Sep 192008

Early last spring, about February, Wolf broke his toe during a flood when a large chunk of tree smushed his foot. I tried many of my usual medicines including Mullein and Alder and Goldenrod and Cottonwood. They all helped with the pain and swelling but the toe seemed slow to heal. I was purposely avoiding Comfrey, trying to come up with some other plants that would be helpful for bone healing.

As the months wore on, the toe would start to feel better and then Wolf would stub it and it would be right back to where it started, which meant that it was very difficult to walk on and any movement caused sharp, shooting pain. It was strange because Wolf has a normally kickass immune system and usually heals quicker than most children I know. Early summer came and I started to get really worried about it. It was about that time that I remembered jim mcdonald talking about his use of Horsetail tincture:

Yeah, I use horsetail tincture, and no, it doesn’t make a lick of logical sense to do so, except for the fact that it works. Its a good thing I started using it before I learned that tinctures don’t offer much in the way of silica.

Hmm, thought I, and went to make some Horsetail tincture. Come july the tincture was ready and I brought Wolf a bottle and admonished him to take it several times a day. I’ll admit I was rather doubtful, especially after trying so many other herbs. And yet, in a week the toe was almost completely better, two weeks on steady doses of Horsetail and it didn’t hurt (beyond the normal ouch) when he stubbed his toes (just try getting this man to wear shoes).

I haven’t had a chance to use it again since then but I’m definitely impressed. I figured if jim said it worked, then hell, it probably worked but I wasn’t sure of its efficiacy for such a stubborn, non-healing break. All this is not to say that you shouldn’t use Horsetail via tea, infusion or vinegar, just that it works magically well in very small doses of tincture. Rather remarkable I think.

Yet another wonderful case of an herb far exceeding its supposed constituents. Further evidence of the innate magic of nature (including our bodies) and vital force (the Anima) that flows through every living thing and connects it all.

  24 Responses to “Them Bones: Healing with Horsetail”

  1. WoW! That is fabulous! It is so good to have another solution BESIDES comfrey, because of the liver controversy. Now to find some horsetail. I’m wondering if the native ephedras would work as well, considering their high mineral content. Let’s see if I can find a broken toe to try it on!

    Did you tincture it fresh?

  2. Yep, fresh plants….

    Interesting thought on the ephedras, I’ve never tried them that way. I just gathered some a couple days ago though.

  3. Does it matter if you use the male plants or the female plants? I have a ton of both. Sounds like I should go make a tincture before autumn sets in. What else is horsetail useful for?

  4. yippee for herbs that work in ways they’re not supposed to!

    Hopefully the more we have experience like that, the less we’ll be so damn fixedly linear and rationale about how they need to be prepared to work.

    as I get older (as if I’m old) all my edges get fuzzy.

    well, that actually could just be my vision…

  5. amen to the that, jim!

    Kristen, I’ve heard/read you’re supposed to use just young female plants (hmmm, there’s something very American about that) but I always use some of each. What else it’s useful is a rather large question. It’s very mineral dense, it’s a diuretic, a good astringent and has a talent for dealing with inflamed/enlarged prostate (that’s partially due to the astringency I’m sure). That doesn’t really express the nature/spirit of the plant but it’ll work as a very short overview.

    Here’s a bit by Henriette as well:

  6. Just wanted to let you know how much I love your posts. I look forward to them. 🙂

  7. thanks aaquwaa, I’m so glad you enjoy my herb ramblings!

  8. Kiva, I just got home from hospital having broken my foot. I came here looking for something to use instead of comfrey (since I hardly have any) and as I was about to do a search, I realised that I was looking right at the post I needed!

    What can I best do, since I have no time to make a tincture? Horsetail infusion? Something else?

    I would be so grateful for your advice. They may have to operate on the foot and I don’t want that to happen!

  9. Hi Pamela…. Yes, horsetail tea/infusion should work fine, as would a vinegar I’d think. Other herbs to think about are Mullein and Solomon’s Seal (or False Solomon’s Seal). And then general infusions of Nettles and Oatstraw for overall healing properties and mineral content. Some of it depends on the specific break and how your body is responding to it of course.

    Careful with the comfrey too, sometimes it can heal the bones before they’re completely read to knit back together. I’d start with the other herbs and perhaps add comfrey in later, or if it doesn’t seem to want to heal for some reason.

    Blessings for your healing.

  10. I juice horsetail each spring and mix with vodka, 2:1, it will keep if refrigerated for 16 months. I take 1 teaspoon a day for two weeks and then 1 week off it and back to 1 teaspoon a day for two weeks. The silica in spring horsetail is especially potent in the spring shoots. I find I just feel better when taking it and have less back aches.

