Horsetail is probably seen by almost everyone. But when collecting medicinal raw materials, there is often a problem with the correct definition of the species. For medical purposes, scientific medicine uses only field horsetail. (Equisetum arvense), wintering horsetail (Equisetum hyemale) sometimes used by homeopaths. Other species, such as marsh horsetails, riverine, forest and meadow horsetails, are unacceptable impurities, in some cases poisonous, which enter the raw material by mistake or ignorance.
Field horsetail is a perennial spore-bearing herb from the Horsetail family with a creeping brownish-black rhizome deeply submerged in the soil, spherical tubers 4-6 mm in diameter. With their help, vegetative propagation occurs, and on acidic soils, this plant is a rather cheeky weed that can withstand plowing and fire. Horsetail shoots of two types - spring spore-bearing not branched, up to 25 cm high, light brown. They appear before the growth of the main meadow herbage and are clearly visible. Spikelets are oval-cylindrical. After spores fall, the shoots die off quickly and summer vegetative shoots grow from the same rhizome. They are erect or ascending, higher than spring ones, and can reach a height of 50-60 cm, hard to the touch, without spikelets, green, thin, with numerous branches, hollow inside, with 6-10 ribs, smooth in the lower part, in the upper covered with very small tubercles.
Horsetail stiffness is explained by the high content of silicon compounds in its tissues. Therefore, it was traditionally used in villages to clean pots and pans. Horsetail decoction was used to treat agricultural plants against diseases. As modern research has shown, organic silicon compounds strengthen the plant's immunity and increase its resistance to bacterial and fungal diseases. Nowadays, even special chemical preparations based on silicon have been created. And in China, horsetail, prepared in a special way, was used for tuberculosis. Silicon is deposited around the affected areas in the lungs, preventing further destruction of the lung tissue.
Horsetail is widespread in most of Russia, except for deserts and semi-deserts and regions of the Far North. Grows in meadows, coniferous, linden, aspen birch and mixed forests. Prefers floodplains, river banks, shrub thickets, common along roadsides, on the slopes of railway embankments, near ditches, in sand and clay quarries. It is often found in crops and is a difficult-to-eradicate weed.
They are harvested mainly in the European part of the country: in the Stavropol Territory, Perm, Pskov, Vologda and Vladimir regions. Productivity ranges from 1.5-5 t / ha. Natural reserves are many times greater than the needs.
Now how to distinguish the desired horsetail in a crowd of numerous fellows. Forest horsetail (Equisеtum sylvаticum) has a non-rigid stem, soft branched "twigs" hanging like branches of a weeping willow, and the presence of blunt spikelets at the top, meadow horsetail (Equisetum pratense) resembles a forest horsetail, but has horizontal unbranched branches, in the upper part of the stem there are conical papillae. Another feature of it is that it does not have root nodules. Marsh horsetail (Equisetum palustre) characterized by the fact that the branches are directed upwards, and the shoot often ends with a spikelet, which is not the case with the field horsetail. The plant is poisonous. River horsetail, or marsh horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) has a thick stem, branches of different lengths directed upwards and reaches a greater height than other species - up to 150 cm.
Medicinal raw materials and their chemical composition
Horsetail vegetative shoots are harvested in June-August. Cut at a height of 5-10 cm from the soil surface. Dry in the shade in the open air, spreading out in a loose layer and periodically turning over.
The finished raw material consists of stems up to 30 cm long, grayish-green in color, tough, straight with branchy shoots. The smell is weak, peculiar, the taste is sour. The shelf life of raw materials is 2 years.
As mentioned above, horsetail herb contains silicic acid salts (up to 25%) in a water-soluble organic form, in small amounts alkaloids nicotine, equisetin, 3-methoxypyridine, bitterness, saponins, malic acid, mineral salts, tannins, vitamin C, flavonoids.
The use of horsetail goes back centuries. It is believed that the ancient Romans who made their conquests in Europe were familiar with him. Avicenna recommended its juice as a wound healing, wine infusion for liver and stomach tumors, dropsy and bloody diarrhea. N. Kulpepper pointed out that horsetail wine extract expels stones, helps with fever and cough, and externally helps with wounds and ulcers.
It has now been established that horsetail enhances and accelerates urination, has hemostatic and anti-inflammatory properties. Promotes the elimination of lead from the body. Stimulates the adrenal cortex, prevents the formation of urate stones. It has an antimicrobial effect on the urinary tract. The antioxidant effect of horsetail and its ability to influence lipid metabolism have been confirmed.
It is used as a diuretic for edema due to insufficient blood circulation, as well as for edema in women associated with changes in hormonal levels during menopause, with inflammatory processes of the bladder and urinary tract (cystitis, urethritis), with pleurisy with a large amount of exudate. Used as a hemostatic agent for uterine and hemorrhoidal bleeding. Recommended for some forms of tuberculosis.
In modern studies, a rather interesting property of horsetail has been found to retain calcium in the bones and delay the development of osteoporosis in women, as well as contribute to the acceleration of bone healing in fractures.
Contraindications: decoctions of horsetail can irritate the kidneys, are contraindicated in nephritis.
For cooking decoction take 3 tablespoons of herbs per 0.5 liters of boiling water. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes, insist 1-2 hours, filter and take 0.5 cups 3-4 times a day half an hour before meals.
On sale you can find liquid extract on 60% alcohol 1: 5. Take 1 teaspoon 3-4 times a day.
The use of horsetail extracts in cosmetics for aging and fading skin of the face and neck is promising. In this case, together with other "cosmetic" herbs, such as linden, chamomile, meadowsweet, cornflower, they make a decoction and use it for washing or wiping with a decoction frozen in the refrigerator.
In veterinary medicine, dry herb powder is used mainly externally for sprinkling wounds and ulcers in livestock.
To treat plants in the garden against powdery and downy mildew at the onset of the disease or its threat, prepare a concentrated decoction of herbs in an enamel bucket (about 500 g of raw materials per 5-6 liters of water, boil for about an hour, let it brew, strain) and spray the plants abundantly. Treatment can be started in advance for prophylaxis and repeated approximately once a week (3-4 times a month).