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Radical Botany Skillshare-Horsetail

Horsetail is another spring plant that is abundant and can be used for multiple uses. It is another survival plant. Food, utility, medicine..all found in this amazing plant that evolved millions of years ago. It is a plant that is often treated as a weed, but is supportive of healthy ecosystems.
Horsetail spring and summer
Horsetail spring and summer

Common Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) or another variety is known as Horsetail Grass or Scouring Rush or Shave Grass (Equisetum hyemale) and then there is Swamp or Water horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile).

Common Horsetail is an ancient plant. This is a vascular plant that is found all around the world. Vascular plants (also known as tracheophytes or higher plants) are those plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant. (1)

I love the way this plant looks. It is a plant that could have walked out of the ancient primordial oceans along with slime mold millions of years ago. It is a primitive plant whose sections remind me of algae or ancient seaweed only it grows on land. And in fact this plant is said to have developed even before most ferns and ancient ginkgos.

Horsetail has two growth patterns. It has two distinct stems that grow at different times of the year. One of the stems grows early in spring and looks somewhat like asparagus while the other appears in summer and has thin, green, sterile stems and looks like the feathery tail of a bird. Both immerge from the same root system. It is the first stem that is used for nutrition and medicine and the second stem growth is used for utility.

Horsetail is a multiuse plant. It can be eaten, used for tool making, use for healing and nature uses it heavily to clean up environmental pollution or degradation.

Food - in many parts of the world the early shoots are harvested and eaten like young asparagus. It also these young shoots that are used as medicine. Horsetail contains potassium, aluminum, and manganese, along with variety of flavonoids. These flavonoids, as well as other substances found in horse tail, are what appear to provide this herb with strong diuretic effects that promote the loss of water from the body; the silicates found in horsetail are believed responsible for the herb's ability to strengthen connective tissue and give it anti-arthritic actions. (4)

Utility- The Scouring Rush (Equisetum hyemale) was used widely in Cascadia as a scouring tool. The cell walls are full of silicon dioxide. The plant was used as an abrasive for polishing wooden objects such as canoes, dishes, arrow shafts and gambling sticks (2). It was used to prepare the insides of wooden musical instruments.

The Water horsetails are said to attract gold and miners would look for colonies of this plant when panning for gold. The root and the stems were used in basketry. Horsetail creates a green dye that can be used on cottons and wool or fiber.

Medicine - The plant is said to be good for kidneys. The tea is drunk to keep the kidneys strong and clean out toxins and kidney stones. This action on the body is said to be diuretic in nature. It is also said to help develop strong hair, nails and bones. It is said to stop bleeding and can relieve rheumatic conditions such as arthritis. Take one teaspoon of the young fresh or dried stem to one cup of boiling water. Steep. Or drink cold a couple of times a day. (3)
Bio-remedial. It is a plant will appear after the land has been changed or damaged. It was one of the first plants to appear after Mt. Saint Helens erupted. It is a plant that creates nutrients and helpful microbes to the earth so that other species can flourish.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO HARVEST THIS PLANT WHERE THERE IS NO ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION. Look to upper ponds, springs and other water ways far above roads. The plant is found along roads and in gravel pits. These areas are commonly full of heavy metals.

See you in the deep woods

1. Wikipedia -Vascular plants -  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vascular_plant
2. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast - Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska - Pojar and Mackinnon. Lone Pine publishing 1994.
3. The Herbalist - Joseph E. Meyer- first edition 1918
4. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, and Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:208-211; 1998, 150-151.
Hamon NW, Awang DVC. Horsetail. Canadian Pharmacology J 1992; September pp: 399-400.
Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, pp 238-240.

homepage: homepage: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/radicalbotany/

horsetail can be poisonous if... 15.Mar.2010 23:14


...it can be poisonous if you take fresh or raw plants and then do not boil them properly. It is a process that amateurs should simply not undertake. You have to become VERY well educated with this (and many other plants) in order to not cause harm to yourself or others. Herbalists are educated people, you can't become one overnight or by taking a quickie course or reading one book. Some herbs are universally known as safe but many aren't quite. Still others can kill you , you pet, or your baby. So don't fool with 'em if you don't REALLY know what you are doing.

the problem with believing nature is evil 16.Mar.2010 06:32


We have been taught that nature is dangerous and evil. We are cut off from the wild. We are cut off from our true natures which has made us insane. We are taught that plants are poisonious. Don't eat the plants, the berries or the mushrooms in the forest! We have been cut off from knowledge of how to be part of the web of life.

