Table of contents[Hide][Show]
I have been using herbs and herbal preparations to treat minor problems at home for many years. Horsetail (also known as shaving grass) is one herb that I keep in my herb cabinet all the time (this is what I own, not the medicine cabinet!). It’s always been my go-to for hair, skin and nail health, but I’m still learning more of horsetail’s benefits and uses.
What is a ponytail?
ponytail (Equisetum) is a medicinal plant that dates back to ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. But it’s been around much longer, long before the dinosaurs. Prehistoric horsetails were much taller, the size of trees, but today’s horsetails are only 4 feet tall. Horsetail is considered the most abundant source of silica in the plant kingdom. Because of this, it has been used to polish metals in the past.
The aerial part of the plant is used for herbal medicine. It has traditionally been used to treat many ailments and support natural health:
- Hair, Bone, Nails and Skin Health
- Mouth and Throat Health
- heal wounds
- Viral infection
- Digestive aid
- Cardiovascular and Respiratory Diseases
- Bladder problems (including bedwetting)
- bleeding problems
- immune system support
While herbalists have used horsetail as a traditional remedy for years, there isn’t a lot of scientific data to support its use. However, the small amount of research available is promising and provides a basis for further research.
The benefits of ponytails
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 ponytails:
Rich in nutrients and antioxidants
One of the most interesting benefits of horsetail is its nutrient density. Horsetail contains the following nutrients:
Horsetail also contains kynuric acid, which reduces inflammation and pain, and silica, which supports collagen production. It also contains chlorophyll, which is known to fight cancer by preventing the cytotoxic and hyperproliferative effects of iron metabolism.
In addition, studies have shown that horsetail has antioxidant properties, which may even inhibit the growth of cancer cells as a result.
promote bone health
The high content of silica in horsetail is one of its main health benefits. Among other things, silica is important for bone and dental health. In a 1999 study, postmenopausal women with osteoporosis recovered significant bone density after 1 year of cauda equina supplementation.
fight disease and infection
Traditional herbalists use horsetail on wounds, especially boils and carbuncles. It turns out that this use is scientifically justified. Horsetail has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help treat diseases and infections. A 2006 study tested the effects of horsetail essential oil against a variety of bacteria and fungi including Staphylococcus, Salmonella, and Candida. It was found to have a broad-spectrum effect on all tested strains.
Has diuretic properties
Horsetail has been used as a diuretic and to treat bladder problems for centuries. A 2014 study found that horsetail works just as effectively as a traditional diuretic (hydrochlorothiazide) without side effects, such as significant changes in liver or kidney function or electrolyte balance.
Also, many diuretics can cause electrolyte problems, but this study found that horsetail does not cause the same problems. This may be because horsetail is also a good source of electrolytes.
Supports hair, skin and nail health
Horsetails are also traditionally used for hair, skin and nail health. It is believed that horsetail’s high silica content is the reason it works. Silica helps boost collagen production, which is important for healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Science also supports this. A 2016 study found that hair with high silica content was less prone to shedding and shinier than hair with low silica content.
Horsetails can even help regenerate hair after alopecia. According to this 2012 study, hair growth was evident after 90 and 180 days of horsetail supplementation.
A study published in Journal of Plastic Dermatology Topical use of ponytail on nails has been found to reduce nail splitting and brittleness, and reduce longitudinal grooves.
Additionally, a 2015 study found that horsetail ointment helps heal episiotomy wounds and reduce pain associated with them.
Uses of ponytails
I use this herb a lot, especially in topical formulations because of its skin/hair supportive high silica content:
- increase bone density – Take a calcium-containing horsetail supplement daily.
- as herbal shampoo – I brew a strong herbal tea (1/2 cup horsetail to 1 cup water), steep for an hour, strain and use as a shampoo in the shower.
- For boils and blisters – I grind the dried herb with plantain, add enough water to make a paste, then wrap it around a boil or blister, covering it with gauze to speed healing.
