Horsetail: New Uses to a Folk Remedy for Your Herb Garden

An Ancient Herb for a Modern Garden

For years, a friend of mine called my clump of horsetail “asparagus”. When she spoke of it, we were always sitting in rockers on the curving herb porch, looking out over the culinary and medicinal herb beds. She would point and say, “Jim, your asparagus always looks perfect. What do you do?”

Finally, one day, as we walked along the path between the culinary and medicinal beds, she stopped beside the horsetail and said, “I think your asparagus is fake. It always looks the same regardless of the time of year I visit.” From the herb porch, in a straight line with the asparagus bed but much nearer, is my stand of horsetail. All those years when she complimented my asparagus, she was seeing horsetail.

Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale), also known as shavegrass or scouring rush, is an ancient herb. Herb references say that this plant hasn’t changed in eons and probably looked in the time of dinosaurs just as it does today.

I had noticed for years that horsetail was listed as a folk treatment for kidney disorders; however, in Field Guide to Medicinal Plants: Eastern and Central North America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990), Steven Foster and James A. Duke list it as toxic to livestock and questionable for humans because it disturbs thiamine metabolism. Not a good recommendation for using an old folk remedy today!

But I had also noted in several sources that horsetail is useful as a natural fungicide. I’ve used it successfully as a treatment for black spot and powdery mildew on roses and noticed this year that a few organic supply companies are offering horsetail for that purpose. I add 1 cup of chopped horsetail to 6 cups of boiling water, boil for 5 minutes, then allow the tea to cool overnight. I strain it well and put it in a spray bottle. In damp weather, I spray the roses about every three days.

I surmised that if horsetail is a good plant fungicide, it might also be useful on skin. I first tested it on myself to see what effect it would have on athlete’s foot. I’ve used almost every product on the market only to have the athlete’s foot fungus go away for a while and then return, more bothersome than before.

3/28/2021 8:03:16 AM

Hello Jim, With a personal interest in athlete's foot and fungal nails over the decades, I find what you wrote here over 25 years ago of immense value in finding a solution currently for severe fungal nail infection for my mam. Also found good reports of using iodine for nail fungus on the internet this weekend. A solution that worked for my athlete's foot even though took great persistence over the years was a change in diet to more plant based diet, reduced diary and wheat, additional vitamin and minerals also. Thanks for informative and valuable account of your personal success story. This kind of information weathers the test of time! Peace, Determination & Transformation Peter

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Get the latest on Natural Health and Sustainable Living with Mother Earth News!

Mother Earth News

Your friends at Mother Earth Living are committed to natural health and sustainable living. Unfortunately, the financial impact of COVID-19 has challenged us to find a more economical way to achieve this mission. We welcome you to our sister publication Mother Earth News. What you sought in the pages of Mother Earth Living can be found in Mother Earth News. For over 50 years, “The Original Guide to Living Wisely” has focused on organic gardening, herbal medicine, real food recipes, and sustainability. We look forward to going on this new journey with you and providing solutions for better health and self-sufficiency.

The impact of this crisis has no doubt affected every aspect of our daily lives. We will strive to be a useful and inspiring resource during this critical time and for years to come.

Best wishes,
Your friends at Mother Earth Living and Mother Earth News

Save Money & a Few Trees!

By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of Mother Earth News for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter