Benefits and Uses of Horsetail (Shavegrass)

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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. 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.


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

  1. Karen Avatar

    The article says : “Choose a thiaminase-free formula as thiaminase can block absorption of thiamine.” If one is buying the complete herb, I guess that is not possible?
    How much would one have to take and for how long to block the absorption of thiamine?

    Are you referring to capsules, which state thiaminase-free on the bottle?

    Thanks !

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Thiaminase-free would only apply to the supplement form. The risk of thiamine depletion would only be with prolonged use or in large amounts. Making a decoction of the plant (simmering it in water for 15-20 minutes) also neutralizes the thiaminase.

  2. dan Avatar

    I met an old man once that was a biochemist. One of the many things he introduced me to was horsetail tincture. He used olive oil instead of alcohol. He used it to mend a girl’s badly broken leg. The docs said she wouldn’t run competitively again. She did and had the hardware removed after the season. They said she wouldn’t be able to run that season. She did. She developed a stress fracture. She took that horsetail again and only missed one race.

  3. Paul J. Groleau Avatar
    Paul J. Groleau

    I’ve been using this product for years (2 pills a day) with great results (no negative side effects) – 78 years old and a healthy FULL head of hair – my question please
    Thinking of only using the precribed dosage (1 a day) – cheaper but not worth compromising if 2 units is more beneficial – what do you recomment, given my age and moving forward

  4. Clark Avatar

    Nicotine is niacin and it’s strange that you either don’t know that or would lie about it. People have tried to kill themselves by drinking the straight nicotine fluid used to make vaping juice and experienced nothing but vomiting and a couple hours of upset stomach. Why this horrible lie continues is beyond me when nicotine addiction could actually be niacin deficiency caused by SILICA deficiency which is probably what makes horsetail such an excellent “quit smoking” aid.

  5. Bianca Avatar

    How about taking horsetail in an oil for topical use (on hands) while breastfeeding? Would that be safer since it’s not being invested? Thanks for this post!!

  6. Sheri Avatar

    Hello! Quick question…you state that the above-ground part of the plant is what is used for herbal medicine, but further down specify where to buy horsetail root. I didn’t see any uses listed for the root. I thought it was just the above ground parts used? Please clarify. Thanks in advance!

  7. Evelyn Mitchell Avatar
    Evelyn Mitchell

    I used Horsetail most of my life for bone and cartilage health. I learned about it in a textbook through school, The Nutrition Almanac, by John D. Kirshmann, published by McGraw-Hill. But I also read somewhere that “Silica people love to dance” which is a wonderful salute to Silica’s role in the integrity of bone, ligament, cartilage, connective tissue, and blood vessels.
    I am 60 now and though I have a few aches and pains, I do not have any arthritis symptoms, and my hair and nails have remained strong. I regret I quit taking it about 20 years ago but started back up a year or so ago when I started to notice those aches and pains. I also take Boron and other minerals, from food as much as possible.

    1. Joan Avatar

      The article said to use horsetail oil. I wonder if you could infuse the dry horsetail in something like apricot seed oil.

  8. Donna Else Avatar
    Donna Else

    Which plant of the horsetail do you harvest, the straight stalks that are jointed, or the ferny stalks, or a combination?

  9. Lena Karakatsanis Avatar
    Lena Karakatsanis

    I live in Greece and horsetail grows near my house .how can I use it apart from tea for osteoporosis and loosing teeth . Thank you very much

  10. Stephanie Avatar

    Hello Kate,
    My son had an accident where he broke bones in his shoulder and ribs. His left kidney was cut during the injury causing blood in his urine. He has been on the path to healing. I was wondering if the horsetail is a good option for him, I was a little concerned where you stated to not take it if there were any kidney issues.

  11. Sarah Avatar

    I am going to add this herb to drink as tea into my protocol soon. I just watched a video with Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt who said that horsetail with its silica content is one of the best herbs to take to help your body detox aluminum which largely comes from geo-engineering in the air. I am guessing the aluminum also can come from anti-perspirant deodorant which I now avoid. I am grateful for horsetail even though I haven’t tried it yet.

  12. Julie Jones Avatar
    Julie Jones

    I learned some about horsetail in a local herbal class several years ago. We use it to calm stomach or intestinal muscle spasms especially with diarrhea. It calms the spasms and pain, slow the diarrhea down but doesn’t plug things up. We use a tea to sip on throughout the day or pills, both as needed. It has really helped during a flu or illness.

  13. JoAnne Wajer Avatar
    JoAnne Wajer

    I have horsetail all over my beach on a small lake in Massachusetts. Is it OK to harvest it myself and make the tea you wrote about? Also, I have really low blood pressure 88 over 62. Will this cause it to lower even further? Thank you for this informative article.

  14. D. Smith Avatar
    D. Smith

    I would be careful about using the stuff you find at walmart and places like that. I think you’ll get better quality and fresher product (in dried form) from either Frontier Co-op foods or from Mt. Rose Herbs. They sell it in 1 pound bags but when making the hair rinse it doesn’t take long to use up a 1 pound bag. I make a lot of tea, as well, because I drink it for kidney and urinary health as I age. In the summer after the tea cools down, I add ice – – don’t know if that makes any difference or not to its potency, but it’s better than hot tea on a hot day!

  15. Diana Avatar

    I have used fresh horse tail to slow my hemorrhaging..I added sugar will it simmered for three hours..the sugar helps pull out the much needed silca.

  16. Linda Avatar

    What is the latin name for the horsetail you are referring to please.

    1. Mari Avatar

      Se llama Cola de caballo Muy conocido en latino america (It’s called Ponytail Well known in Latin America)

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