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Equisetum arvense - L.                
                 
Common Name Field Horsetail
Family Equisetaceae
Synonyms Equisetum calderi. Equisetum saxicola.
Known Hazards Large quantities of the plant can be toxic. This is because it contains the enzyme thiaminase[172], a substance that can rob the body of the vitamin B complex[65]. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172]. The plant also contains equisetic acid - see the notes on medicinal uses for more information[213]. Avoid in patients with oedema due to heart failure or impaired kidney function [301].
Habitats Open fields, arable land, waste places, hedgerows and roadsides[9], usually on moist soils[4].
Range Arctic and temperate regions of Europe, including Britain, N. America and Asia.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       
Equisetum species - horsetail family are Creeping, perenial, Branching rootstocks, rooted at the nodes. The Arial stems may be annual or Perennial, are cylindrical, fluted, simple or with whorled branches at the jointed nodes. The internodes are usually hollow. The Surfaces of the stems are covered with Silica. The Cones are terminal. Equisetum avense is a Perennial from creeping rhizomes, often forming large colonies; to 2 1/2 ft. Stems hollow, riged, jointed. Sterile stems green, with whorled branches ar nodes; leaves reduced to brownish, papery, toothed sheath around node; sheath with fewer then 14 teeth. Fertile stems brownish to whitish, with large "cone" at tip, formed by spore-producing scales; cone produced in early spring.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Equisetum arvense is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft).
It is hardy to zone 2. The seeds ripen in April.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Equisetum arvense Field Horsetail


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:515_Equisetum_arvense.jpg
Equisetum arvense Field Horsetail
   
Habitats       
 Meadow; Hedgerow;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Root;  Stem.
Edible Uses:

Strobil (the fertile shoots in spring) - cooked and used as an asparagus substitute[7, 46, 61, 94]. They should be used when young[116] but even so it is probably best to change the water, perhaps 3 - 4 times[85, 102]. One report says that they can be eaten raw[172], they are peeled and the shoot tip is discarded[213]. It is said to be a very tedious operation and they should not be eaten raw in any quantity, see the notes above on toxicity[K]. Some native tribes liked to eat the young vegetative shoots, picked before they had branched out, and would often collect them in great quantity then hold a feast to eat them[257]. The leaf sheaths were peeled off and the stems eaten raw - they were said to be 'nothing but juice'[257]. Roots - raw[61]. The tuberous growths on the rhizomes are used in the spring[172]. The black nodules attached to the roots are edible[257]. It takes considerable effort to collect these nodules so it is normally only done in times of desperation. However, native peoples would sometimes raid the underground caches of roots collected by lemmings and other rodents in order to obtain these nodules[257]. A further report says that the peeled stems, base of the plant, root and tubers were eaten raw by the N. American Indians, the report went on to say that this may be inadvisable[85].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Anodyne;  Antirheumatic;  Antiseptic;  Astringent;  Cardiac;  Carminative;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Galactogogue;  Haemostatic;  Homeopathy;  
Nervine;  TB;  Vulnerary.

Horsetails have an unusual chemistry compared to most other plants[238]. They are rich in silica, contain several alkaloids (including nicotine) and various minerals[238]. Horsetail is very astringent and makes an excellent clotting agent, staunching wounds, stopping nosebleeds and reducing the coughing up of blood[254]. It helps speed the repair of damaged connective tissue, improving its strength and elasticity[254]. The plant is anodyne, antihaemorrhagic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, galactogogue, haemostatic and vulnerary[4, 7, 9, 20, 21, 46, 61, 165, 172, 218, 240]. The green infertile stems are used, they are most active when fresh but can also be harvested in late summer and dried for later use[4, 9]. Sometimes the ashes of the plant are used[4]. The plant is a useful diuretic when taken internally and is used in the treatment of kidney and bladder problems, cystitis, urethritis, prostate disease and internal bleeding, proving especially useful when there is bleeding in the urinary tract[4, 238, 254]. A decoction applied externally will stop the bleeding of wounds and promote healing[4]. It is especially effective on nose bleeds[7]. A decoction of the herb added to a bath benefits slow-healing sprains and fractures, as well as certain irritable skin conditions such as eczema[254]. The plant contains equisetic acid, which is thought to be identical to aconitic acid. This substance is a potent heart and nerve sedative that is a dangerous poison when taken in high doses[213]. This plant contains irritant substances and should only be used for short periods of time[238]. It is also best only used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh plant[7]. It is used in the treatment of cystitis and other complaints of the urinary system[7]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Equisetum arvense for urinary tract infections, kidney & bladder stones, wounds & burns (see [302] for critics of commission E).
Other Uses
Dye;  Fungicide;  Liquid feed;  Musical;  Paper;  Polish;  Sandpaper;  Scourer.

