Horsetail herb, also known as scouring rush and Mu Zei, is a less commonly used Chinese herb that first found in Jia You Ben Cao (Materia Medica of Jia You Reign). But that does not necessarily imply that it is with a low medicinal value. On the contrary, it has many medicinal uses and the main one is to treat people with eye problems. So, what is horsetail herb used for today? In fact, now horsetail is also used for hair growth, high blood pressure, plane warts and pimple, acute conjunctivitis, acute dacryocystitis, trachoma, colds, cough, psoriasis, blood in the stool, bleeding hemorrhoids, and so on. When used properly, it can be very effective and will bring instant relief for the sufferers.
What is horsetail herb?
Medicinally it refers to the dried above ground part of Hippochaete hyemalis (L.) Bruhin. (or Equisetum hyemale. L.) This is a member in the family Equisetaceae. And other names of horsetail plant include scouring rush, Shave Grass, Herba Equiseti Hiemalis, rough horsetail, Horse Tail, Horsetail Grass, and so on. It is generally collected in summer and autumn. Before the use, it needs to remove impurities and dry in the sun or in the shade. And it can be used in the forms of horsetail supplement, extract, tea, powder, and pills.
Horsetail plant is a perennial herb, up to 50cm in height. Creeping rhizome is short, black, and with verticillate dark brown roots on nodes. Fasciculate stems are hard, upright, unbranched, cylindrical, and 4 to 8mm in diameter. Leaves degenerate into flaky shape; base grows into 6-10mm tubular sheath. The spike of sporangia is on the top of stems, oblong, 1 to 1.5cm long, and with dark brown small tip on apex. Spherical spores are many and wound by 2 filamentous elaters, which will pop open once contacting water so that the spores can reproduce. Heading stage is between June and August. Habitats are wet places under the hillside forest, riparian wetlands and stream, and sometimes the weeds.
Main chemical compositions of the overground part are volatile oil, flavonoid glycosides, alkaloids like palustrine, trace nicotine, vanillin, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, glucose, fructose, phosphorus, silicon, tannins, saponins and so on. And volatile oil include organic acids like succinic acid, fumaric acid, glutaric acid methyl ester, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, m-hydroxybenzoic acid, ferulic acid, vanillic acid, caffeic acid, p-methoxycinnamic acid, m-methoxycinnamic acid, etc. And flavonoid glycosides include Kaempferol 3,7-diglucoside, kaempferol-3-diglucoside-7-glucoside, kaempferol-3-glucoside-7-diglucoside, gossypitrin, herbacetrin, and more.
Horsetail herb benefits
The Horsetails belong to the only surviving genus of Equisetum. More than that, its family Equisetaceae, its order Equisetales, and its classis Sphenopsida are all single respectively. It is one of the oldest plants on earth. Today the horsetail grass found in corn fields and wetlands in many places of the world is, actually, the dwarf species of huge fossil plants in Carboniferous era. In addition to its medicinal uses, it can be very helpful in everyday life too. Here are some proven tips.
When spring comes, many of the elderly will suffer from eye disorders, such as red eyes, photophobia, burning sensation, increased mucus, too much eye discharge, etc. And the above-mentioned symptoms are often caused by a virus, by a bacterial infection, or by allergies. Traditional Chinese medicine calls it “eyes of fire” and believes that it is associated with wind-heat infection, which is easily triggered in spring due to the growth and development of yang Qi. In this case, drinking horsetail tea is one of the simplest but effective options.
It can be used to make an amazing homemade toner. To make your own secret horsetail-based formula, you need to go through a few steps. To start with, chop the stems that don’t bloom yet and put them into a pot; next, add 2 pints of water and 1 tablespoon honey, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes; in addition, add 1 tablespoon of witch hazel juice after cooling and filtering; finally, mix them thoroughly. That’s it. This toner is good at shrinking enlarged pores on face and neck.
Since it is used as polishing material traditionally, similarly it can be used for dental stains removal and teeth whitening too. Actually many people have ever given it a try and claimed that it worked but the bitter astringent taste was so terrible. Nevertheless, this teeth-stains-clean method is based on physical instead of chemical properties. Because it works like fine grit sandpaper, long-term use may lead to enamel damage.
