Horsetail, an ancient herb that goes back to the time of the dinosaurs, often haunts gardeners plagued with boggy or shady areas. But this "weed," Equisetum arvense, contains potential health benefits. Horsetail tea's high silica content may help strengthen bones, hair and nails, fight fungal infections, relieve bloating and even cure black spot on your roses. Use 1 to 3 tsps. of fresh or dried horsetail for every cup of water. Pour boiling water over the herb, steep 5 to 10 minutes and strain the herbs before drinking or applying topically.
Horsetail's most traditional use, as a diuretic, dates back to the ancient Greeks and Roman physicians, Medline Plus reports. Horsetail tea or supplements promote a greater flow of urine, which may help the body recover from a number of kidney ailments and from edema. Germany's Commission E, similar to the United States Food and Drug Administration, officially lists horsetail as an edema treatment. Women may find drinking horsetail tea or adding cooled horsetail tea to the bathwater eases premenstrual bloat, according to herbalist Jeanne Rose.
May Strengthen Bones
The University of Maryland Medical Center points out that while the silica in horsetail tea theoretically makes it a strong candidate for fighting osteoporosis, more research is needed. While one study did find that women who took horsetail extract showed improved bone density, analysts consider the trials poorly designed. UMMC does, however, list horsetail as an herb worth trying as a part of a preventive regimen for osteoporosis, along with kelp, oat straw, black cohosh and red clover.
Promotes Healthy Hair
Put horsetail's silica content to good use by using cooled horsetail tea as a hair rinse, or adding 4 oz. cooled horsetail tea to baby shampoo. Consider drinking the tea daily as part of an overall silica-rich diet. Silica reportedly helps hair growth and health when used both internally and topically. The American Pregnancy Association counsels women experiencing hair loss following childbirth to use shampoos containing silica—a useful recommendation for women interested in applying topical chemicals during the breastfeeding stage.
Treats Nail Problems
Horsetail tea's silica content also makes it an ideal nail strengthener. Drink horsetail regularly to derive the herb's benefits from the inside out. Additionally, use the topical nail strengthener recommended by Herb Companion. Make ½ cup horsetail tea. Strain the herb, add 1 tsp. honey and steep the mixture for two days. Apply the formula with a cotton ball each day for two weeks. Herbalist Jim Long recommends fighting toenail or fingernail fungus by making a cider vinegar-horsetail tea. Mix 1 cup chopped horsetail with 4 cups boiling cider vinegar. Boil for a few minutes and let the mixture sit overnight. Strain the herbs and use the cider-horsetail infusion as an herbal soak for hands or feet.
Horsetail appears to be a useful antifungal property for both toenails and roses, notes Long. Not only does he use it as a nail soak, but he fights powdery mildew and black spot on his roses with horsetail tea. Strain and cool horsetail tea, add it to a spray bottle and spritz it on roses every few days during rainy periods. Long uses a ratio of 1 cup horsetail to 6 cups water.