Last updated: August 30, 2021

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The horsetail, whose scientific name is Equisetum arvense, is a plant native to several countries in Asia, Europe, and North America. It is currently cultivated in various areas of the world to take advantage of its medicinal and pharmacological properties. Horsetail is sold dried or in the form of tablets, capsules, extracts, or tinctures.

Used orally, horsetail is a potent natural diuretic. It also acts as an antioxidant, antimicrobial, astringent (antidiarrheal), hepatoprotective, and remineralizing (at the bone level) agent. Are you eager to learn more about this vascular plant? We have designed this guide to solve all your doubts.




Key Facts

  • Horsetail has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It can contribute to the health of the kidneys, liver, urinary tract, bones, and nervous system.
  • The sterile stem of the Equisetum arvense is marketed dried or in different types of dietary supplements.
  • You should evaluate various critical factors in order to purchase a horsetail product that is both effective and safe for health. These include the dosage form and taste of the supplement, as well as its suitability with your diet or the potential presence of allergens.

Our Selection: The Best Horsetail Supplements

This vascular plant isn't only consumed orally; you can also find products that are applied to the skin, hair, or nails. We want to delve deeper into oral horsetail supplements, which is why we have selected some of the most popular ones currently available on the market. Have a look at the following section, and you might just find the right products for you!

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Horsetail

While horsetail is a natural product, you have to consume it responsibly to avoid any unwanted effects. To do so, you need to be more familiar with its medicinal properties, the types of supplements available on the market, the recommended daily doses, and its few contraindications and side effects. In the section below, we have answered the most frequently asked questions regarding horsetail.

Woman drinking horsetail beverage

Horsetail is a plant that has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
(Source: Wavebreak Media Ltd: 42593358/ 123rf.com)

What is horsetail exactly?

Also called field horsetail, the Equisetum arvense is a plant that grows in the Northern Hemisphere, in several regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Horsetail has been used in medicine for thousands of years; its sterile, branched stems and leaves are now sold dried or used to create supplements (capsules, extracts) (1, 2).

What are the medicinal properties of horsetail?

Horsetail infusions, decoctions, and supplements can help improve health and complement the treatment of various conditions. Here is a list of the benefits of horsetail when used orally and on a regular basis:

  • It acts as a natural diuretic and can cure fluid retention. While researchers are still trying to understand the mechanisms by which horsetail increases urine production and elimination, its diuretic effects resemble those of the drug hydrochlorothiazide (1, 2, 3).
  • It provides antioxidants. The Equisetum arvense plant contains phenolic and flavonoid compounds that perform an antioxidant function and block oxidizing free radicals. Oxidative damage is linked to premature aging, cardiovascular conditions, type II diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's) (1, 4).
  • It has a remineralizing effect on nails, hair, teeth, and bones. Horsetail is very rich in silica, which means that it can strengthen bones and teeth. In addition, people take it to treat brittle nails and capillary fragility (1, 5).
  • It prevents and helps to treat osteoporosis. This is due to its high content in silica and flavonoids. The first compound increases calcium absorption and promotes collagen synthesis, while flavonoids reduce bone loss and stimulate bone formation in osteoblasts (5).
  • It has astringent (antidiarrheal) properties. Horsetail contains tannins, which are astringent substances capable of reducing the duration and/or intensity of diarrhea episodes (2).
  • It regulates inflammation. The Equisetum arvense plant may be useful to complement the treatment of inflammatory disorders, such as arthritis. That being said, further studies are required to confirm this (1, 6).
  • It protects the liver from toxins (hepatoprotective action). This is linked to the high levels of antioxidant compounds (flavonoids and phenolic compounds) present in these supplements (7).
  • It prevents platelet aggregation and the formation of blood clots. Horsetail can contribute to preventing cardiovascular and cerebral complications induced by the presence of clots that obstruct or break blood vessels (1).
  • It is a natural sedative and anticonvulsant. Equisetum arvense extract extends sleeping time while decreasing seizure episodes (1, 8).
  • It improves glycemic control. Horsetail lowers blood glucose levels (glycemia) in diabetic rats. Human studies are needed to confirm this potential antidiabetic effect (1, 9).
  • It has antimicrobial properties. Equisetum arvense supplements are effective in inhibiting the development of certain bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Proteus mirabilis, and Staphylococcus saprophyticus (1, 10).

