Known as tsukushi 土筆 （つくし） or equisetum arvense, these are everywhere right now. The photo shows the equisetum in flower. The leaves are the feathery green bits that look like seaweed surrounding that the flower. The leaves are connected by a root system that is incredibly strong. Weeding it out is almost impossible, you leave behind tuber-bearing bits that will grow again.
Horsetails species grew to humongous heights in prehistoric times 270 million years ago in the Carboniferous period, tall as conifer trees!
Horsetail’s history and traditional uses:
In Japan, these were used as pot-scrubbing brushes.
“Its brittle, jointed stems are rich in healing silica, and since the time of the Ancient Greeks, horsetail has been used for wounds,” Ody continues.
This plant has been studied rather extensively, and is said to contain: silica, alkaloids, saponins, flavonoids, a bitter principle, minerals (including potassium, magnesium, and manganese), phytosterols, and tannins.
Modern standardized preparations typically reach for standardization of the silicic acid (at 10 percent) and silica [an oxide of silicon] (at 7 percent).
Today, as a dietary supplement, “horse-tail is often used as a source of minerals, especially silica and calcium, in a form that can be easily utilized by the body in the production of bone, skin and connective tissue,” says Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D., in his Herbal Tonic Therapies (1993).
Interestingly enough, “the single most bioactive and effective form of silicon available is found only in the plant horse-tail and its standardized concentrates,” states Mowrey.
The importance of horsetail’s silicon component
Tissue repair. Silicon can be found throughout the body, although most ingested, food-based silicic acid passes rapidly through the body, unutilized.
Connective tissues, such as the trachea, aorta, tendons, bone and skin, are rich in silicon, although more silicon is constantly needed for the growth and repair of all our tissues.
In point of fact, there is evidence suggesting that when tissues are injured, the various types of tissue have a `pecking order’ for obtaining silicon for repair; if bone, cartilage, collagen and glycosaminoglycans [GAGs] are all involved in the same injury, bone repair has precedence over the others,” explains Mowrey.
“This means that the repair of the other tissues may be significantly retarded during bone repair unless more silicon is supplied in the form of supplements,” Mowrey adds. “Therefore, the historical use of horsetail to speed recovery from fractures, torn ligaments and related injuries makes good sense.”
Horsetail also contains a full range of valuable nutrients that can affect all phases of tissue repair processes. Possible “synergy among the many nutrients found in horsetail cannot and should not be ruled out; in fact, positive interactions are highly probable,” concludes Mowrey.
Atherosclerosis, arthritis and aging. It has been noted that as the silicon content of arterial vessels (including the aorta) and the skin dermis drops as we age, our incidence of atherosclerosis increases. Mowrey suggests that “the use of horsetail to treat arthritis and related inflammatory conditions may be related to an ability to replace lost silicon; in this light, a relationship has been discovered between silicon, age and endocrine balance, and, thus, a decline in hormonal activity may be responsible for the change in silicon levels — silicon, or horsetail, therapy could help to counteract this mechanism.”
Prevention of senility. It has also been suggested that silicon may be involved in the prevention of certain forms of senility. One theory holds that some types of senility only occur when there is more aluminum in the bloodstream than silicon; as long as sufficient silicon is taken to favor silicon in the silicon/aluminum ratio, these senile changes do not occur.
Additional uses for horsetail
Traditionally, herbalists and naturopathic practitioners have used this plant for a variety of indications, including:
* Bronchitis and tuberculosis of the lungs;
* Kidney problems (including bleeding kidneys);
* Lung disorders (often combined with stinging nettle);
* Cracked feet and other skin problems;
* Barber’s itch;
* Hair loss (often with stinging nettle); and
* Bladder/urinary tract problems.