Equisetum Arvense, commonly known as horsetail, is a perennial and nonflowering weed with a number of supposed, wide-ranging health benefits. The horsetail plant is closely related to the fern, and the parts which grow above ground are the parts of the plant used to make homeopathic medicines. The truth is that there have been few conclusive studies carried out on the effectiveness of horsetail in treating the diverse conditions which are supposedly bettered by the plant, though there are have also been no studies concluding that the plant is particularly harmful as a treatment, either.
The most common use for horsetail, as a homeopathic treatment, is as a diuretic. By increasing urinary flow, horsetail makes it possible for the body to flush out in increased level of body toxins, keeping the blood healthy and the kidneys cleansed of toxin buildup. The increased urinary flow can also aid in reducing fluid retention, passing uric acid kidney and/or bladder stones, and flushing out urinary tract infections. Of all of the supposed benefits of horsetail, its ability to act as a diuretic is the most substantiated.
One of the lesser known homeopathic uses for horsetail is as a treatment for osteoporosis. More specifically, the plant contains the mineral silicon, which is an important component in maintaining bone health and strength. If the claim is correct, horsetail could become an important component in natural medicines treating the loss of bone density which can come with age, particularly in women. However, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there has only been one study performed on the effectiveness of horsetail as an osteoporosis treatment, and while the results of the study were positive, the study itself is considered poorly designed by the general scientific community.
There is insufficient evidence to conclude that regular doses of horsetail keep one's hair, skin and nails healthy, though it continues to be marketed by homeopathic supplement companies as an effective substance for these purposes. Specifically, horsetail is often marketed as a cure for thinning hair and for hair loss, as well as a natural treatment for brittle nails and minor skin burns and wounds. In the regards to burns and wounds, horsetail is not taken internally, but rather applied topically to the afflicted area in the form of an ointment. Again, though horsetail products are frequently marketed as natural cures for hair, skin and nail conditions, there have been no conclusive studies carried out to prove these claims.
While the horsetail plant is not generally considered toxic by the scientific community, there are a few specific concerns regarding its usage. First, horsetail breaks down thiamine in the body, which can possibly result in a thiamine deficiency when horsetail is used in the long term. Second, due to the diuretic properties of horsetail, the potential to flush out too much potassium through urinary flow can result in insufficient potassium levels, which can lead to cramping and diarrhea. Third, horsetail may lower the blood sugar levels of those with diabetes, making the sudden onset of hypoglycemia more likely.