What are the active ingredients of horsetail?

Horsetail supplements are virtually calorie-free, with a negligible content in protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber. However, the Equisetum arvense plant is a source of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals that are responsible for its medicinal properties. We have listed its active principles below (4):

  • Flavonoids: kaempferol, apigenin, luteolin.
  • Phenolic glycosides: Equisetumoside A, Equisetumoside B, Equisetumoside C.
  • Phytosterols: campesterol, beta-sitosterol, epicolestanol.
  • Alkaloids: nicotine.
  • Minerals: silicic acid, silicates, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium.

Horsetail in a mug

The sterile stem of the Equisetum arvense is marketed dried or in different types of dietary supplements.
(Source: Madeleinesteinbach: 101108518/ 123rf.com)

When are horsetail supplements indicated?

Supplementing with Equisetum arvense is recommended in cases of edema (abnormal fluid retention in feet and legs), high blood pressure, bacterial infections of the urinary tract, stones in the urine, osteoporosis, arthritis, gout, brittle nails, fragile hair, and metrorrhagia (bleeding outside menstruation) (11, 12).

What types of ponytail supplements are there?

As we mentioned earlier, Equisetum arvense supplements are marketed under different formats. Your choice should be based on what best suits your habits, needs, and budget. Here are some guidelines regarding the oral consumption of horsetail supplements:

  • Dried herb: The sterile stems and small leaves are dried and finely cut until obtaining a fiber-looking appearance. This can be used to make infusions and decoctions. For a single cup of beverage, boil 1 to 2 teaspoons in 250 milliliters of water for 5 minutes.
  • Capsules/tablets: Horsetail powder (crushed sterile stems) is mixed with magnesium carbonate to produce tablets or wrapped in a hydroxypropyl methylcellulose coating for capsules. The recommended daily dose is 1 to 3 units per day. Each capsule or tablet provides between 200 and 500 milligrams of Equisetum arvense.
  • Liquid extract: The active ingredients of horsetail are extracted from the stems and leaves before being concentrated to obtain this liquid. You are advised to consume is 1 to 2 milliliters per day, which is equivalent to 28-40 drops. Each milliliter of liquid extract provides 560 milligrams of Equisetum arvense. You must dissolve it in water before drinking it.
 Dried herb Capsules/tablets Liquid extract
Form of consumption As an infusion by leaving the horsetail to stand in water at approximately 195°F, or in a decoction by boiling the horsetail in water for at least 5 minutes). You can also make mother tinctures (highly concentrated decoctions) to apply to the skin, scalp, or nails. Alone with water You should dilute the drops in a bit of water.
Taste  Intense and bitter, but your palate gets used to it over time. Soft, almost neutral Bitter, but softened by diluting it in water
Recommended daily dose 3 to 6 grams 1 to 3 units 1 to 2 milliliters, equivalent to 20 or 40 drops, respectively

Can horsetail treat cellulite?

While this plant can contribute to treating one of the aggravating factors of cellulite (water retention), it is not the solution for this condition. The consumption of this plant can complement a comprehensive treatment consisting of a healthy diet, regular physical activity, the use of specific creams, and frequent massages.

How can I consume horsetail responsibly?

Horsetail supplements are safe for health if taken properly and responsibly. This is why you need to follow a few recommendations:

  • When consuming horsetail, you must increase your water intake to compensate for the enhanced production and elimination of urine. Otherwise, you will become dehydrated.
  • Always stick to the dosage indicated by the manufacturer or your physician. Excessive consumption of Equisetum arvense can lead to unwanted side effects.
  • Horsetail contains tannins, substances that can inhibit the absorption of iron from food. For this reason, you should take these supplements between meals and without food (13).

Fresh horsetail plant

Horsetail is very resistant, growing in cold areas like Norway and Russia, and warmer climates such as Texas and India.
(Source: Chassenet: 129577072/ 123rf.com)

Does horsetail help lose weight?

