Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb horsetail are Bottlebrush, Mare's Tail, Scouring Rush, Shave Grass, Pewterwort, Equisetum, Queue de Cheval, Dutch Rushes and Giant Horsetail.
Horsetail is said to contain the highest amount of silica, which is an important nutrient for healthy hair, skin, nails and connective tissues throughout the body. During the Carboniferous Period, Horsetail was a predominant plant, growing up to forty feet tall or more. Horsetail's botanical name, Equisetum, is derived from two Latin words, equus, meaning "horse" and setum, meaning "bristle," an obvious reference to the plant's brush-like appearance.
The folk names, Scouring Rush, Bottle Brush and Shave Grass, allude to this plant's utility as a very fine grade of sandpaper, and it has been used to file stone projectile points, polish wood and scour cookware. This plant also has a very high diploid number - 216 (108 pairs of chromosomes) - which is roughly 5 times greater than the human diploid number. Field horsetail is reported as very toxic to livestock. Animals poisoned by this plant are said to have "equisetosis", a phenomenon documented on several continents and throughout the world.
Horsetail is a perennial plant reaching from 12-24 inches in height. Plants have green stems which may be vegetative or reproductive. The plant reproduces by rhizomes and by spores. Reproductive uprights are long jointed shoots which are easily separated. Fruiting heads are small pine cone-like structures which contain many spores. Sterile stems have smaller joints with lateral branches in a whorled arrangement around the stem. Reduced, scale-like leaves are fused to form a tube-like, toothed sheath surrounding each joint of fertile and sterile stems (8 to 12 leaves per sheath).
The upper edge of the sheath is black. Sheaths are more prominent on fertile stems. On sterile stems, the sheaths are located above the branch whorls. The pinecone-like structure formed at the end of the fertile stem produces thousands of minute, pale green to yellowish spores. Dark brown to blackish, creeping rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) form an extensive system 5 feet below the ground. Rhizomes are forked and covered with a brown felt. Small tubers are produced along the rhizomes.
Field horsetail is a native species that can be found throughout the world. This species is most common in the temperate zones of North America, Europe and Russia.
Field horsetail thrives in many habitats and is just at home in wet, poorly drained areas of fields and grasslands; wet meadows; streams and other sites with high water tables as in well drained sites in farm fields, orchards and nursery crops, and in sites with sandy or gravelly soil such as along roadsides, railroad tracks and beaches. In general, horsetail appears most commonly in acidic and wet soil conditions.
The main mode of reproduction of field horsetail is asexual; conditions for the production of gametophytes from spores are limited and relatively rare .Field horsetail spreads from extensive rhizomes. Even short segments of broken rhizomes will sprout.Overwintering buds develop at the nodes of the rhizomes. The spores of field horsetail are equipped with elaters, which are long appendages that expand and contract with changes in humidity. Elaters function to dig the spore into the soil surface and to tangle spores together, thereby creating a larger propagule and increasing the probability that prothalli will be close enough to ensure fertilization. Elaters may also aid in wind dissemination. Spores released by the strobiliferous stems are dispersed by wind or water. The spores are thin-walled, short-lived, and quickly germinate under moist conditions. The spores germinate to form prothalli: tiny plants only a few cell layers thick that are usually either male or female, producing only antheridia or archegonia, respectively. Swimming sperm are released by the antheridia and require water for transport to the egg-containing archegonia. After fertilization takes place, the sporophytic generation (the identifiable large plant) develops in situ, growing out of the prothallus.
The most commonly used
parts of the plant are
fresh leaves, flowering tops,
branches and seeds for its commercial
and medicinal purposes.
Like ferns, field horsetail does not produce flowers or seeds.
Pests and Diseases
Horsetail is affected by diseases like stemcanker, crickets and other bark eating caterpillar like celostrena scabrator, rhinoceros beetle and arbela tetraonis. Infection by the root fungus Trichosporium vesiculosum is among the more serious diseases affecting Casuarinas.
Medicinal and Commercial Applications
• Horsetails clumps were normally used as scouring pads to facilitate the cleaning of iron cookware and hard pewter dishes.
• Some herbalist and folk healers suggest that athletes suffering from problems such as sprains and dislocated joints, and pulled hamstrings or torn ligament injuries could benefit from supplements of the horsetail herb in the diet.
• The texture, strength and tone of hard tissues such as the hair, the nails and the skin is also greatly improved by horsetail, at the same time the herb is very good at greatly strengthening the bones and the teeth of people.
• Problems such as minor edema can be treated by drinking an herbal tea made from the horsetail.
• Topical injuries of a minor nature can also be treated using the horsetail, a minor cut or bruise can be treated using some herbal horsetail powder from a capsule or a crushed tablet.
• Urinary problems of all types can also be treated using the horsetail herb, which is a reliable diuretic.
• Horsetail being a diuretic and an astringent is used in the treatment of all kinds of kidney and bladder conditions.
• It acts as a rapid remedy for the disorder called dropsy.
• Horsetail is used in healing of cuts and bruises as well as being able to stop the bleeding of wounds.
• The internal tissue damage in connective tissue is also repaired and corrected by the horsetail herbal remedies, which speeds up the rate of tissue repair, thereby promoting the strength and elasticity in the newly formed tissues.
• Symptoms caused by rheumatic and arthritic problems and various chest ailments are also treated by horsetail.
• Children affected by frequent urges to urinate, by bed wetting behaviours and incontinence for a long time can be treated using the horsetail as the astringent properties of the herb make it a very useful remedy to check such problems.
• The horsetail is also effective in treating such disorders which affect the functioning of the digestive tract; it is capable of healing inflammation and ulcers in the stomach.
• Horsetail based mouthwash and gargle can also be used for the treatment of problems such as mouth ulcers, it can be used to stanch bleeding gums and in the treatment of sore throats and other oral problems.
• It is also used in the manufacture of some kind of dye.
• Tubers of field horsetail are rich in starch and are eaten by wildlife. Native Americans consumed young fertile shoots.