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Horsetails

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Botanical Name: Equisetum species

Other Names:  Scouring Rush, Snake Grass 

Appearance: 

Perennial with rough segmented hollow stems, reaching 2ft or more in height.  The stems have a ferny thread like leaves in whorls from the stem joints.

Habitat:

This plant is widely distributed throughout the world.  It thrives in stagnant water, bogs or anywhere there is moisture.

 Etymology:

Equisetum derives from the Latin equus meaning horse and seta meaning bristle.

Traditional Uses:

Ancient Greeks and Romans used this plant as an herbal remedy to staunch bleeding by aiding coagulation, and speeding up the healing process.

Horsetails are rich in silica, and the stem fluids make excellent eye washes, and were regularly used, especially for treating snow blindness.

Tea from the plant has been used for centuries to strengthen the kidneys, lungs and liver.  It is a proven diuretic*.

In spring the outside part of the stem was peeled and the juicy inner pith was eaten as a fresh vegetable, to build up their blood after the long winter with no fresh greens.

Some groups of indigenous people used the crushed stems to make a light pink dye for colouring porcupine quills, which were then included in their bead work on moccasins and gloves or fashioned into jewelry.

Current Uses:

Aboriginal peoples used the rough, silicon-impregnated stems of dried horsetails as abrasives, for polishing wood, bone and stone. In fact in Japan it is still boiled and dried and used as an abrasive, as it was by European furniture makers. It is deemed to produce a finer grade finish than sand paper.

Due to its high silica content it is used in many nail and hair strengthening products, and in the cosmetic industry.

Interesting Facts:

Horsetails grow everywhere in the world with the exception of Antarctica.

Horsetails have been growing since the dinosaur days, where they were both the under storey and food for many of the herbivores. The present day horsetails are midgets compared to the tree sized ones that would have grown millions of years ago.

When the bears come out of hibernation their internal plumbing requires a spring clean. Horsetails are their chosen laxative!  The rough stems must do a thorough job of getting their system going again, ready to face a busy season of eating and storing fat ready for the next winter.

*Diuretics (also known as water pills) help rid the body of unneeded water and salts by increasing urine output.  By doing this it lowers blood pressure and enables our hearts to pump easier.

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