What is Horsetail Extract?
The horsetail plant, also known as Equisetum or puzzlegrass, is a group of grass plants from the 400 million year-old Equisetaceae family. The name equisetum is derived from the Latin roots equus, meaning “horse,” and seta, meaning “bristle.” It’s named so because as the plant dries, silica crystals accumulate in the stems and branches which look like feathery tails and give the plant a scratchy feel.
Horsetail’s benefits include the ability to fight fluid retention (edema), reducing inflammation, killing bacteria, relieving arthritis symptoms and more.
So how else can horsetail benefit your health?
Supports Bone Health
Horsetail grass, like other grasses and some cereals, is rich in the mineral silica. In fact, horsetail contains the highest silica content in the plant kingdom. Research suggest silica can support strong, healthy bones.
Silicon is a mineral that plays a beneficial role in bone formation and in bone health. The problem is, when silicon comes into contact with air, it often bonds with oxygen to form silicates (x). Our bodies can’t absorb or ingest silicates in their raw form.
This is where horsetail comes into play. Horsetail plants absorb silicates through mineral-rich dirt. When we consume horsetail, we are then able to absorb these silicates to benefit our bone health (x).
One Italian double-blind study of 122 women confirmed this. The women in the study had all entered menopause and suffered from menopause-related osteoporosis. Over the course of a year, however, the trial showed a significantly high increase in bone density after the women took horsetail supplements (x).
In addition to all this, horsetail has been shown in lab studies to stop the activity of osteoblasts. Osteoblasts are cells that play a key role in bone development and maintenance. They break down bone material and make sure your bones don’t grow beyond a healthy size.
But if you’re suffering from a bone disease like osteoporosis, in which bone breaks down and deteriorates, you need as much bone growth as possible. Horsetail extract inhibits the creation of cells that destroy bone, making sure your bones stay strong and healthy (x).
Anti-Inflammatory and Antimicrobial
Horsetail herb has been used for thousands of years as an anti-inflammatory. New research, however, is shining a light into the potential of horsetail as a supplement with its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties.
In one study, researchers found that horsetail extract created marked improvements in pain associated with inflammation (x). In fact, horsetail could reduce edema (swelling) by up to 25 percent in just two hours (x).
Horsetail may also act as a natural anti-microbial. In one study, extracts from five species of horsetail all inhibited the proliferation of harmful bacteria (x). Other findings focused on the essential oils in horsetail and found that they showed anti-microbial activity against a variety of bacterial infections including staph infections, e. coli, and candida (x).
Antioxidants in horsetail protect your body from free radicals damage that may cause disease and illness.
Free radicals are unstable, reactive cells that roam through your system “stealing” electrons from other cells in an attempt to stabilize their own electron count (x). This can lead to diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Studies suggest the antioxidants in horsetail extract prevent this oxidation process from occurring, protecting your body from illness (x).
Certain illnesses such as heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disease cause high blood pressure and fluid retention. To combat these side effects, your body needs to flush out excess fluid and sodium; this is where diuretics come into play. Diuretics are substances that help your body get rid of excess fluid.
In a double-blind, randomized clinical trial, researchers gave 36 healthy men horsetail extract supplements to monitor the diuretic effects. The scientists then monitored the study participants over a 24-hour period and found that the extract had a significant diuretic effect. A bonus? Horsetail produced no side effects (x).
May Relieve Arthritis Symptoms
In one study of 60 patients who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, horsetail had a curative effect on rheumatoid arthritis and its symptoms. Notably, it reduced inflammation, which may be key for treating the disease. Researchers also noted that the clinical application was reliable and safe (x). It could also help relieve pain associated with arthritis (x).
Improves Wound Healing
Traditionally, various cultures have used horsetail to help heal wounds. Today, research supports this. In one study of 108 healthy women who had surgery to induce childbirth, horsetail ointment helped reduce pain and heal their wounds faster (and with no side effects) (x).
In another study, researchers found an ointment containing 10 percent horsetail extract healed wounds completely and repaired the skin after just two weeks (x).
So how does horsetail do this? Research suggests silica helps seal the wound, while the flavonoids in horsetail help prevent infection (x).
Did You Know?
- Horsetail is actually a weed. In fact, this herb is a nuisance for gardeners, and a very hard one to get rid of, at that. One reason for their peskiness is that horsetail plants reproduce through spores. These spores are equipped with cells called elaters. These elaters allow horsetail spores to “walk” and ”jump” around once they land on the ground, which helps them spread easily (x).
- The horsetail weed is closely related to ferns and has several nicknames, which include “snake grass” and “scouring rush.”
- Horsetail grows all over the world, except in many Pacific islands and on Antarctica. The plant prefers wet surroundings, such as marshes, swamps and the edges of forests close to rivers and streams.
Horsetail Side Effects
As long as you adhere to the recommended dosage, horsetail is safe to take for healthy adults.
Talk to your doctor before taking horsetail supplements if you are nursing or pregnant.
Some groups of people that should use caution when taking horsetail:
- Alcoholics/heavy drinkers: Heavy drinkers generally also suffer from thiamine deficiency. Taking horsetail might make this thiamine deficiency even worse. Do not drink large amounts of alcohol when taking horsetail. It may also help to take a B complex in combination with this herb. (x)
- Those with diabetes: Since horsetail is a diuretic, it may lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Talk to your doctor before taking horsetail if you have diabetes.
- Lower potassium levels (hypokalemia): As a diuretic, horsetail might flush potassium out of the body, possibly lowering potassium levels to below normal. Talk to your doctor before taking horsetail if you have low potassium levels.
Horsetail Extract Dosage
You can find several different types of horsetail supplements, including pills, capsules and herbal blends.
Horsetail extract powder is another option, and contains a high concentration of the herb’s beneficial compounds. As a dietary supplement, take 440 mg (rounded 1/8 tsp) to 1,000 mg (rounded 1/4 tsp) daily, or as directed by your physician. Since horsetail naturally tastes slightly bitter, it’s best to mix it into a flavored beverage, tea, juice, or drink of your choice.
The Bottom Line
Horsetail may be a weed, but it boasts important health benefits. It keeps your bones strong, acts as a natural diuretic, heals wounds and more. While you should always talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements, early research establishes horsetail as a nutrition power player that benefits your overall health.*
By: Alex Clermont