Horsetails are the ultimate descendants of a group of plants that proliferated several hundred million years ago (in the primary era).
They are mainly present in the temperate and cold regions of the Northern Hemisphere but some giant species also exist in certain temperate or warm regions of South America and Central America (Equisetum giganteum, Equisetum myriochaetum).
They are perennial plants by their underground parts and like wet or marshy areas.
When there is no evidence of water on the surface their presence signals the proximity of a water table close to the surface of the ground or of an underground water current.
Some horsetails introduced into Australia and South Africa are considered invasive because horsetails are generally very resistant to mechanical pulling or herbicides; in fact, they survive from perennial underground parts sometimes located several meters deep.
Horsetails show archaic botanical characteristics: no flowers, no leaves, no seeds, reproduction by spores (such as mosses, algae or ferns).
The main medicinal species in Europe is the horsetail Equisetum arvense.
Field horsetail is a medium-sized species reaching 30 to 40 cm in height which presents two types of branches:
- at the end of winter or in spring, small fertile non-chlorophyllian branches which ensure the dispersal of the plant by spores and which disappear quite quickly,
- in summer the more developed and persistent chlorophyllian branches characteristic of this plant: these are hollow stems, with angles (grooved) and with nodes from which a whorl of twigs of filiform leaves emerge which give it the appearance of a ponytail (hence the different common names: ponytail or fox tail, horsetail , cola de caballo in Spanish).
Not all horsetails have a vegetative cycle similar to that of field horsetail, some are perennial when the winter is not cold, their sporangia then develop at the ends of certain stems, others have no well-developed thread-like leaves but only green stems often unbranched.
Botanists sometimes change the classification of Equisetum, the number of species and the existence of subgenera.
All traditional medicines (European, Asian or American) use horsetails, however, currently, they are only the subject of dispersed pharmacological research.
The aerial and chlorophyllian parts of field horsetail are medicinal and are part of many pharmacopoeia.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
The aerial and chlorophyllian parts of the field horsetail Equisetum arvense contain MANY MINERAL ELEMENTS:
- SILICON in the form of silica (silicon oxide) mainly solid (chalcedony) but also in soluble form (silicic acid, silicates soluble in water).
The percentage of silicon can vary according to the parts of the plant but is high (between 2.5 and 4% of the dry plant).
Silica mechanically strengthens the rather fragile structures of horsetail and discourages grazers. Siliceous components damage the mucous membranes and teeth of grazers.
- CALCIUM (approximately 2 to 3% of the dry weight) followed by a smaller quantity of manganese, chlorine, sulfur and phosphorus.
- POTASSIUM in very variable but sometimes present in large quantity (1 to 10% of the dry weight) probably depending on the importance of its presence in the soil.
These yellow pigments, phenolic compounds, known for their anti-free radical and anti-inflammatory capacity, are, for some, specific to horsetails and allow identification of species or subspecies .
- Astringent and anti-hemorrhagic (hemostatic) TANNINS and anti-inflammatory phenol acids quite common in the plant kingdom.
- VOLATILE COMPOUNDS which are extracted and dissociated by organic solvents possess varied odors: spicy, balsamic, hyacinth, lilac, rose.
- ALKALOIDS: their presence is not regular, may depend on the nature of the soil, or the presence of substances toxic to the plant (herbicides, pesticides?).
- ENZYMES, in particular a thiaminase which can destroy thiamine or vitamin B1 especially in grazing animals (especially horses) causing neurological or muscular disorders (motor incoordination).
HORSETAIL AND SILICON
Silicon is an abundant and common element on earth but which does not have a large role in tissue synthesis or intermediate metabolism, nevertheless its presence is necessary for the proper functioning of our organism and especially for the stability of connective tissue structures ( including our veins and arteries), subcutaneous tissue, bones and cartilage (the body contains about 7g of silicon).
Silicon is involved in the synthesis of collagen, one of the most abundant proteins in the human body and which provides the structure and resistance of most tissues.
It is present in large molecules which are very important in the subcutaneous connective tissue and the joints (notably chondroitin) as well as in elastin which ensures the flexibility of the blood vessels or the lungs.
It is immunomodulatory by its action on the thymus, a gland ensuring the maturation of T lymphocytes in children and adolescents.
Silicon is present in many plants, in particular grasses (wheat, oats, bamboo) but also nettles or comfrey as well as in mineralized water.
The "soluble" silicon is more easily assimilated than that the "crystallized" silicon.
Usually one say "organic" silicon especially when the molecule becomes complex and associates with other organic molecules (this is the object of controversies between biochemists) .
By its atomic structure and its capacities to associate with other atoms, silicon could perhaps have replaced carbon and be at the origin of forms of life completely different from those we know on earth but it was not, at least on our planet.
FLAVONOIDS and POTASSIUM salts are natural diuretics and anti-inflammatory agents.
TANNINS and perhaps the mineral elements of horsetail are anti-hemorrhagics (haemostatic) by contact .
CONNECTIVE TISSUE, BLOOD VESSELS, BONES AND JOINTS
Silicon supplementation with horsetail is beneficial when we get older, when osteoarthritis sets in, when osteoporosis is suspected or verified, when the skin withers, the arteries lose their flexibility, but also in the youngest in case of fracture, joint trauma.
