body, which is great news for your skin. (2)
Collagen is the most abundant protein found in skin and a very important one. It helps keep your skin plump, firm, and thick- meaning it slows signs of aging like wrinkles. Collagen is also very important for wound-healing and maintaining healthy-looking skin.
Because collagen production natural declines as you age, adding in something like silica can be very helpful.
Studies have shown that horsetail specifically can help wounds to heal more quickly and boosts skin regeneration. It has also historically been used to treat burns, and silica itself can improve skin texture. (3)(4)
Supports Healthy Nails and Hair
Silica is important for your nails and hair as well as your skin. It helps keep your nails hard and strengthens hair strands to prevent breakage. It may even boost hair growth. (5)
This means that horsetail is an excellent tonic for nails and hair. You can take it internally to provide your body with silica, or apply it directly to your hair/nails.
Supports Bone Health & May Aid Joint Problems
The benefits of horsetail for bones and joints have long been known, and modern research is finally catching up. In fact, one of its common names for horsetail is 'joint grass' because of how it was used.
Once again, the support for bones and joints comes largely from the high silica content of horsetail. This is because silicon plays a big role in bone formation and maintenance. It is one component of bones and also improves the absorption and use of calcium, another bone strengthener. (8)
This is likely why horsetail is showing potential benefits for improving osteoporosis. (9)
Additionally, horsetail has anti-inflammatory properties that may help with joint issues like arthritis. It also contains something known as kynurenic acid (KYNA), which has pain-relieving properties and could be a useful supplement for those with rheumatoid arthritis. (10)(11)
Supports Kidney and Bladder Health
Another traditional use for horsetail is as a natural diuretic, which means it increases urination. This has the effect of helping your kidneys to flush out toxins and can also help with excess water retention.
Significantly, one study found that a horsetail preparation was just as efficient as a conventional diuretic medication but did not cause major electrolyte loss, which is something that can happen with many diuretics. This is probably because it contains nutrients that prevent electrolyte depletion. (12)
Has Antioxidant & Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Along with silica and other nutrients, horsetail is rich in antioxidants known as phenolic compounds. This particular group of antioxidants has many known benefits, including inhibiting oxidative damage to cells. (13)
In part because of the antioxidants, horsetail also has anti-inflammatory activity. This is one of the reasons it has potential to help with joint problems. (14)
Has Antifungal Properties
There are some powerful benefits of horsetail against certain types of fungi, although it's most often used in a way you might not expect: farming and gardening. (15)
For example, horsetail tea can be used as a natural fungicide for orchards and vegetable gardens to fight pathogens that cause powdery mildew, black spot, and other fungal problems. It also contains minerals (like magnesium) that plants benefit from.
Some people have also reported success with using horsetail for skin and nail fungal problems.
How to Use Horsetail
If you live in an area where horsetail grows naturally, you may be able to harvest some from the wild to make potent remedies. Otherwise, dried horsetail is the best option and can be just as effective.
One of the most traditional ways to use horsetail is as a tea. You can simply take 2-3 teaspoons of the dried herb and steep it in hot water for 5-10 minutes before straining. Or steep much longer to make an herbal infusion.
If you want to get the benefits of taking the whole herb, try horsetail in a supplement for hair, skin, and nails.
You may also find it in a skin balm for damaged skin. A final option is to take it in tincture form. Keep in mind that horsetail tea and tincture can also be used externally- as a hair rinse, for example.
If you are harvesting horsetail fresh from the wild, be careful with your identification, since not all species have the same benefits. Also, it can be toxic to livestock if eaten in large quantities.
Horsetail also potentially contains an enzyme that breaks down thiamine (vitamin B1). If you have a thiamine deficiency, this may not be a good herb to take.
Horsetail is not recommended for those who are pregnant or nursing.
Can You Benefit from Horsetail?
Horsetail has one of the highest silica contents out of all plant life, which makes it exceptionally good for boosting skin, hair, and nail health. You can also use it for a variety of other reasons, including out in your garden.
It might be time to discover more about this ancient herb!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.