Horsetail is an herbal supplement derived from the horsetail plant. It is available in capsule, powder, and liquid form, and is primarily used as a diuretic, or a substance which aids the body in eliminating excess fluid. While some alternative medicine practitioners also recommend using it to treat osteoporosis, traditional medical research has not yet validated these uses. Before taking the supplement, users should be aware of its possible side effects, which can include thiamin and potassium deficiencies as well as the introduction of nicotine into the bloodstream.
Some medical evidence supports the use of horsetail as a diuretic. When taken regularly, the supplement tends to cause an increased urine output, thereby relieving the body of surplus fluids. This diuretic property makes the supplement useful to those who suffer from chronic fluid retention and bloating, and may provide relief to kidney stone sufferers. For best results, herbalists recommend three doses of the supplement daily, whether in capsule form or in a tea made from diluted horsetail powder or liquid. To prevent dehydration, however, the supplement should not be used in combination with other diuretic products.
Many alternative medicine practitioners also advocate the use of horsetail to treat osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones lose density and become extremely susceptible to breakage. Its alleged usefulness in osteoporosis treatment is based on its high levels of silicon, a mineral which contributes to bone strength. Medical research has not yet confirmed or refuted the supplement’s potential to strengthen the bones, however. Thus, until the supplement is better understood, its value to osteoporosis sufferers remains in question.
As with any herbal supplement, users should be aware of potential side effects before beginning a horsetail regimen. Some evidence suggests that regular horsetail use can reduce the body’s levels of thiamin, a vitamin which aids in digestion. As substantial alcohol consumption can also deplete the body’s thiamin stores, those with alcohol dependency should avoid the supplement. In addition, its prolonged use can lead to deficiencies of the mineral potassium, which is crucial to healthy organ function. Thus, it is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers or those with heart disease.
Finally, horsetail contains traces of nicotine, the drug found in tobacco products like cigarettes. The supplement should be avoided by those currently using nicotine replacement therapy products such as patches, gums, and inhalers. In addition, it is not advisable for use in young children.