No. In fact, you should never consume this plant to reach your weight loss goals. Equisetum arvense acts as a diuretic and causes fluid loss, not fat. In that regard, any weight loss will be as a result of the decrease in body water rather than adipose tissue. This widespread myth is absolutely false and can expose you to health risks.

What are the side effects of Equisetum arvense?

Excessive horsetail intake corresponds to over 10-12 grams of dried herb, 2 milliliters of liquid extract, or 3 capsules per day. This can lead to the following adverse reactions: fever, headache, arrhythmia, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and potassium deficiency, hypotension, and dizziness. If you experience any of these, you must consult your doctor immediately (1, 12).

Rachelle RobinettHerbalist & Holistic Health Practitioner
"It’s said to help rheumatism and arthritis by improving the elasticity of the joints, and is recommended to athletes for sprains, pulled hamstrings, and torn ligaments."

What are the contraindications of Equisetum arvense?

In certain situations, the consumption of horsetail isn't absolutely contraindicated but should be authorized and monitored closely by a specialist. This is the case if you have kidney stones or during pregnancy and breastfeeding periods. You can learn more about these contraindications in the table below (11, 12).

Indications for horsetail Contraindications for horsetail
Edema (fluid retention) Children under the age of five
High blood pressure Hypersensitivity (allergy) to horsetail
Urinary tract infections Severe kidney, liver, or heart condition
Metrorrhagia Gastritis
Osteoporosis Peptic ulcer
Gout People following a nicotine replacement therapy
Brittle nails Individuals with vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency
Capillary fragility

Buyer's Guide

There are so many Equisetum arvense supplements on the market that making a shopping decision can be daunting at times. If you are looking to take horsetail to make the most of its benefits and improve your overall health, you should pay attention to a series of key aspects. We have detailed them in the following section to help you make the best possible purchase:

Dosage Form

Horsetail is sold in the form of dried herb, capsules, tablets, and liquid extract. Dried herb is ideal for people looking to consume a 100% natural product, while capsules and tablets are slightly more processed but easier to take. As we briefly explained earlier, liquid extracts offer the highest concentration of Equisetum arvense.

Fresh & dried horsetail

Horsetail can also be applied topically to heal wounds.
(Source: Miller: 78359084/ 123rf.com)

Taste

The dried herb and the liquid extract are recommended for people who can tolerate the natural taste of horsetail, which is particularly intense and bitter. If you have any trouble adapting to this peculiar flavor, you should turn to capsules and tablets. These supplements have a mild, almost neutral taste that you can barely feel as you swallow them.

Suitability for Vegan Diets

Equisetum arvense dried grass and liquid extract are suitable for vegan and vegetarian individuals as these products are 100% of plant origin. The capsules rarely contain animal-based ingredients, and the coating is generally made from hydroxypropyl methylcellulose. However, you should always check the ingredient list if you follow a vegan diet.

Presence of Allergens

Horsetail is naturally gluten-free but can become contaminated during processing – especially in the case of capsules and tablets. This is why people with celiac disease should look for the gluten-free seal of approval on the product. In addition, cross-contamination can lead to the presence of other allergens, such as soy, milk, or nuts.

Value for Money

Liquid horsetail extract is very effective, but it tends to be fairly expensive. Dried horsetail herb or tea bags are cheaper products but require time to brew. In that regard, capsules and tablets are often seen as the supplements that offer the best value for money. They are ready to be consumed, effective, and reasonably priced.

Summary

Horsetail, or Equisetum arvense, is a natural product that acts as a diuretic, remineralizer, antioxidant, hepatoprotector, astringent (antidiarrheal), and antimicrobial when taken orally. It is particularly beneficial in cases of edema (fluid retention), osteoporosis, brittle nails, and high blood pressure.

Horsetail supplements are sold in the form of capsules, dried herb, tablets, and liquid extract on the market. The sterile stems and leaves are used to create these products. Remember to increase your water intake when supplementing with Equisetum arvense, as this plant stimulates the production and excretion of urine.

Did you find our shopping guide on horsetail helpful and interesting? We'd love to hear your opinion, so feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share the power of this superfood with your friends and family on your social media!

