Benefits and Uses of Horsetail (Shavegrass)

Katie Wells Avatar

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This post contains affiliate links.

Read my affiliate policy.

Herb Profile-Horsetail Shavegrass Uses and Benefits
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Benefits and Uses of Horsetail (Shavegrass)

I’ve been using herbs and herbal preparations for years now to treat mild issues at home. Horsetail (also called shavegrass) is an herb that I always keep in the herb cabinet (which is what I have instead of a medicine cabinet!). It has been my go-to for hair, skin, and nail health but I am still learning that there are even more benefits and uses of horsetail herb.

What Is Horsetail?

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is a medicinal plant used for remedies that dates back to ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. But it has been around much longer, as early as before the dinosaurs. Prehistoric horsetail was much taller, the size of a tree, but today’s horsetail reaches just about 4 feet tall. Horsetail is thought to be the most abundant source of silica in the plant kingdom. Because of this, it has been used in the past to polish metal.

The above-ground part of the plant is what is used for herbal medicine. It has been used traditionally for many ailments and to support natural health:

  • Hair, bone, nail, and skin health
  • Mouth and throat health
  • Healing wounds
  • Viral infections
  • Digestion help
  • Cardiovascular and respiratory ailments
  • Bladder problems (including bed-wetting)
  • Bleeding issues
  • Immune system support

While herbalists have used horsetail for traditional remedies for many years, there isn’t a lot of scientific data to support its use. However, the small amount of research that is available is promising and makes a case for further research.

Horsetail Benefits

Horsetail has many uses in traditional herbal medicine. Science is also beginning to back up these claims. Here are some of the most common benefits of horsetail:

High in Nutrients and Antioxidants

One of the most interesting benefits of horsetail is how nutrient dense it is. Horsetail contains the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin C
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Copper

Horsetail also contains Kynurenic acid, which reduces inflammation and pain, as well as silica, which supports collagen production. It also contains chlorophyll, known to fight cancer by preventing the cytotoxic and hyperproliferative effects of iron metabolism.

Additionally, research suggests that horsetail has antioxidant properties and may even inhibit cancer cell growth because of this.

Promotes Bone Health

The high level of silica in horsetail is one of its main health benefits. Silica is important for bone and teeth health among other things. In a 1999 study, post-menopausal women with osteoporosis regained significant bone density after 1 year of supplementation of horsetail.

Fights Illness and Infection

Traditional herbalists use horsetail on wounds, especially boils and carbuncles. It turns out this use is scientifically backed. Horsetail has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that help with disease and infection. One 2006 study tested horsetail essential oil on a number of bacteria and fungi like Staph, Salmonella, and Candida. It was found to have a broad spectrum effect on all strains tested.

Has Diuretic Properties

Horsetail has been used traditionally as a diuretic and to treat bladder issues for centuries. A 2014 study found that horsetail works as well as a conventional diuretic medicine (hydrochlorothiazide) without side effects such as significant changes to liver or kidney function or electrolyte balance.

Additionally, many diuretic drugs cause electrolyte issues but this study found that horsetail does not cause the same issues. This may be because horsetail is also a good source of electrolytes.

Supports Hair, Skin, and Nail Health

Horsetail has also been used traditionally for hair, skin, and nail health. It’s thought that the high silica content of horsetail is the reason why it works. Silica helps boost collagen production which is important for healthy hair, skin, and nail.

Science backs this up too. A 2016 study found that hair with high amounts of silica was less likely to fall out and was also more lustrous than hair with lower levels of silica.

Horsetail can even help regrow hair after hair loss. According to this 2012 study, significant hair growth occurred after 90 and 180 days of supplementing with horsetail herb.

One study published in the Journal of Plastic Dermatology found that using horsetail topically on nails reduced splitting and fragility of nails as well as reduced longitudinal grooves.

Additionally, a 2015 study found horsetail ointment helped heal episiotomy wounds and reduced pain associated with it.

