Horsetail herb (Latin name equisetum arvense) is a fascinating plant and can be grown in your garden. It has been around in some form since the time of the dinosaurs, in the Paleozoic era. The name is derived from its appearance, a bristle-like texture reminiscent of the tail of a horse. It grows in long segmented green tubes that appear reed-like, and grows to a height of about 4 feet. The plant is native to parts of Europe, Asia, North America, and the Middle East. It has medicinal uses that can be traced through history all the way back to ancient Roman and Greek cultures for such varied ailments as tuberculosis and kidney problems, as well as healing wounds and ulcers, to stop bleeding and strengthen bones.
Today, the herb is still used medicinally. It is known to contain a chemical component called silicon, which has been suggested for use in treating osteoporosis. It is a diuretic, and as such is used to treat kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Its uses are many and varied including the treatment of minor wounds and burns, the strengthening of fingernails and toenails, and even the relief of sore throats.
Since it is known to be such a useful herb, it is widely cultivated in home gardens. If you would like to grow it in your own garden, here are some tips on how you can best do so.
Horsetail is a perennial plant that requires moist soil with a pH in the 4.5 to 6.5 range. It does best in a mostly clay soil, though it can handle soil that is a bit sandy. The ideal planting location will allow for partial shade and partial sun. Full sunlight all day long will cause browning and discoloration. It is best to start from seed indoors and plant outside in early spring, only after you are certain that the last frost has occurred. It is recommended that you plant in pots or troughs as planting directly in the ground may result in horsetail overtaking your entire garden. Horsetail prefers a hot and humid climate, and grows in U.S. zones 7 to 10. Horsetail requires quite a bit of water. Be sure to keep the surrounding soil consistently moist in order to ensure healthy growth.
If you are growing horsetail as an herb, the ideal time for harvest is during the summer months. The stems should be picked individually and dried in a cool place. Once dry, horsetail can either be ground into a fine powder or stored in an airtight container for up to one year.
Constant or prolonged use of horsetail is not recommended as it can deplete potassium levels, as well as B1 levels in the body. If you do choose to take the herb daily, be sure to supplement it with B vitamins. It should not be taken with alcohol or by pregnant or breast-feeding women.