Equisetum hyemale, commonly known as the rough horsetail (family Equisetaceae), is one of the most common herbaceous perennial plants and is widely distributed in the shady stream banks of Europe, North America and Asia (Li, Wang, Liu, Cheng, Zhou, & Xiao, 2012).
This horsetail is hollow stemmed with highly reduced leaves and reproduces via spores, and thus, it does not produce any seeds or flowers (Gierlinger, Sapei, & Paris, 2008). The horsetail stems are very rich in silica which aids in the plant’s negative geotropic response, which is the plant’s response to gravity as a stimulus, therefore helping it grow upward. The silica also benefits the horsetail in its resistance to pests and pathogens, drought, and heavy metals (Gierlinger, Sapei, & Paris, 2008).
The rough horsetail also serves as an herbal medicine in traditional practices. Its dried stem has been known to counteract the problems associated with various inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, conjunctivitis and pyelonephritis through its inhibition of free radicals and inflammatory mediators (Park & Jeon, 2008). Moreover, a study by Li et al. (2012) using the horsetail extract have shed some light into cancer research, demonstrating an inhibitory effect on various cancer cells leading to cell death and cell cycle arrest. Although known for its healing properties, some caution should be taken as horsetail contains an enzyme responsible for thiamine (vitamin B1) breakdown called thiaminase (Garcia et al., 2011). Long term use of this horsetail can lead to vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to detrimental neurological effects (Garcia et al., 2011).
Garcia, J. A., Angulo, M. G., Sobrino-Najul, E. J., Soldin, O. P., Mira, A. P., Martinez-Salcedo, E., & Claudio, L. (2011). Prenatal exposure of a girl with autism spectrum disorder to ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum arvense) herbal remedy and alcohol: a case report. Journal of Medical Case Reports, 5, 1-5.
Gierlinger, N., Sapei, L., & Paris, O. (2008). Insights into the chemical composition of Equisetum hyemale by high resolution Raman imaging. Planta, 227, 969-980.
Li, H., Wang, P., Liu, Q., Cheng, X., Zhou, Y., & Xiao, Y. (2012). Cell cycle arrest and cell apoptosis induced by Equisetum hyemale extract in murine leukemia L1210 cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 144, 322-327.
Park, E. Y., & Jeon, H. (2008). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of Equisetum hyemale. Natural Product Sciences, 14, 239-243.