Horsetail Uses

I often use this herb, especially in external preparations due to its skin/hair supportive high silica content:

  • Increase bone density – Take a supplement of horsetail with calcium daily.
  • As an herbal hair rinse – I brew a strong herbal tea (1/2 cup horsetail to 1 cup water), steep for an hour, strain and use as a hair rinse in the shower.
  • For boils and blisters – I grind the dried herb with plantain and add enough water to create a paste and then pack on to boils or blisters and cover with gauze to speed healing.
  • For nails – Use horsetail oil on nails to improve strength and reduce breakage and splitting.
  • As diuretic – Drink horsetail tea to remove excess water.
  • Sore throat – For sore throat, I make a gargle with a strong horsetail infusion (steeping horsetail in boiling water and then cooling) with sea salt and lemon juice and then gargle with this mixture a few times a day while symptoms persist.
  • Bedwetting/bladder problems – A capsule of horsetail extract two or three times daily may be helpful for alleviating some of the symptoms of bladder and urinary tract infections (although not necessarily solving the problem, see this post on UTIs), incontinence, and even bed wetting because it can relieve the urge to urinate. Or try a bath in horsetail tea (steep dried horsetail in a quart of boiling water for 10-15 minutes and then strain and add to bath).

Is Horsetail Safe? Additional Notes

I avoid this herb when pregnant or nursing (so my whole married life!) but use it externally for hair or skin if needed.

Precautions for using horsetail include:

  • Drink lots of water while taking horsetail
  • Don’t take if you have a kidney problem
  • Check with your doctor if you take medications as some may interact with horsetail (including causing potassium imbalance)
  • Horsetail may lower blood glucose so diabetics should check with their doctor before use
  • Because it contains traces of nicotine, horsetail is not recommended for children
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid horsetail as there aren’t any safety studies
  • Choose a thiaminase-free formula as thiaminase can block absorption of thiamine

Otherwise, horsetail is generally considered safe when taken in short-term use.

Where to Buy Horsetail

There are many places you can purchase it from online, and possibly even locally, but I typically buy it and make it as a tea. This powdered version is a little more convenient you don’t have to steep or strain it. You can also try capsule form, although I haven’t personally.

You can also grow your own horsetail. If you want to try it, start with it in a container since it spreads very easily and may take over your garden!

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

Have you ever used horsetail? How did you use it? Tell me below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

110 responses to “Benefits and Uses of Horsetail (Shavegrass)”

  1. Jodie Avatar

    i just started yesterday, half a cup of dried horsetail herbs with hot water at night. Hoping it will help my hair grow back and skin become clearer

    1. Sherri Colca Avatar
      Sherri Colca

      Has anyone used it as a poultice for applying to ankle for pain? I’ve just learned I have bone demineralization in my left ankle.

  2. Julie Avatar

    I’m currently drinking a stong horsetail tea infusion at least once a day to help with a hair loss issue. The silica in the tea seems to strengthen the hair and assist in promoting re-growth. My nails have never been nicer either.

  3. Paula Valadez Avatar
    Paula Valadez

    There seems to be two horsetail herb plants. Which is which, the right one or are they the same? There is the one that looks soft and green like a bottle brush, then the other looks like long tails that grow straight up. What is the difference and when ordering this herb how do I know which one I got??????

  4. Prachi Avatar

    My 4 week old baby has reflux and spitting issues.she is not able to sleep in her back for poor esophageal / stomach digestion.i am exclusively breast feeding.can I use horsetsil in moderate?

  5. Laura S Peraza Avatar
    Laura S Peraza

    Interesting, I used horse tail for kidney stones. I had them in both kidneys about 3 years. ago. My mother-in-law has it growing in her front yard. She cut some and I used it for making tea. Washed it real well and boiled it. I don’t recall how long I drank it in between appointments. When I went to the doctor they were surprised, one kidney was completely free of stones and the other the stone had decreased in size. I still got it obliterated but only had to endure the procedure on one kidney instead of both. I’ve been curious of other uses for horse tail and came across your blog. Thanks for the info.

  6. anna Avatar

    how do we know the difference between horsetail and the great horsetail plant as we’ve heard the latter is poisonous?

  7. Higgy Avatar

    Hi,
    This is so interesting, thanks Katie!!
    Like others I am over-run by Horsetail and it grows up to 5feet tall in the paddock at the bottom of the garden and I pull it out daily in the garden itself!!
    I have a dog with a slight incontinence problem and I’m running out of options to keep the old boy going 🙁 Other than this a few old bones he is a great lad and not ready to meet his maker yet! I would love to try and help him with what is essentially a weed in the garden but again as above need to know how I use it in it’s raw form to make a tea or infusion?
    Can I use it fresh or does it have to be dry?
    What Dosage would I use for 27KG Border CollieX?
    I have also read elsewhere that you can use Goldenrod with Horstail, again what I grow in the garden!
    If Combining with Horstail how much Goldenrod would I use and how would I use it?
    I also read that Nettles can be used in conjunction to help the bones (again Plentiful here!)
    How would I use the nettles with it?
    Any help or advice would be simply brilliant and very much appreciated.
    And of course you’d be helping to keep my old best friend going for a little bit longer!! 🙂
    Thanks
    Higgy

  8. mike hurcum Avatar
    mike hurcum

    Horsetail + horseradish leaves or either alone boiled in water. The water is the best pesticide for plants ever. Have you ever seen bugs on either?

