Horsetail (equisetum arvense) has many uses as an herb with many benefits to the human family. As a forager, I was happy to find a goodly batch of it this summer. As long as it stays far away from my garden, I'm glad to see it thriving. An ancient plant, horsetail has been around since 100 million years before the dinosaurs appeared. It's a survivor, and drastic measures are needed to get rid of it if it invades your fields or garden. If you search for information on horsetail on google, you'll find lots of garden/cooperative articles on getting rid of it. You have to look harder to find information on its benefits.
Horsetail contains numerous mineral salts, especially silica, but also potassium, manganese, and magnesium, and many trace minerals. Here is what Just Weeds has to say about horsetail's medicinal properties:
Horsetail is judged to be particularly beneficial to people suffering from anemia or general debility. Its action is characterized as diuretic and astringent. It is prescribed in the treatment of kidney and bladder disorders, arthritis, gout, and skin afflictions. It is recommended for gastric complaints and inflammations of the respiratory tract. It is said to promote urination and stop bleeding, to reduce fevers, to calm an overactive liver, and to ease nervous tension. It has been used to clear heavy head colds and to sooth inflamed, swollen eyelids. And throughout history, it is been relied on to cleanse and heal wounds . . . . even modern studies indicate that fractured bones heal more quickly with the help of horsetail.
As a diuretic, it will increase urination, thus flushing the system of toxins. Its astringent property would make it good for wounds and to stop bleeding. It can be used both internally, as a weak tea, and externally, as a wash for wounds, or dip a towel in the tea and use as a poultice, a compress, or add to bath water.
Here's what Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs and Spices says:
No other herb in the entire plant kingdom is so rich in silicon as is horsetail. This trace element really helps to find protein molecules together in the blood vessels and connective tissues. Silison is the material of which collagen is made. Collagen is the "body glue" that holds our skin and muscle tissues together. Silicon also promotes the growth and stability of the skeletal structure.
A few European clinical studies have determined that fractured bones heal much more quickly when horsetail is taken. The incidence of osteoporosis is, likewise, more greatly reduced when some horsetail is added to the diet. A few folk healers I'm aware of have recommended this herb to athletes who've suffered sprains, dislocated joints, pulled hamstrings or torn ligaments.
Heinerman goes on to say that horsetail is an excellent internal cosmetic--drink the tea for improving your skin, hair, nails, teeth and bones. Other herbalists recommend it as a facial wash.
If you have athlete's foot, try using some horsetail in a footbath. Horsetail tea can be used on other plants, spraying them with it to get rid of mildew and other fungus infections on roses, fruit trees, vegetables, etc.
If you're camping, or in a survival situation, you can also scrub your pots and pans with horsetail plants--among horsetail's common names are bottlebrush, scouring rush, shavegrass and pewterwort.
A few weeks ago, my friend and neighbor Fred, who is 80, fell against the porch while we were at the Amish farm. He hit his ribs and arm, bruising both, but thank goodness there was no broken bones. His ribs have healed, but his arm still aches, so I've brewed up some of horsetail tea for him. We'll see if that helps--he might have torn or injured a ligament in his arm, and the rich minerals in horsetail should help.