The stems contain 10% silica and are used for scouring metal[4, 7, 20, 94, 102] and as a fine sandpaper[7, 54, 99, 257]. They can also be used as a polish for brass, hardwood etc[94]. The infused stem is an effective fungicide against mildew, mint rust and blackspot on roses[14, 18, 20, 54]. It also makes a good liquid feed[54]. A light pink dye is obtained from the stem[99, 257]. It is yellow-gray according to another report[102]. The plant has been used for making whistles[257].
Cultivation details                                         
Prefers poor dusty ground[53, 54]. This rather contradicts another report which says that the presence of this plant indicates underground water[4]. Prefers a moist but well-drained fertile soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5[200, 238]. A very cold-hardy species tolerating temperatures down to about -30°c[200]. Plants have a deep and penetrating root system and can be invasive. If grown in the garden they are best kept in bounds by planting them in a large container which can be sunk into the ground[200].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Spores - best collected as soon as they are ripe in the spring and surface-sown immediately on a sterile compost. Keep moist and pot up as soon as the plants are large enough to handle. Very difficult[200]. Division. The plants usually spread very freely when well sited and should not really need any assistance.
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
17
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[14]Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs.
A good herbal.
[18]Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B. Companion Plants.
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
[20]Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Fairly good.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[53]De. Bray. L. The Wild Garden.
Interesting reading.
[54]Hatfield. A. W. How to Enjoy your Weeds.
Interesting reading.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[85]Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains.
A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.
[94]Sweet. M. Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West.
Useful wild plants in Western N. America. A pocket guide.
[99]Turner. N. J. Plants in British Columbian Indian Technology.
Excellent and readable guide.
[102]Kavasch. B. Native Harvests.
Another guide to the wild foods of America.
[116]Brooklyn Botanic Garden Oriental Herbs and Vegetables, Vol 39 No. 2.
A small booklet packed with information.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[172]Schofield. J. J. Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest.
A nice guide to some useful plants in that area.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[213]Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[240]Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
[257]Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
[301]Karalliedde. L. and Gawarammana. I. Traditional Herbal Medicines
A guide to the safer use of herbal medicines.
[302]From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Commission E
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_E

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
Felix Herold Wed Jan 24 2007
Dear Equisetum experts, I am trying to find out if Equisetum arvense is growing on the southern hemisphere (South africa; South america?) Does anyone know? Regards, Felix Herold
Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Wed Jan 24 2007
This plant is native only to various areas in the Northern hemisphere. However, like many other plants that are weeds of cultivation, it has been spread around by human activities. It has become a weed in a few areas of New South Wales in Australia. I am not sure if it has been spread by humans to other areas in the Southern hemisphere, but I would be surprised if it has not.
Elizabeth H.
Tom Belton Thu Feb 19 2009
Tom Belton, Department of Conservation, NZ, and South Atlantic Invasive Species Project, RSPB, UK. Hello Felix and Ken Equisetum arvense is also common in localised parts of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. I am currently on the Falkland Islands and have just discovered what I believe is the first record here, at 51 degrees south, growing in an area of dumped rubble near Stanley township.
Elizabeth H.
David Loring Sat Jul 11 2009
Cultivation details Prefers poor dusty ground[53, 54]. This rather contradicts another report which says that the presence of this plant indicates underground water[4]. Prefers a moist but well-drained fertile soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5[200, 238]. A very cold-hardy species tolerating temperatures down to about -30°c[200]. Plants have a deep and penetrating root system and can be invasive. If grown in the garden they are best kept in bounds by planting them in a large container which can be sunk into the ground[200]. Propagation Spores - best collected as soon as they are ripe in the spring and surface-sown immediately on a sterile compost. Keep moist and pot up as soon as the plants are large enough to handle. Very difficult[200]. Division. The plants usually spread very freely when well sited and should not really need any assistance. Cultivation/Propagation - Madness!!! This is one of the most invasive weeds I have ever come across. Far from liking dusty ground it just LOVES the wet soggy ground here in Ireland. The hedgerows and my fields and garden are full of it. No need to propagaet - just do nothing and you will be overrun in a matter of months. Something like 20% of my gardening time is taken up dealing with this pest.
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