  9. Fritzi Avatar

    Horsetail grows in my backyard. I need to know whether to use it only in its dry state, or can it be used in a green, freshly harvested state? It is so prolific that I’m pulling it as it crosses ‘baracades’ into unapproved territory. New green, mature green, or dried…please respond.

    1. Nan Avatar

      I’ve read online (while researching silica) that the fresh and/ or ground state are used for polishing tin, so not to be taken internally or you could damage your insides. You could make a tea or throw in the bath for a soak.

    2. Kathy Avatar

      It starts out here in Alaska as stalks and grows into ferns. Check online to make sure you got horsetail and you can use both. Some just seem to stay stalks.

  10. Larry Goss Avatar
    Larry Goss

    i take ‘ all day energy greens ” and i have noticed my hair in places is turning dark , one of the ingredients is horsetail i would like your comment and if this is what is helping the hair change color how can i accelerate the process thank you

  11. angela Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    Do you recommend liquid extract or tincture form of horsetail? I am unsure of the difference between the two– can you clarify?

    Also, do you know of a reputable company that ships to the UK?

    Thanks for this great post. Looking forward to getting some.

      1. Kim Avatar

        Hi Katie, I’ve posted something several times and have not received a reply yet. I’m sure u have lots to reply to so I’m sorry if I’m a pest 🙁 I am losing my hair on the right side of my head and am trying to learn where I can get the horsetail I need for a hair rinse. I have Natures Answer Horsetail liquid, 2000mg. Can I use that? And what is tincture? Thank u Katie. I’m desperate.

        1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

          The horsetail liquid should work- a tincture is just a mixture of herbs that has been preserved in alcohol or glycerine. If you are losing your hair though, have you thought about seeing a naturopathic doctor?

        2. Pippa Avatar

          Hi, I suffered with a large degree of rapid hair loss a year ago from stress and due to the meds I take. I take horsetail capsules (Holland & Barratt ( plus Selenium and Biotin.
          The combination of all 3 has made a huge difference! My hair stopped falling out and started growing back after 3 months.

          I also add coconut oil (KTC) to my daily diet.
          Hope that helps and good luck 🙂

          1. Marie Avatar

            Hi, I have been suffering from Alopecia for two years, I have read everything i can get my hands on, but do you think this will help increase my chances of my hair growing back, it’s starting to come back now like baby hair, I just want to give it every chance possible

      2. Christina Avatar
        Christina

        Can I use horsetail topically while nursing? It’s for eczema on my hand. Thanks!

        1. Toni Avatar

          Christina,
          I’ve had eczema on my hands for over 25 years. Last year I had a Chemical allergy skin test done. It’s called a T.R.U.E. test. It has to be done by your allergy doctor I believe but it helped me finally clear up my eczema. I found out I was allergic to such everyday things as rubber and disperse blue dye (it’s in a lot of blue, grey and black synthetic clothes! Not to mention the eczema drug I was prescribed and naturally parabens and lanolin, etc. Now when I get a rare flare up, I usually know why.
          Hope that helps, Toni

      3. Julie Avatar

        I have an 11 year old bedwetter and am confused. This article said good for bedwetting, but then it also said don’t allow children to use. Could I try it in a tea in small amounts? Heard you on the Dr. Gundry podcast. Thanks for the good advice.

        1. Katie Wells Avatar

          I’d ask a doc or herbalist to be sure. There are other sources of most of the nutrients in horsetail that are safe for kids. For instance, Biosil is a source of silica and I’ve read it is safe for kids over age 7.

    1. Austin Iroadu Avatar
      Austin Iroadu

      Hi, check out this company in London……..

      G. Baldwin, 171 Walworth Road, Camberwell, London SE17 1RW.

      They stock herbs from all over the world and do online consultations.
      Find out more on Google or visit them.
      I have used them for close to 14 years and they are quite good in what they do.

