Common horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Common horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Other common names: Snake grass, bottle-brush, shave grass, field horsetail, puzzle grass, pewter wort


Diagram courtesy of Carl Axel Magnus Lindman / Wikimedia Commons

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Family: Equisetaceae


Respiratory, genitourinary, integumentary and musculoskeletal tonic, diuretic, vulnerary, styptic, antifungal, astringent, circulatory stimulant, anti-inflammatory, lowers blood sugar in Type II diabetics, liver tonic, anti-cancer, anti-haemorrhagic, hepato-protective, vasorelaxant, antimicrobial.


Harvest in early spring when the new shoots are coming in. Younger plants are more tender and easily processed…older ones develop silica crystals and can be difficult. You can dry it, but it is much better used fresh. It draws heavy metals from the body – and the environment, so be careful where you harvest as it can take on toxins from the surrounding area.

Part used: Aerial parts

Constituents: Silica, hiaminase, thymol, cis-geranyl acetone, dicarboxylic acids, trans-phytol, triterpenoids, phenolic petrosins, phenolic acids, phenolic glycosides, flavonoids, saponins, alkaloids, phytosterols, styrylpyrone glucosides, hexahydrofarnesyl acetone, (can also synthesize nicotine if growing in a polluted area.)



Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / User:MPF

Used to encourage healthy hair and nail growth (and strengthen hair follicles), reduce wrinkles and fine lines on the skin, tone and strengthen the tissues of the respiratory, integumentary, genitourinary and reproductive systems, help speed the healing of broken bones, athlete’s foot, excessive menstrual flow, surgical recovery, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, nose bleeds, varicose veins, asthma, oral irritations, hepatitis, burns, heavy metal poisoning, torn muscles and tendons and other acute injuries. It literally rebuilds the bone, tissues, cartilage and tendons and also makes them stronger so they are less likely to be injured again (valuable in those who have had surgery and are worried about aggravating the same injury again after it’s been weakened). It is also good for chronic conditions such as arthritis, and it is a potent detoxifier. It can lower blood sugar in Type II diabetics. It has also shown promise in HIV-1 patients, and for inhibiting cancer growth (consult with a doctor first if you are undergoing treatments).

Medicinal preparation:

equisetum arvense

Fertile shoots: Photo courtesy of Kristian Peters / Wikimedia Commons


You can use horsetail in capsule form (often it is sold as “horsetail silica” or even just “silica” – check the ingredient list to see if it is actually Equisetum arvense), or in a tea form (standard infusion) or tincture.


Add the infused herb to shampoos and hair rinses, or apply in a poultice to a wounded area. It can not only heal minor cuts and scrapes, but it can also stop bleeding.


Because it contains a small amount of nicotine, do not use in children or pregnant/nursing women. This is a short-term supplement. Do not use daily for more than two months at a time without some days off. Don’t get it confused with its somewhat toxic (especially to horses) cousin, Equisetum palustre. Horsetail can cause vitamin B1 (Thiamine) levels to drop, therefore should not be used in people who are B deficient, and you should not drink alcohol regularly with this herb, as it can cause the B vitamins to lower even more. It also should not be used in those with kidney disorders or potassium deficiency. Do not use if you have a heart condition or take digoxen (due to the lowering of potassium), long-term dosage of chromium or lithium. Do not use if allergic to salicylates, and consult with a doctor before use if you have Type II diabetes or if you already have kidney or gallstones. Be sure to drink enough fluids when taking horsetail preparations by mouth. A large overdose can cause fevers and other more serious symptoms of nicotine overdose.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns. 

Energetic/traditional use:

Horsetail is affiliated with Saturn. It has been used by warriors to strengthen their weapons (and grant magickal benefits to them), and it has been associated with fertility and even the ability to charm snakes. It can protect a home or spiritual space from unwanted intrusion, and remove emotional baggage.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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