Modern pharmacological actions of horsetail herbs
1. Experimental results show that it has analgesic effect. The active ingredients are fatty acids and esters. And the ether extract has a stronger analgesic effect than water extract and ethanol extract;
2. Its alcohol extract was administered to mice with 20g/kg and 40g/kg respectively. The result shows that it can significantly enhance the hypnotic action of pentobarbital on the central nervous system (CNS). And the prolonged sleeping time in mice also indicates that it has sedative action;
3. Its decoction can significantly reduce high-fat diet induced elevated serum total cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition, it has preventive and therapeutic effect on experimental hyperlipidemia;
4. Its injection can prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in rabbits;
5. Its alcohol extract can dilate isolated blood vessels in rabbits, resist histamine, and increase coronary flow in isolated heart of guinea pig;
6. Its alcohol extract has significant long-lasting antihypertensive effect on mice. The antihypertensive mechanism is related to muscarinic-cholinergic response;
7. Ferulic acid contained can inhibit ADP and collagen induced platelet aggregation, significantly inhibit thrombin-induced platelet aggregation, and reduce thrombus weight;
8. Its hydroalcoholic extract can obviously inhibit the production of lipid peroxides (LPO) in adult mouse’s liver, kidney, and spleen tissue. And its effect enhances with the increasing of extract concentration. The increasing LPO is believed as one of the underlying causes of aging and various diseases. That indicates that it has some anti-aging effect;
9. Its chloroform extract has a diuretic effect;
10. Caffeic acid contained has a wide range of bacteriostatic action in vitro, but it can be inactivated in the body by the protein. In vitro it has antiviral activity. That’s to say, it has strong inhibition on vaccinia and adenovirus, followed by type I polio and parainfluenza virus type Ⅲ;
11. Caffeic acid contained has hemostatic effect, which can reduce blood clotting and bleeding time;
12. Silicates and tannin have astringent effect;
13. Its alcohol extract increases the contraction frequency, the intestinal muscle tension, and contraction amplitude of the isolated rabbit intestine at the concentration of 0.66% to 1.2%; it inhibits intestinal muscle contraction at 2%; it excites the isolated ileum of guinea pig at 0.4% but inhibits it from 0.8% to 1.0%;
14. 3μg caffeic acid can completely inhibit 201μg rattlesnake venom – phosphodiesterase, which suggests that it can be used as anti-venom agent.
Sample herb horsetail herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica says that horsetail is bitter and sweet in flavor and neutral and non-toxic in nature. It goes to meridians of lung, liver, and gall bladder. Prime functions are dispersing wind to clear heat, cooling blood to stop bleeding, and removing nebula to improve eyesight. Major horsetail herb use and indications include wind-heat type of hot eyes, nebula, watery eyes caused by wind, hemorrhoidal hemorrhage, bloody diarrhea, prolonged menstrual period, and rectocele. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, pills, and powder.
1. Mu Zei San from Ren Zhai Zhi Zhi Fang Lun (Renzhai’s Comprehensive Prescriptions). It is combined with Mu Man Tou (creeping fig), Zhi Ke (Fructus Aurantii), Huai Jiao (Sophora fruit), Fu Ling (Poria), and Jing Jie (Schizonepeta) to treat hemorrhoidal hemorrhage.
2. Lei Shi Mu Zei San. It is formulated with Xiang Fu Zi (Cyperus rotundus rhizome) and Pu Xiao (Glauber’s salt) to cure profuse uterine bleeding. If accompanied with pain under the navel, add Ru Xiang (Frankincense), Mo Yao (Myrrh), and Dang Gui (Dong Quai).
3. Mu Zei San from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns and Treatment). It is matched with Chan Tui (Cicada Molting), Gu Jing Cao (Eriocaulon, Pipewort), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), Cang Zhu (Atractylodes), She Tui (Periostracum Serpentis), and Huang Qin (Scutellaria Baicalensis) to heal bloodshot eyes and slight corneal opacity.
Horsetail herb side effects and contraindications
Horsetail herb is poisonous to livestock. The poisoning symptoms include weakness of limbs, ataxia, difficulty rolling over, tremors, muscle rigidity, frequent weak pulse, and cold extremities. Blood chemistry analysis showed that the main cause was vitamin B deficiency. And the symptoms can be relieved soon after using plenty of vitamins B. TCM wise, use it with care in the case of deficiency of both blood and Chi.