Yes, you can get sick from eating something that is poisonous! Just go to McDonalds and consume the garbage there. or go to a corporate MD and start taking all those medications that will destroy your body and mind. You are what you eat!

We are told that we need EXPERTS and DOCTORS to take over our bodies and that it is so complicated that we must have a PHd to survive.

Wake up people. You need to re-wild yourself by paying attention and learning. I teach one plant at a time with a few stories thrown in so you will remember and I encourage others to contribute our collective knowledge.

Telling people not to eat anything in the wild because it might kill you and that you must be an EXPERT to survive is nonsense. Most of the people in the world have retained their ability to be in nature and survive. Only westerners are dumbed down and believing that we need EXPERTS to survive. We have been forced to be consumers and sheep...we follow along thinking we are not smart enough or that we need money to survive. Open your eyes. Wake up! you can reconnect with nature - the real world.

Believing in EXPERTS is what is causing our culture to collapse. I say learn what you can. Skillshare. Eat the berries (the ones that are safe - which is most of them). If you don't know how to be in the non-asphalt world - start learning. Go into the forest and learn one plant at a time. That does not mean that you put every plant you find in your mouth. That means that you find good sources to learn and sit down with the plant and observe how it grows, make notes and ask questions. I have given you good resources. And tell the EXPERTS to take a hike down another trail.

Here is one of my favorite quotes about plants....

"People without plants are in a state of perpetual neurosis, a state
of existential wanting." (Terence McKenna)

Thank you kollibri for that one:}

Experts = intellecturalism = eliteism = insanity

every indigenous culture knows 20.Mar.2010 22:59


...that there is knowledge and wisdom and art to be first learned, then practiced; that is the necessary nature of herbal usage. Anything less wrongly minimizes the value and the power of it. The kind of knowledge I speak of is to be learned by US, before WE go out like a bunch of city raised college boys and think we can just run out and randomly taste stuff in parks. THERE IS A LOT TO KNOW. Anyone who wants to use wild plants is the one who needs to learn-up all about it, not just read one or 2 things and then go on a tasting binge. Since you just acknowledged it could kill you, why not admit this?
Who said anything about leaving it to professionals? I said, you have to have a good deal of knowledge in order to be safe in the herbal realm. You can get that for free, but it takes a lot of learning. NOT taking this seriously could get people killed.
By the way, you are preaching to the choir. I am a practically feral wild country girl who lived in the woods with just Nature and God, yep you do encounter Him there. I never go to a doctor.
So just chill, or you'll hurt someone. Remember everyone, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". So, get a lot of it and be a lot safer.

raised on the wild plants 21.Mar.2010 21:16


I too was raised on the wild plants and grew up near the woods. I was taught by people who consumed almost half of what they ate from the woods. They had small gardens because they were too poor to own land. What I am concerned with is that our culture has become too concerned with degrees and corporate education rather than passing on knowledge through one on one learning.

Many people are afraid of the forests and the plants and I am passing on what I was taught and also finding references for what I know to be true. I am not reading a couple of books and telling people to eat this or that.

I believe the natural world is the real world and the city is a synthetic make believe world full of toxins and people going insane. I wanted to share what I know so people will go out in the woods and live that way humans lived for thousands of years.

I believe that if people were in touch with the beauty and bounty of the wilds that they would not even think of clear cutting it. We are in trouble. The way we live is not sustainable. It is only a matter of time before the cities collapse. Every one who can learn should learn about the natural world and especially the plants. There is food, clothing, shelter and medicine available in the plant world.

There is no time to get a PHd. There is only time to open your eyes, ears and heart to the Earth. We must learn to cooperate and not compete.

I really appreciate all the people who added to the skillshare and tried to share what they know about plants.