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Horsetail, Equisetum arvense

When I was young, I was intrigued by horsetail, Equisetum arvense. I could stare at the twigs for ages. This plant looked like a construction kit! My fascination grew when I found out that this plant goes back to ancient times and, like ferns, reproduce by means of spores, which it projects over considerable distances.

Medicinal properties of horsetail, Equisetum arvense

My love for horsetail only increased as I learned more about this plant. That is how I discovered, for instance, that it can influence a bizarrely large number of ailments. The best known are probably those relating to the musculoskeletal system. Horsetail helps against osteoporosis and tendinitis and everything in between.
Horsetail’s effect on diseases of the kidneys is equally well known. Fewer people probably know that horsetail remedies weak spots in teeth and brittle hair and nails. And that is me mentioning only a few applications.

Magical properties of Equisetum arvense

As a result, our ancestors have been using horsetail against all kinds of ailments since time immemorial. They used it both medicinally and magically. Check out their sympathetic application of horsetail in diseases and discomforts, for instance. It made horsetail a popular plant to magically use on fractured bones, but also to remedy poorly growing and brittle hair.
This plant also ended up in the bedroom, as it is said to work against infertility and impotence. Given the shape of the cone containing the spores, I hardly think this is such a far-fetched notion.

Botanical description Field horsetail, Equisetum arvense

Horsetail grows on roots that can go metres deep and extend horizontally as well. Consequently, this plant is difficult to get rid of once it has settled in.
Horsetail grows in two phases. During spring – the first phase – a stem of up to 25 cm high, without branches and without chlorophyll, grows. On top of this stem the spore cone appears. This is the so-called fruiting stem. Inside that cone we find the spores through which horsetail reproduces. Those spores are, as it were, launched by an ingenious mechanism. On top of this the spores can jump, which enables them to cover large distances.
After the fruiting stem has withered, the infertile stem follows. This hollow stem is branched and consists of nodes and internodes with six to twelve ribs. The lateral branches grow in whorls around the central stem. These side branches also sport nodes and internodes. Located at the level of those whorls are the stem nodes with six to twelve teeth.
Horsetail carries no leaves and no flowers. There are several species of Equisetum and, due to the toxicity of the other species, it is essential to make sure you identify your plant correctly. In horsetail, Equisetum arvense, the side branches are ascending and in many others they are either horizontal or pendulous. Also, in arvense the first member of the side branches is longer than the corresponding node on the central stem.

Interesting facts

Horsetail has plenty of practical uses. For example, it can be used to dye textiles. Depending on the way of dyeing, you will get different shades of yellow, as well as olive-green.
You can use horsetail as sandpaper and to polish metals.
Horsetail has several convenient properties to use in the garden. You can employ horsetail manure to combat both powdery and downy mildew – also called leaf blotch. Horsetail absorbs heavy metals from the soil. As a result, horsetail is a welcome guest as a pioneer plant on soil contaminated with slag. Because of this property, it is important to make sure that the horsetail you are using for food or to make herbal medicines from did not grow on contaminated soil.
Horsetail is widely used in cosmetics, such as shampoos for brittle hair and creams against sagging skin, stretch marks and cellulite.
The ancestors of this plant were primitive trees that grew up to 40 m in height.

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