Field Horsetail

Synonyms: Bottle-brush, candock, common horsetail, corn horsetail, Dutch rushes, paddock-pipes, pewterwort, scouring rush, shave-grass, western horsetail
Scientific Name: Equisetum arvense L.
Family: Equisetaceae (Horsetail family)

Habitat

Temperate zones of the northern hemisphere.

Constituents

Description

So delicate and yet so scratchy; so hard that people used to polish their pewter with it, but so brittle that it easily breaks: field horsetail is among the most primeval plants. Around 350 million years ago, in the Carboniferous period, field horsetail formed huge forests along with ferns and club moss. However, while horsetail in the Carboniferous era grew to a height of 30 meters, their modern counterparts reach a more modest 30 to 40 centimeters and live on damp, clayey, arable land, such as the edges of meadows, wasteland and river banks. Sharp side shoots that resemble pine needles grow in whorls from the grooved main stem. Stems and side shoots consist of several jointed segments which give the appearance of being stacked. The joints are enclosed in small, finely-toothed leaves which clasp the stem like cuffs. The stems are easily broken at the joints. The largest part of the horsetail is subterranean: most of the stems grow horizontally under the ground, where they branch widely. The roots themselves are unremarkable. In winter, the horsetail retreats underground. It is a spore-bearing plant, i.e. it does not flower but develops cone-like structures which contain the spores. The separate, cone-bearing stems are brownish in color and appear in early spring. They are followed a few weeks later by branched, sterile green stems.

Uses

Horsetail has been used in elimination therapies for cleansing the blood. It is also beneficial for rheumatic complaints.

Due to its high content of water-soluble silicic acid, horsetail has an astringent, restorative effect on the connective tissue. Preparations of horsetail applied externally have a firming, strengthening and cleansing effect on the connective tissue. This is particularly important where the tissue is slack, blemished, and the hair and nails brittle.

Interesting Facts

The scientific name Equisetum derives from the Latin equus = horse and seta = animal hair and describes the stiff stalks of the horsetail. The species name arvense comes from the Latin word arva = field. The English name Field Horsetail is thus a direct translation from the Latin.

Over millions of years, the mighty horsetail forests from the Carboniferous era have been transformed over millions of years into coal.

Horsetail became famous for its blood-staunching properties. The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23–79) asserted that just holding horsetail in your hand was enough to stop bleeding. For a long time the horsetail suffered neglect, but Sebastian Kneipp (1821–1897) revived interest in the botanical, using it to treat wounds, rheumatism and gout.

Conventional farming views field horsetail as a weed to be attacked with herbicides if it becomes too widespread. However, the plant only gets out of control if the ground has been compressed by heavy machinery or poor husbandry. Gardeners working in accordance with biodynamic principles, in contrast, welcome field horsetail. They use it to prepare aqueous extracts with which they treat their cultures. The silicic acid firms the surface of leaves, giving them protection against mildew, for instance.

Field horsetail is not only useful in medicine and personal care: the cone-bearing stems which sprout in spring and are the first signs of horsetail growth are edible. They can be made into soups, salads, omelettes and savory puddings. However, anyone wanting to harvest them must be able to distinguish field horsetail from its very poisonous relative, the marsh horsetail.

Green horsetail stems can be used to dye wool a yellow-green color. The silicic acid in these sterile shoots makes the surface of the horsetail so hard that it can be used to polish metal: pewter, aluminium and copper gleam. Craftspeople and artists of fine woodwork and instruments also use this natural sandpaper to smooth fine woods.

The Plant at Dr. Hauschka Skin Care

Dr. Hauschka Skin Care produces the field horsetail extracts used in products using a special rhythmic process. These extracts are found in Dr. Hauschka Lemon Lemongrass Vitalizing Body Oil, Moor Lavender Calming Body Oil, Lemon Lemongrass Vitalizing Body Milk, Lavender Sandalwood Calming Body Cream, Regenerating Eye Cream, Regenerating Neck and Décolleté Cream, Regenerating Day Cream and Regenerating Body Cream.

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