(Featured Image Source: Madeleinesteinbach: 101108526/ 123rf.com)

References (13)

1. Al-Snafi A. The pharmacology of Equisetum arvense- A review [Internet]. Journal Of Pharmacy. 2017.
Source

2. Cáceres M, Machaín M. Manual de Uso de Hierbas Medicinales del Paraguay [Internet]. 2001.
Source

3. Carneiro D et al. Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial to Assess the Acute Diuretic Effect of Equisetum arvense (Field Horsetail) in Healthy Volunteers [Internet]. 2014.
Source

4. Carneiro D et al. Equisetum arvense: New Evidences Supports Medical use in Daily Clinic [Internet]. 2019.
Source

5. Badole S, Kotwal S. Equisetum arvense: Ethanopharmacological and Phytochemical review with reference to osteoporosis [Internet]. 2014.
Source

6. Grundemann C et al. Equisetum arvense (common horsetail) modulates the function of inflammatory immunocompetent cells [Internet]. 2014.
Source

7. Oh H, Kim D, Cho J, Kim Y. Hepatoprotective and free radical scavenging activities of phenolic petrosins and flavonoids isolated from Equisetum arvense [Internet]. 2004.
Source

8. Dos Santos J et al. Sedative and anticonvulsant effects of hydroalcoholic extract of Equisetum arvense [Internet]. 2005.
Source

9. Safiyeh S et al. Antidiabetic effect of Equisetum arvense L. (Equisetaceae) in streptozotocin-induced diabetes in male rats [Internet]. 2007.
Source

10. Pallag A et al. Equisetum arvense L. Extract Induces Antibacterial Activity and Modulates Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Apoptosis in Endothelial Vascular Cells Exposed to Hyperosmotic Stress [Internet]. 2018.
Source

11. Del Río P. Vademécum de Fitoterapia Plantas medicinales clasificadas por su nombre latino [Internet]. 2005.
Source

12. Villar A, Iglesias I. Equiseto. Farmacología y farmacoterapia [Internet]. 2006.
Source

13. Ashok P, Upadhyaya K. Tannins are Astringent [Internet]. 2012.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Scientific article
Al-Snafi A. The pharmacology of Equisetum arvense- A review [Internet]. Journal Of Pharmacy. 2017.
Go to source
Recognized media article
Cáceres M, Machaín M. Manual de Uso de Hierbas Medicinales del Paraguay [Internet]. 2001.
Go to source
Scientific article
Carneiro D et al. Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial to Assess the Acute Diuretic Effect of Equisetum arvense (Field Horsetail) in Healthy Volunteers [Internet]. 2014.
Go to source
Scientific article
Carneiro D et al. Equisetum arvense: New Evidences Supports Medical use in Daily Clinic [Internet]. 2019.
Go to source
Scientific article
Badole S, Kotwal S. Equisetum arvense: Ethanopharmacological and Phytochemical review with reference to osteoporosis [Internet]. 2014.
Go to source
Scientific article
Grundemann C et al. Equisetum arvense (common horsetail) modulates the function of inflammatory immunocompetent cells [Internet]. 2014.
Go to source
Informative article
Oh H, Kim D, Cho J, Kim Y. Hepatoprotective and free radical scavenging activities of phenolic petrosins and flavonoids isolated from Equisetum arvense [Internet]. 2004.
Go to source
Informative article
Dos Santos J et al. Sedative and anticonvulsant effects of hydroalcoholic extract of Equisetum arvense [Internet]. 2005.
Go to source
Scientific article
Safiyeh S et al. Antidiabetic effect of Equisetum arvense L. (Equisetaceae) in streptozotocin-induced diabetes in male rats [Internet]. 2007.
Go to source
Scientific article
Pallag A et al. Equisetum arvense L. Extract Induces Antibacterial Activity and Modulates Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Apoptosis in Endothelial Vascular Cells Exposed to Hyperosmotic Stress [Internet]. 2018.
Go to source
Recognized media article
Del Río P. Vademécum de Fitoterapia Plantas medicinales clasificadas por su nombre latino [Internet]. 2005.
Go to source
Informative article
Villar A, Iglesias I. Equiseto. Farmacología y farmacoterapia [Internet]. 2006.
Go to source
Informative article
Ashok P, Upadhyaya K. Tannins are Astringent [Internet]. 2012.
Go to source
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