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Field Horsetail – Equisetum arvense

4-11-12  Field Horsetail – Equisetum arvense

Look for this perennial non-flowering plant by the side of the road, where its fertile stalks are starting to poke up through the soil.  A relative of ferns, horsetail reproduces by means of spores which are located in the cone-like structure at the tip of the fertile stalk.  The green, bristly vegetative stalks that give this plant its common name will soon appear. Horsetail’s use as an herbal remedy dates back to ancient Roman and Greek medicine. It was used traditionally to stop bleeding, heal ulcers and wounds, and treat tuberculosis and kidney problems. Because of the silica in this plant, horesetail is used today by organic farmers to rid soil of the effect of excess moisture that promotes the growth of fungi. Relatively recently horsetail has been suggested as a treatment for osteoporosis, also because of the silica it contains, a mineral needed for bone health. 


9 responses

  1. Etienne

    This is valuable information. It has prompted my curiousity enough to change the way I will spend my day today! I will drink my coffee as usual but 1)Sit and do some research online about horsetail. 2)Take a special walk with my 5 year old (human) ISO this plant. Thank you for adding some healthy joy & helping me map out our day!

    April 11, 2012 at 11:51 am

  2. Leave us not forget that the horsetail also had usage as “protobrillo”. The structure and silica content make horsetail an excellent scouring pad…in the scullery.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    • Yes, indeed, right you are!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    • I believe another one of its common names is “bottle-brush.”

      April 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

  3. Al Stoops

    Seems there still needs to be more research on the value of horsetails for bone health, according to this article from U of Maryland Med Center (scroll down). I wonder what chemical form of silica is in horsetails. Certainly lots of silica around—it’s one of the more common elements in rock and soil—I don’t think eating sand would help your bones much!

    I knew a Japanese woman who told of eating these young shoots in Japan. I think her name for it was something like “tsku-CHIN-bo”.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    • Yes, you’re right on both counts…more research needs to be done on the horsetail/osteoporosis issue, and yes, I believe in Japan and China they eat it when it’s just appearing in the spring — but I also believe it is the only species of Equisetum that isn’t toxic, so people should be very sure of their identification skills before consuming it!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

  4. I’ve always considered horsetail as an aggressive weed. This gives me a different perspective!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:32 pm

  5. John Ewing

    I also heard that the stalks were used for brushing teeth in colonial days – doesn’t sound very comfortable, but effective.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm

  6. Many people have (from a very anthropocentric viewpoint) considered horsetail an invasive weed, but just like everything else in nature, it has something to teach us. I’ve always found it a bit fascinating how we humans rarely consider ourselves ‘invasives’ into the natural world…
    All ‘invasives’ have something to teach us; the trick is in learning how to listen. Thanks, Mary, for helping to increase our curiosity quotient. Curiosity is the first step towards living in harmony with our imperiled world. The world needs more people like you!

    April 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm

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