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Horsetail (Equisetumarvense L.)
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Bottle brush, cola de caballo (Spanish), common horsetail, common scouring rush, corn horsetail, corncob plant, couring rush, Dutch rush, Equisetaceae (family), Equisetum arvense, Equisetum myriochaetum, Equisetum ramosissimum, Equisetum telmateia, field horsetail, Herba Equiseti Hiemalis, hippuric acid, homovanillic acid, horse willow, horsetail grass, horsetail rush, mokuzoku (Japanese), mokchok, mokjeok (Korean), muzei (E. hymale), paddock pipes, pewterwort, prele, pribes des champs, running clubmoss, Schachtelhalm (German), scouring rush, shave grass, shenjincao (Chinese), toadpipe, Wenjing, Zinnkraut (German).
  • Crude drugs derived from Equisetum arvense include Wenjing, Jiejiecao, and Bitoucai.
  • Note: Equisetum arvense should not be confused with members of the genus Laminaria, kelp, or brown alga, for which "horsetail" has been used as a synonym.

Background

  • Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) has traditionally been used in Europe as a diuretic for the treatment of edema (swelling/fluid retention). The German Commission E expert panel has approved horsetail for this indication. Horsetail is also occasionally used for osteoporosis, nephrolithiasis (kidney stones), urinary tract inflammation, and wound healing (topical). It is also used in cosmetics and shampoos. These uses have largely been based on anecdote and clinical tradition, rather than scientific evidence.
  • There is preliminary human evidence supporting the use of horsetail as a diuretic. One poorly designed human trial found horsetail to effectively raise bone density equally to calcium supplements.
  • In theory (based on mechanism of action), horsetail ingestion in large amounts may cause thiamine deficiency, hypokalemia (low potassium), or nicotine toxicity. Reported adverse effects include dermatitis.

Evidence

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Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

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Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.