  11. Thank you! I have my girls out gathering horsetail 🙂

  12. Great blog. I have no experience with herbal medicines but have been looking for alternatives to traditional healing methods. Thanks,


  13. Hi there, thanks for reading! The funny thing is that the herbs are the ~traditional~ healing methods, the new stuff is more like institutionalized medicine than traditional.

  14. It keeps astounding me how so many of the most valuable plants you mention here grow in my own 1/2 acre, half wild lot, but I don’t live anywhere near you, I’m on the canadian west coast! With regards to nettles though, they’re all around the planet I bet. My mother in law is Croatian and in the old country they sauteed them with garlic and butter and called them cope-rrrrrrr-avah

  15. I bought some Horsetail at the Farmer’s Market yesterday simply because I was just reading about it on your blog! Let’s hope it grows well! Thank you so much, I love reading!


  16. hi,

    i really love horsetail as a great powerful, structuring herb too. i think that some of its amazing properties are well summed up when seen as a saturnine herb which relates well to its somewhat cold, hard properties, but also to the dark chaotic melancholy related to Saturn. this planet relates to the nails, bones, hair – the hard structures. in my experience it can create a more earthed and deep-rooted feeling and give some emotional strength and ‘backbone’ so to speak. it’s structure has a verterbal quality about it and a toughness and rigidity which can be helpful for people who do not really connect well with their embodied state and live in their heads and intellect.

    i would be careful where you grow it – roots have been found in wells metres deep and it can be almost impossible to get rid of – a good indicator of its tenacity and persistence when using!


  17. What parts of the horsetail do you tincture? Any particular time of year?

  18. Yes, it’s those bits and the bits that having the waving arms 🙂 basically the above ground green parts of both male and female plants.

    Most herbalists encourage people to gather the plant early in the year to avoid kidney damage. However, because I was tincturing the plant I didn’t really figure that the time of year mattered so much since the theoretically damaging bits aren’t extracted by alcohol, at least in my understanding. Thus, some of my horsetail was gathered early this spring and some of it was gathered in late summer and fall.

  19. I haven’t seen any waving arms yet (maybe it’s a different species here?). Will the stalky bits on their own be ok?

  20. Hmm, I had thought that the female plants always had those little arms, but maybe it does vary from spp to spp. Do you know what spp you have?

    Anyhow, while I have read that it is the female plants that should be used in a few books, I have used just the stalky bits myself and never had any problem, and seems to work exactly the same.

    There are also some weird warnings about Horsetail online, but I can’t find much basis in reality for most of them and have never experience any of them myself (I’ve not used it in huge amounts though, just regular tincture dosages and small amounts in infusions).

    One of the more sensible ones is:
    Caution: Dosages over ½ a pound may lead to symptoms of poisoning. There are several chemicals in this plant that have slightly toxic effects — typically the destruction of thiamine (a B vitamin). Consumption of B vitamins will speedily reverse major side effects.

    from this website (which also includes a pic of the wavy arms):

  21. Ah, Kiva, Equisetum hyemale (scouring rush) is one of the few horsetails with no branches. It’s a green summer shoot, so it’s useful.
    (Equisetum fluviatile (water horsetail) is another:
    – although there’s teensy starts of branches in that photo.)

    And I don’t avoid late-picked horsetails to avoid kidney damage, I avoid’em cos they’re so tough they have to be boiled to get any goodness out of them. Early summer shoots are great in infusions (= no need to boil’em).

    As to toxicity, all horsetails except E. arvense (field horsetail) are considered toxic over here, mainly cos all but the E. arvense contain traces of nicotine. Also, plants growing in VERY lush places (the ditch downhill from the stables, for instance) have SERIOUS weirdness, and should be left strictly alone; they’re not healthy. Any lazy researcher wanting to drum up toxicity issues for horsetails need only pick’em next to the pig lot, off the sheep pad’s dungheap, or similar all too rich spots.

  22. ah hah! Thank you Henriette!

    Yeah, they do get tough don’t they? For the tincture though, it doesn’t really seem to matter much (as least as far as I’ve noticed for my uses).

    Hmm, I appreciate the warning clarification too, I shall adjust my post accordingly.

  23. Hi First Off I like your page and secondly, just anycase anybody out there is experiencing chronic stress or TMJ or TMD, Horsetail works. I have been using herbs since I was born , my mom healed herself of ancer with Comfrey after doctors said she would die. So after opening my new business and having to close it, I felt overwhelmed and my bones in my face would grind, apparently TMJ, Well I did all the reasearch I could and was told again by a doctor , no cure but this horsetail does the job everytime! If I have just one cup of horsetail, I also throw ginger in, The next day, my face is not cracking. I hope someone ho reads this and has TMJ tries it because it works. It does make you go to the bathroom more , so keep water with all day!

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