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Horsetail

Horsetail

equisetum arverise

Horsetail manages urinary tract infections quite effortlessly, including kidney stones, bladder stones, fluid retention, and incontinence (inability to control urination).

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Field horsetail, Mare’s tail
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: No
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Stems & Leaves
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About Horsetail

Horsetail, botanically called Equisetum arvense, is quite a unique plant with cones bearing spores and hollow leafless, rigid stems. The erect stems of horsetail possess .5 - 2 inches  long segments and a cone as a crown at the top. The joint stems, however, do contain small leaves. Horsetail belongs to the lone genus Equisetum of the family Equisetaceae.

Horsetail is very invasive. Its rhizomes and tubers are densely and deeply scattered and are liable to produce new stems even after being mowed, fired, or treated with herbicide.  Horsetail is close to pores when it comes to its reproduction. This non-flowering plant reproduces through spores.

The tenacious horsetail, on the other hand, defies all the troubles related to its invasive nature when it comes to its medicinal properties. Horsetail manages urinary tract infections quite effortlessly, including kidney stones, bladder stones, fluid retention, and incontinence (inability to control urination). Horsetail also helps with halting the internal bleeding of the stomach, nose, and lungs. It is used to treat frostbites, osteoporosis, balding, jaundice, hepatitis, tuberculosis, obesity, and heavy menstruation.

Horsetail spreads at a slow pace and does not compete for nutrients with other plants but it can negate these characteristics if its density increases without monitoring it.

Growing

Horsetail is easy to grow. It can be started via seeds or its rhizome cuttings. Its seeds are sown at least 6 weeks prior to the last frost date whereas the cuttings are transplanted in early spring. The frost dates according to the USDA hardiness zones are as follows:

Horsetail can be planted both indoors and outdoors. The soil must remain moist at all times as horsetail cannot tolerate drought and dry spells. Being invasive in nature, the plant is usually advised to be kept in a pot to confine its invasiveness.

Horsetail follows the rules of alternation of generation .i.e. and asexual phase and a sexual phase. The asexual phase is governed by the spores whereas the sexual phase is characterized by the fusion of gametes. However, it is vegetative reproduction that mostly accounts for the survival of horsetail rather than the sexual and asexual reproduction.

The terminal cones shed spores bearing elaters which help with its dispersal. Upon receiving high humidity and low light, these spores develop into gametophytes. The antheridia produce sperms and archegonia produce eggs, the mating of which results in the formation of zygote and then embryo respectively within the archegonium.

The gametophyte nourishes the embryo and allows it to transform into shoot and roots. The shoots then develop further and grow cones on their terminals which again shed the spores to repeat the aforementioned cycle.

Harvesting

Horsetail leaves and stems can be harvested from early to late spring. The leaves are harvested when the leaves are bright green and turned either upward or outward as the drooped ones are pretty less potent at imparting their medicinal actions.

The green stems and leaves are harvested with sharp gardening shears because the stems are a bit tough to come off.

Horsetail stalks and leaves can either be dehydrated or hung together upside down in a dark, dry and cool place. After drying them up, they are chopped and stored in an airtight container.

Usage

Despite its invasive nature, horsetail keeps capturing the attention due to its highly prized medicinal benefits.

  • Tincture - Infuse freshly chopped horsetail in grain alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain the liquid and place it in a dark and dry place.
  • Tea - Dried horsetail stalks are chopped and infused with water for 10 to 15 minutes to form horsetail tea.
  • Decoction - Dried horsetail stalks are decocted with water until its volume reduces to half to form horsetail decoction.
  • Salve - Horsetail infused oil is combined with melted beeswax pellets to formulate a wound healing salve.
  • Syrup - Horsetail stalks are chopped and rolled to boil with sugar solution for a while to form horsetail syrup.
  • Infused oil - Horsetail leaves or stalks are infused with olive oil in either a crockpot for 6 to 8 hours or on a sunny windowsill for 6 weeks to form horsetail infused oil.