A Horsetail-as-old-as-time: Get to know Horsetail herb, Equisetum arvense
Horsetail: A sure sign of spring, and one of the first easily recognizable plants to push their way through the warming soil. Let's take a moment to get to know & appreciate this wildly prehistoric plant!
Water-loving horsetail grows abundantly in SEAK's rainforest climate, often earning it the sticky misnomer of a WEED. Lucky for us, most common weeds are actually wonderful sources of food, nutrients, & plant medicine that grow heartily & happily right outside our door; offering us all their goodness once we learn to meet & greet them with open loving arms!
A bit of history on our ancient 'weed' in question: This plant's botanical ancestors were abundant over 300 million years ago, during our planet’s “Carbiniferous Period”, when the Earth’s climate was thought to be fairly mild, tropical, and humid, and critters were just starting to crawl out of the water and lay their eggs on land. The plants that thrived during this time period eventually decomposed to become a significant portion of the biological matter that now makes up our modern-day coal deposits. Many of the horsetail species of that long ago era grew to massive tree-size proportions!
The species we know & work with today is significantly smaller; a relative of the fern, with jointed hollow stems (they pop & pull apart like puzzle pieces) and no broad leaves or flowers to speak of. In early spring (look outside now!) the plants send up a fertile stalk with a spore-covered cone on top for plant reproduction. The plant will eventually send up an infertile stalk with with whorled 'branches' unfolding around the stem like a bright green pipe cleaner.
Horsetail contains high quantities of silica, which our hair & fingernails LOVE. Research on the plant & it's uses have indicated that horsetail has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, & pain relieving properties in it's gift-basket of beneficial actions. The minerals & vitamins present in horsetail help to soften & strengthen hair & skin, improving texture & tone. That's precisely why we've incorporated horsetail into our spring release Nettle & Mint Soap, to give the bar an added boost as both a body & shampoo bar.
Horsetail absorbs silica from the soil, along with a host of other nutrients. Be mindful that horsetail will also absorb any heavy metals & pollutants present in contaminated soils, so pay careful attention to soil conditions where you find this plant, if you feel compelled to harvest. With any wild harvest, always be sure you've chosen a site that is clean & free of contamination.
Many folks enjoy tea from the aerial (above-ground) parts of horsetail to access it's nutrient & mineral rich profile. Horsetail herb is best harvested for consumption in the spring and early summer, as the plant's silica begins to crystalize later in the season, which can be harsh on the body's filtration systems. Late season horsetail does however make an excellent backcountry pot scrubber when you're in a pinch! Externally, the plant can be steeped in hot water to make a nourishing scalp & hair rinse.
If you feel called to use horsetail, take care to heat the plant before consuming, as cooking destroys an enzyme in the fresh plant that can disrupt some vitamins in the body. The high silica content of the plant can irritate the urinary tract, and long term internal use of horsetail is not recommended. Always consult a field guide, relevant literature, & best yet a professional while you're learning to identify and use wild plants! Check for any cautions or contraindications to be sure a plant is safe to use with your body.
Keep your eyes peeled for horsetail popping up across open woods, meadows, and perhaps in your soggy back yard this spring, and invite this nourishing ancient plant into your daily self care routine with with Nettle & Mint Soap!
The information presented here is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before consuming herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.