Horsetail is also an anti-inflammatory plant that reduces inflammation of the rheumatic type, it can be used in repeated cures in addition to other more modern treatments: osteoarthritis, joint pain in the knee or hips, polyarthritis .
DIURETIC and ANTI-INFLAMMATORY HORSETAIL
Horsetail is a mild diuretic that "calms" inflammation of the urinary tract in the absence of infection.
It can also be tried as a treatment of 10 days per month in case of urinary disorders linked to an enlarged prostate (prostatic adenoma): urgent urination, repeated urination, nighttime urinary pollution, urgent urge to urinate.
Horsetail provides useful mineral elements in the event of chronic fatigue, frequent bacterial or viral infections, brittle nails, dull and fragile hair, slow healing.
Horsetail was widely used even in ancient times to stop the bleeding of warriors.
It is useful in case of nosebleeds (epistaxis), or a wound that bleeds a little too much in people taking anticoagulant therapy.
The field horsetail cure will be limited to 10 to 20 days, possibly renewed after a month of therapeutic rest.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid consuming horsetail extracts as well as children under 12.
- FRESH JUICE of field horsetail: 2 tablespoons per day of filtered juice in a 10-day cure.
- CONCENTRATED EXTRACT of field horsetail : sometimes associated with other plants with an osteo-articular aim (such as harpagophytum), follow the laboratory indications as the quantities of horsetail being variable according to the specialties.
- HOMEOPATHIC (ETHANOLIC) TINCTURE of horsetail: 20 to 60 drops 2 to 3 times a day, treatment during 10 to 20 days.
- DECOCTION of field horsetail: a small handful of fresh horsetail or 50g of dry horsetail in a liter of water, boil 10 to 15 minutes and infuse during the same time, a coffee cup twice a day or 50 to 75 ml twice a day (10 to 20 day cure).
- HORSETAIL POWDER: it is obtained by crushing the very dry horsetail in a blender or in a mortar, then by sifting. 1 to 2g of powder twice a day, incorporated into a little food or in a capsule for 3 weeks.
- To stop localized BLEEDING: application of horsetail powder or horsetail juice or a compress soaked in horsetail decoction.
In case of nosebleed (epistaxis) try the powder (not very convenient) or better horsetail juice or horsetail decoction in nasal instillation with a nasal spray, or on a small compress in nasal tamponade.
- A decoction of horsetail or horsetail juice can also be applied to a wound that does not heal well, a chronic skin ulcer.
If you decide to harvest field horsetail in the wild, you must ensure that the land is not polluted by the proximity of a factory or a garbage dump, and you must refrain from harvesting horsetails in fields cultivated in a modern and intensive way.
Horsetails are indeed capable of concentrating metals in the soil and can secrete toxic products in the presence of herbicides, pesticides or synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
- Dry horsetail, by its silica content, is a NATURAL ABRASIVE, very fine (but perfectly capable of scratching glass). It was once used to polish wood and metals.
- USES IN AGRICULTURE
Horsetail extracts are antifungal, they can be sprayed after dilution on many vegetable plants or fruit trees, two ways of proceeding:
- FERMENTED HORSETAIl LIQUID MANURE is made like nettle or burdock manure; proportions: 1 kg of fresh plant a little crushed or contused for 9 to 10 liters of water, wait 10 to 15 days, stirring occasionally then filter or remove the supernatant liquid.
Application of liquid manure diluted to 1/10 (one liter of liquid manure in 9 liters of water) in sprays on the aerial parts of plants (examples: tomatoes, potatoes, roses, peach) to prevent fungal diseases (fungi) such as mildew or ward off certain unwanted pests (aphids).
The liquid manure can be kept for a few days in a cool place and protected from light.
- DECOCTION of HORSETAIL LIQUID : about 200 grams of dry plant or 1kg of fresh plant in 10 liters of water. Let macerate for 1/2 hour then bring to a boil for a good half an hour, filter after cooling, keep cool and use (spray) by diluting this aqueous maceration to 1/10, i.e. one liter of maceration for nine liters of water.
It is advisable to use it within 24 to 48 hours .
The big advantage of this decoction is that it does not smell bad !!
CULTURE OF FIELD HORSETAIL
Field horsetail is propagated by digging up and fragmenting part of the blackish "rhizome" underground.
But you have to be CAREFUL because it is an invasive plant that is difficult to control.
To avoid invasion it is necessary to provide an underground barrier as for bamboo control.
It is not a culture to recommend.
OTHER SPECIES OF HORSETAILS
The majority of horsetail species concentrate silicon and other minerals but some can be slightly toxic like the rough horsetail Equisetum hyemale, quite common and often used as a decorative aquatic plant.
VERY ANCIENT PLANTS FULL OF SILICA
Horsetails are the descendants of plants that already existed in the primary era. They are archaic but resistant and can be found in nature all over the world. Field horsetail is a source of silicon, minerals, flavonoids and tannins to treat osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, aging of the skin or blood vessels as well as certain urinary disorders or nasal hemorrhages.
It is also used in cases of chronic fatigue and repeated infections.
Copyright 2021 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel