Horsetail Summary:

Horsetail is a common plant found in moist areas and along roadsides. It contains high levels of silica which is used to promote healthy hair and nail growth. The gritty, abrasive nature of silica also make it useful as a mouth wash.

The main uses of horsetail internally are for urinary tract infections, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and rheumatism.

Topically this herb is used to speed wound healing and can be applied to wounds directly, powdered or extracted and added to salves and balms.

Similarly to couch grass, this herb is a common weed across the globe, especially in wetter areas like roadside ditches and at the bottom of hills. The abundance of this plant, and reliable use as a urinary disinfectant makes it a great medicinal option over some of the more unsustainable and exotic options.

Botanical Name

Equisetum arvense
Equisetum sylvaticum
Equisetum fluviatile
Equisetum telmateia



Part Used

Arial parts

Herbal Actions:


  • Diuretic
  • Urinary Antiseptic
  • Astringent
  • Styptic (Hemostatic)
  • Vulnerary
  • Antilithic


Liquid Herb Extract (1:2)

2-6 mL/day

Tincture (1:5)

6-12 mL/day

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+ Urinary Tract

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Prostatitis
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  • Incontinence
  • Urinary stones
  • Kidney stones

+ Cardiovascular

  • Anemia
  • Chillblaines
  • Chronic heart failure

+ Other

  • Hemorrhage
  • Wounds (topically)
  • Rheumatic arthritis
  • Emphysema
  • General debility
  • Gout
  • Oedema
  • Ulcers

Common Names:



Scouring Rush


Joint Grass

Bottle Brush

Snake Grass

Puzzle Grass


Traditional Uses:

Horsetail was used in traditional western herbal medicine for cystitis, urethritis, frequent urination, nocturnal enuresis, urinary calculi, renal colic, hematuria, enlarged prostate, prostattis, to speed wound healing, and to stop bleeding [3, 7]. 

The British herbal pharmocopoeia lists horsetail as a genitourinary astringent, antihaemorrhagic, and prophylactic causing a mild leucocytosis. Topicallly it is suggested as a vulnerary, and styptic. Indications include enuresis, prastatic disease, and cystitis with haematuria [2]. 

All species except Equisetum palustre has been used as a food. This is because Equisetum palustre is actually toxic due to the constituent palustrine (an alkaloid) [5]. In Japan, Equisetum arvense is made into a health drink known as sagina [6]. 


    Botanical Description:

    There are reportedly 5 species in the subgenus Equisetum which includes Equisetum arvense, Equisetum sylvaticum, Equisteum fluviatile, Equisetum telmateia and Equisetum palustre [5]. 


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Horsetail is a common European and North American herb, especially surrounding rivers marshes, or other damp areas. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    Still compiling research. 



    [1, 4, 5]

    Chemical class Chemical Name % Dried Weight Solubility
    Alkaloids Nicotine, palustrine, palustrinine Unknown N/A
    Enzymes Thiaminase Unknown N/A
    Flavonols Isoquercetrin, Equicetrin?, Kaempferol, Quercetin, Unknown N/A
    Hydrocinnamic Acids Caffeic acid and derrivatives 5-8% N/A
    Phenolic Acids Salicylic acid 5-8% N/A
    Saponins Equisetonin, Unknown N/A
    Sterols Cholesterol, Isofucosterol, Campesterol Unknown N/A
    Thiols Dimethylsulphone Unknown N/A
    Minerals Potassium salts, magnesium salts 1.5% N/A
    MISC Aconitic acid, Unknown N/A

    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

    + Antioxidant

    Equisetum telmateia was found in at least one study to have the highest antioxidant capacity out of several other species including Equisetum arvense, Equisetum sylvaticum, Equisteum fluviatile, and Equisetum palustre [5].

    + Antibacterial

    Various horsetail species have been found to be moderatly to highly active against gram positive bacterial strains [8-10].



    None reported



    • None reported


    Still compiling research.  

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    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: June 2017

    Recent Bog Posts:


    1. Wren, R. C. (1956). Potter's new cyclopaedia of botanical drugs and preparations.
    2. British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Bournemouth, UK: Author.
    3. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a., MO: Churchill Livingstone.
    4. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
    5. Milovanović, V., Radulović, N., Todorović, Z., Stanković, M., & Stojanović, G. (2007). Antioxidant, Antimicrobial and Genotoxicity Screening of Hydro-alcoholic Extracts of Five Serbian Equisetum Species. Plant Foods For Human Nutrition, 62(3), 113-119.
    6. Nagai T, Myoda T, Nagashima T (2005) Antioxidative activities of water extract and ethanol extract from field horsetail (tsukushi) Equisetum arvense L. Food Chem 91:389–394
    7. Castleman M (1991) The healing herbs. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA
    8. Herrera RM, Perez, M, Martın-Herrera DA, Lopez-Garcıa R, Rabanal RM (1996) Antimicrobial activity of extracts from plants endemic to the Canary Islands. Phytother Res 10:364–366
    9. Kelmanson JE, Jäger AK, Van Staden J (2000) Zulu medicinal plants with antibacterial activity. J Ethnopharmacol 69:241–246
    10. Ali NAA, Jülich WD, Kusnick C, Lindequist U (2001) Screening of Yemeni medicinal plants for antibacterial and cytotoxic activities. J Ethnopharmacol 74:173–179