Think that horsetail is just for good skin, strong nails and healthy hair? Think again.

This common herb can increase both your calcium absorption and use, making it a powerful key to overcoming osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Rich in silica and mineral salts, Horsetail has a proven record as a re-mineralizer of bones and connective tissues.

That’s good news for those of us concerned with–or already suffering from–osteoporosis. A deficiency of silica precedes the calcium loss that causes demineralization of our bones. So, before calcium loss affects us, we must be missing silica in our diet. Silica is also of prime importance to our connective tissues, such as cartilage, muscle and skin.

Taking calcium supplements is only part of the answer to warding off osteoporosis. Ensuring we are getting enough silica-either in our foods, a supplement or a tea–is probably even more important.

Is silica all that horsetail contains? By no means. Horsetail, a rough textured and scruffy looking relative of ferns, is remarkable for the amount of mineral salts it absorbs from the soil. Some of these mineral salts are potassium, manganese, magnesium, sulphur and calcium. Horsetail also contains a saponoside and equisetonine, which, along with the mineral salts, act as diuretics. The combination of silica, mineral salts and equisetonine provide horsetail’s anti-rheumatic action.

Horsetail has been used, with benefit, for both rheumatoid arthritis (painful inflammation and swelling of the joints) and osteoarthritis (inflammation and erosion of the joints and cartilage). Due to horsetail’s ability to absorb minerals, particularly gold, this combination was used for rheumatoid arthritis. Disappointingly, these efforts yielded mixed results.

Multi-Talented Herb

Perhaps you aren’t looking for stronger or more resilient bones, cartilage, teeth, nails or hair. Well, then consider that Europeans have been using horsetail for centuries to resolve kidney and bladder complaints. Individuals suffering from incontinence and bed-wetting have been helped by taking this herb. Due to the astringent, antiseptic and diuretic qualities of horsetail, the wound healing properties of silica are enhanced. Ulcers, whether in the urinary tract, or in the skin, will repair more rapidly when this herb is used. Potter’s Cyclopedia, a reference of botanical drugs and preparations, recommends horsetail for cystitis, urethritis and prostatitis.

Now, as if the list of potential benefits isn’t long enough, there’s more. Horsetail can also alleviate heavy menstrual flow and bleeding gums, according to long-standing native uses.

Something that many people may not know is that the silica in horsetail also acts on lipid metabolism, resulting in an anti-atheromatous action. Translation: horsetail helps guard against fatty deposits in the arteries! Europeans have been using horsetail for atherosclerosis for years.

In my practice, I find horsetail invaluable in combinations for toning the urinary tract; supporting the heart and cleansing the bowel. This herb has potential cleansing properties in addition to all of its healing actions.

For all its benefits, is horsetail completely safe? If you eat a high cholesterol (fatty) diet, then there is a chance that horsetail might conspire against you and cause dermatitis. Raw horsetail does contain thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down thiamine, a B vitamin. Supplementing your diet with thiamine would eliminate this risk. But there’s an easier way. Alcohol, high temperatures and alkalinity all destroy this nefarious enzyme. So, tinctures, teas (that you boil) and most preparations are free of this enzyme. In Canada, horsetail preparations must be free of thiaminase in order to be sold.

It’s important to purchase organic horsetail. This plant cannot be harvested near feedlots or agricultural drainage areas, or in areas of industrial pollution. Remember how horsetail is great at absorbing minerals from the soil? Well, studies are out that indicate horsetail (and other herbs) absorb pollutants, too. Protect yourself by purchasing this herb from a reputable source.

(Ironically, horses cannot eat Horsetail. It will poison them. But the metabolism of horses is quite different than that of people. How many people get stressed out eating a big bowl of oats?)

Horsetail is a terrific herb with lots of possible benefits for all of us. Add it to your nutritional repertoire!

Horsetail makes a great rinse for skin and hair, too. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

About the Author

Ruth Yanor-McRae is a master herbalist, iridologist, speaker and writer living in the Stony Plain, Alberta area.