- for nails – Use horsetail oil on your nails to increase strength and reduce breakage and splitting.
- as a diuretic – Drink horsetail tea to remove excess water.
- sore throat – For a sore throat, I gargle with a strong horsetail infusion (soak the horsetail in boiling water and then cool) with sea salt and lemon juice, then gargle with this mixture several times a day while symptoms persist.
- bedwetting/bladder problems – Taking horsetail extract capsules two to three times a day may help relieve some symptoms of bladder and urinary tract infections (though not necessarily, see post on urinary tract infections), urinary incontinence, and even bedwetting, as it can Relieve the urge to urinate. Or try taking a bath in horsetail tea (soak dried horsetail in a quart of boiling water for 10-15 minutes, then strain and add to the tub).
Are ponytails safe?Supplementary Instructions
I avoid this herb while pregnant or breastfeeding (so my entire married life!) but can use it on hair or skin if desired.
Precautions for using ponytails include:
- drink plenty of water when eating ponytails
- Do not take if you have kidney problems
- Consult your doctor if you take medications, as some medications may interact with cauda equina (including causing potassium imbalances)
- Horsetail may lower blood sugar, so people with diabetes should consult a doctor before use
- Horsetail is not recommended for children as it contains trace amounts of nicotine
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid horsetail as there are no safety studies
- Choose a formula without thiamine, as thiamine blocks the absorption of thiamine
Otherwise, ponytails are generally considered safe for short-term use.
where to buy ponytail roots
There are plenty of places to buy it online, maybe even locally, but I usually buy it and make it into a tea. This powdered version is a little more convenient and you don’t need to soak or strain it. You can also try capsule form, although I personally don’t.
You can also grow your own ponytail. If you want to try it, start in a container as it spreads 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, we recommend that you speak to your doctor or work with SteadyMD’s doctor.
Have you ever used a ponytail? How do you use it? Tell me below!
- De vogel J, Jonker-termont DS, Van lieshout EM, Katan MB, Van der meer R. Green vegetables, red meat and colon cancer: chlorophyll prevents the cytotoxic and hyperproliferative effects of heme in the rat colon. Carcinogenic. 2005;26(2):387-93.
- Cetojevi?-simin DD, Canadanovi?-brunet JM, Bogdanovi? GM et al. Antioxidative and antiproliferative activities of different horsetail (Equisetum arvense L.) extracts. J Medical Foods. 2010;13(2):452-9.
- Corletto, F.. (1999). Treatment of climacteric osteoporosis with titrated horsetail (equisetum) extract plus calcium (osteosil calcium): a randomized double-blind study. 50. 201-206.
- Radulovi? N, Stojanovi? G, Barry? R. Equisetum arvense L. Composition and antimicrobial activity of essential oils. Phytother Reservoir. 2006;20(1):85-8.
- Carneiro DM, Freire RC, Honório TC, etc. A randomized, double-blind clinical trial evaluating the acute diuretic effect of Equisetum (Wild horsetail) in healthy volunteers. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. 2014;2014:760683.
- Araújo LA, Addor F, Campos PM. Skin and hair care with silicon: an approach to available chemical forms and efficacy. Bra skin disease. 2016;91(3):331-335. doi: 10.1590/abd1806-4841.20163986
- Glynis A. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the efficacy of oral supplementation in women who perceive themselves as thinning hair. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(11):28-34.
- Sparavigna, Adele & Setaro, Michele & Genet, Margherita & Frisenda, Linda. (year 2006). Equisetum arvense improves nail structure and appearance with a new cross-nail technology. Journal of Plastic Dermatology.
- Asgharikhatooni A, Bani S, Hasanpoor S, Mohammad Alizade S, Javadzadeh Y. Effect of equisetum arvense (cauda equina) ointment on wound healing and pain intensity after episiotomy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 2015;17(3):e25637. Published on March 31, 2015. doi: 10.5812/ircmj.25637