Horsetail Extract Review – Good For You?
Horsetail extract is a popular nutritional supplement taken today for its many purported health benefits. But does horsetail extract actually work? Let’s take a closer look today in our horsetail extract guide.
What is Horsetail Extract?
Horsetail extract is a natural herbal extract prized for its purported health benefits. It’s a form of naturopathic medicine with limited scientific evidence – but plenty of anecdotal evidence you can find online.
The horsetail extract itself comes from the above ground parts of a plant called horsetail (it’s also known as shavegrass). At one point in history, that plant grew as tall as our modern palm trees. Today’s plants are much shorter. Nevertheless, horsetail continues to be one of the most abundant sources of silica in the plant kingdom.
The plant is so rich with Silica, in fact, that it was once used to polish metal in the Middle and Medieval ages, when it was nicknamed “scouring rush.”
The high silica content also made it a popular ingredient in shampoos, skincare products, and dietary supplements.
In traditional medicine, the plant’s extract was used to treat fluid retention conditions, including edema, kidney and bladder stones, urinary tract infections, difficulties controlling urination, and general kidney and bladder problems.
However, more recently, horsetail extract has been used more frequently as a cure all for a variety of conditions, including things like tuberculosis, jaundice, hepatitis, joint diseases, osteoarthritis, uncontrolled bleeding, and even brittle fingernails.
How Is Horsetail Extract Used?
Horsetail extract is typically taken as part of a tea or tincture.
However, it’s also been applied topically directly to the skin, where it’s used to treat wounds and burns.
How Does Horsetail Extract Work?
We really don’t know how horsetail extract works. We do know that the chemicals in horsetail extract may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
We also know that certain plants and herbs related to horsetail contain chemicals that work like water pills (i.e. diuretics) and thereby increase urine output. It’s still not clear whether or not horsetail has this same effect (although many people believe it’s this effect that has made the extract a popular treatment for kidney and bladder problems.
Does Horsetail Extract Actually Work?
Like most naturopathic and homeopathic remedies available today, modern science has little evidence that horsetail extract would work as advertised.
As WebMD.com explains, there’s “insufficient evidence” for any of the conditions we’ve listed above, and “more evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of horsetail for these uses.”
Is Horsetail Extract Safe? What Are the Side Effects?
Horsetail extract isn’t quite as safe to use as other herbal extracts and botanicals.
The plant is labeled as “possibly unsafe” when taken by mouth long-term because it contains a chemical called thiaminase. That chemical breaks down the vitamin thiamin in your body.
This can lead to thiamine deficiency.
If you’ve shopped around for horsetail extract supplements online, then you may have encountered one or two that were labeled as “thiaminase-free”. However, WebMD.com explains that “there is not enough information available to know if these products are safe.”
Certain groups are especially at risk for thiamin deficiency. Alcoholics, diabetics, and pregnant women should stay away from horsetail extract and other herbal compounds that contain thiaminase.
What Are the Purported Benefits of Horsetail Extract?
As we just explained, there’s not a lot of modern scientific evidence showing that horsetail extract works as advertised. However, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence (and some small scientific evidence) suggesting that horsetail extract may have mild medicinal benefits.
For example, those who take horsetail extract will often talk about the following benefits:
Livestrong.com cites a study from Serbia where researchers from the University of Nis “identifies 25 compounds from the oils extracted from horsetail leaves and found various compounds promote anti-microbial activity.” Those oils were later tested against several microbes, including salmonella and e. coli, where they showed “significantly strong anti-microbial activity” against all of these powerful microbes. That study was published in Phytotherapy Research in 2006.
Horsetail extract appears to offer antioxidant benefits. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2010 suggested that horsetail extract contains antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals in your body. Those antioxidants were only found in the “water extracts of certain compounds found in horsetail”, including n butanol, methanol, and ethyl acetate.
Potential Anti-Anxiety Capability:
Some fans of horsetail extract will also use the compound to treat anxiety. An Indian study published in 2011 compared the effects of horsetail extract to the effects of benzodiazepine, a popular anti-anxiety medication. Horsetail extract was thought to promote a similar anti-anxiety effect because of its ethanolic properties, which offer benefits similar to benzodiazapine without a sedative effect.
How to Buy Horsetail Extract
Horsetail extract is available online from a wide variety of retailers, where you can buy pure horsetail extract for use in tinctures, teas, and topical treatments.
You can also find horsetail extract in the form of a nutritional supplement capsule (in powder form). By taking the supplement orally, you can purportedly enjoy some of the benefits listed above.
Most retailers we looked at priced their 1 fluid once (30mL) bottles of horsetail extract for between $10 and $20.
Ultimately, horsetail extract has demonstrated limited scientific evidence supporting its wide range of benefits, but still manages to be a popular treatment for all sorts of different remedies – including many kidney and bladder problems. if you’re looking for a naturopathic or alternative treatment to some of the conditions we’ve listed above, then horsetail extract is a popular (although little understood) option).
While we do believe that Horsetail Silica has it's place, we feel that the overall benefits of Diatomaceous Earth still give you the best benefits; detoxing as well as all the natural benefits that silica offers.