SPRING CASCADIA SURVIVAL PLANTS CONTINUED
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.