  12. Andrea Avatar

    Hi Katie
    I want to use the horsetail on blisters, when I do bars in crossfit I get a lot of blisters on my hands and because of that I have to stop my training until they get better and dry, I need something that can dry them super fast. In your recipe you mention plantain, is that the actual plantain? The whole plantain? Just the inside or out? Or is an oil?
    I’m also going to use tea tree oil for it, maybe that can help to dry faster. But I also want to try the horsetail recipe .
    Pleaseee help me with this !!! Thank you

  13. ruhul anam Avatar
    ruhul anam

    I found it use full to know the use and try find some in my locality central London.

  14. Deb Avatar

    I am confused about horsetail and kidney stones. I get calcium oxalate stones so I usually have to avoid greens and things with heavy tannins. I thought this was good for them but you said do not take it if you have stones. I never know when they may be forming so what do you recommend? Thanks so much. I want to live healthy but am afraid of greens, sincerely, Deb

    1. Tina Avatar

      As I understand it, eating dark leafy greens – like kale, collard greens, swiss chard – are very good to eat to help keep calcium in your bones where it belongs. Otherwise you end up with things like bone spurs (& perhaps the calcium oxalate stones) that means calcium is being leached out of your bones.

    2. Ingrid Avatar

      Have you checked your blood calcium levels? If 10 or above, you should check your parathyroid levels as well, because if they are elevated as well, you have hyperparathyroidism which causes osteopenia and osteoporosis. If you have that, you need surgery to remove the bad parathyroid to regain your normal blood calcium levels. This happened to me, and I’m now rebuilding my bones after my surgery.

    3. Dorothea Avatar
      Dorothea

      You might want to get an herbal mixture to get rid of kidney stones.

  15. Jebby Leighton Avatar
    Jebby Leighton

    I just read about this herb and its healing potential for osteoporosis. I have osteopenia. How would I use this herb long term?

  16. Ashley Mitchell Avatar
    Ashley Mitchell

    Hi:)
    I have a question about Horsetail and breastfeeding. I see you do not take it while pregnant or breastfeeding. I have read this elsewhere too. I’m a bit confused, I was going to order Dr Christopher’s calcium tea, then I realized I could just make it myself at a much better price with bulk herbs from Mountain Rose. So I’ve ordered the herbs, comfry, horsetail, oatstraw, raspberry…a few others since while bf i drink nettle and raspberry regularly anyway…
    i went on the Dr Christopher’s legacy page and found that this combo of herbs is something he would prescribe to help heal teeth and grow stronger teeth in children and he also advised pregnant and breastfeeding women to take it. so I’m all excited about making this formula myself with a recipe I found but now I’m concerned about the Horsetail. Has anyone taken Dr Christopher’s calcium formula while pregnant or bf? I’m wondering if I should just leave the comfry (sp?) and horsetail out and just make a mouth wash with those herbs to add to my teeth healing regiment.
    does anyone know anything about it? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! 🙂
    Ashley

    1. Theo Avatar

      I can’t speak on the pregnancy subject, but I do know from personal experience that it does help with teeth and gum issues. I used the tincture.

    2. Allison Avatar

      Horsetail contains small amounts of nicotine. This, therefore, makes it unadvisedable to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding and in children.

  17. Kate Avatar

    I’m currently taking horsetail in tincture form in an effort to heal some torn cartilage in my hip. *fingers crossed*

    1. Marina Lagacé Avatar
      Marina Lagacé

      hello,
      Are you still taking horsetail? How much did it help you, just curious as I have started for about a week and see less inflammation in my fingers. I had 2 full hip replacement and problem with the knees, therefore just wondering how much it helped you. Thanks

  18. Isler Avatar

    Yes, I like to use it for what its nickname implies, shaving. I’ll use horsetail tea to make the lye solution for shaving soap. Have yet to try it internally, but I think I will now. Every time I’ve ever gone down to the river to harvest it, I’ve ended up with a bad case of poison ivy. So now I find one ounce packages in the spice section at Walmart of all places.

    1. James Avatar

      Can you elaborate on the horsetail lye solution? I thought in soap making, lye was traditionally taken from wood ash. Can you use horsetail instead then?

