What is it?
People use horsetail for "fluid retention" (edema), urinary tract infections, loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence), wounds, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses. Using horsetail can also be unsafe.
Horsetail is sometimes used in cosmetics and shampoos.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for HORSETAIL are as follows:
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis). Early research suggests that taking dry horsetail extract or a specific product containing horsetail extract and calcium can increase bone density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.
- