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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Horsetail?

Horsetail is a living fossil, the sole descendent of primitive plants that served as dinosaur snacks 100 million years ago. Horsetail contains unusually high levels of the element silicon, making the herb so abrasive that it can be used for polishing. In addition, the plant can incorporate dissolved gold and other minerals into its structure.

Medicinally, horsetail has been used for treating urinary disorders, wounds, gonorrhea, nosebleeds, digestive disorders, gout, and many other conditions. 1

Silicon plays a role in bone health, 2 and for this reason, horsetail has been recommended to prevent or treat osteoporosis , and to strengthen brittle nails . The famous German herbalist Rudolf Weiss also suggests that horsetail can relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis . 3 However, there is no real scientific evidence for these proposed uses.

Safety Issues

Noticeable side effects from standard dosages of horsetail tea are rare. However, horsetail contains an enzyme that damages vitamin B 1 (thiamin) and has caused severe illness and even death in livestock that consumed too much of it. 4 In Canada, horsetail products are required to undergo heating or other forms of processing to inactivate this harmful constituent.

Also, perhaps because horsetail contains low levels of nicotine, children have been known to become seriously ill from using the branches as blow guns. 5 This plant can also concentrate toxic metals present in its environment.

For all of the above reasons, horsetail is not recommended for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe kidney or liver disease.

Individuals taking the...