      Thanks

    2. Kim Hassan Avatar
      Kim Hassan

      Hi, I would like to know what it’s under (name) in the spice section at Wal Mart? Tried to find it today and didn’t have any luck. I’d like to be able to make tea, and a hair rinse…..?? Thanks 🙂

      1. Kim Hassan Avatar
        Kim Hassan

        Hi. Will I get a reply on here or in my email lol? I know it will take time but I keep checking both 🙂

      2. Guadalupe Avatar
        Guadalupe

        Hi, I found it in the Tea section at Wal-Mart. Its in a box and it contains tea bags. I have not found it as a pill nor liquid.
        Also if you have a Mexican Food Store or a Mexican Section at Wal-Mart, it is called Cola de Caballo in Spanish. Hope this helps.

        1. crystal Avatar

          You may have already heard this from someone else but, there is now horsetail in pill form. I got mine at a vitamin shop in Illinois. It cost me about 12$ for raw fresh freeze dried horsetail 50 veg caps 375mg by eclectic.

          1. Irene De Leon-Borja Avatar
            Irene De Leon-Borja

            If you know somebody in Europe, family or friends, you could order ‘horsetail’ from Switzerland, it is called ‘Prele’ in French, the laboratory’s name is ‘Dieti Natura’ The 200 capsules bottle costs 8 Euro, and it’s better to buy 3 bottles at a time because the third one come at one euro, so for 17 Euros you get 600 hundred capsules, (about 19 dollars), when you order more than 50 euros I get free shipping to France, but they do not have a program to ship outside of Europe.
            This last few years I also buy my ‘Cat’s Claw’ capsules from them, great product and great prices, before I had to get them from South America, but you can get Cat’s Claw in the States now at good prices too.

          2. Tess Lennon Avatar
            Tess Lennon

            I have a problem with an abundance of horsetail growing I have been my garden and among plants. Can I soak this to make a hair rinse and mouthwash? Is the fresh horse tail better to use and is a lot needed.? Thank you for advice.

      3. Tammy Avatar

        You can buy it in loose leaf form from Amazon by searching for horsetail loose leaf tea. You may also do a web search on google or yahoo and find other merchants that carries it.

        Hope this helps.

    3. Teresa Avatar
      Teresa

      For poison ivy you should wash up with old fashioned lye soap made with lard… it will cut thru the oils that make you break out… using jewelweed tea in the making of the soap will also help, applying fresh crushed jewelweed to the poison ivy will dry it up…

  19. Cindy Abbott Freeman Avatar
    Cindy Abbott Freeman

    Where would you get horsetail extract, as mentioned for bedwetting?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I think even Amazon carries it or a local health food store might…

      1. Elizabeth Avatar
        Elizabeth

        It is carried at The Vitamin Shoppe under the name of silica. I had a gastric bypass a few years ago and it has helped my nails and hair.

        1. Joan Hartsough Avatar
          Joan Hartsough

          Please check out Alternatives to Dentistry, Doug Simons. He’s a seasoned herbalist in NM who has successfully helped people heal cavities and weak teeth (with horsetail). I am doing his protocol to try to heal internal resorption of my tooth. Good luck! This has worked great for my tooth so far!

          1. Deidre Avatar
            Deidre

            Has it helped with the tooth resorption?

          2. Yuriko Avatar

            Hello
            I watched Doug Simon’s video about alternative dentistry last weekend. He has website and I sent email about horsetail powder he sells but have not received reply. I was wondering if you had same experience or may know Where I can reach him?
            Thank you!

        2. Fiona Avatar

          I have used horsetail for years as a plant fertilizer. Around where I live in Canada, it grows everywhere and is actually invasive
          I wash it amd simmer it in a large pot with a few litres of water. After it cools, I use straight every couple of weeks for potted plants during the growing season with great results.

  20. Abbi Cobb Avatar
    Abbi Cobb

    This is one of the herbs that is on my mental list to try this year. We have it growing wild in our neighborhood and I have been reading about it several places. Thanks for the information that you shared!

      1. Clarissa Avatar
        Clarissa

        Yes it grows great in Texas, I have an area of yard that is almost full shade and the ground stays wet, not much will grow there, until I found horse tail and planted it there, its taken off and grows well.

    1. Tess Avatar

      I have read that to make tincture itvis much better to use the fresh herb. Does anyone have experience with this? Has anyone tried the supplement BioSil? Also curious about this. Perhaps powdered horsetail is the way to go?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *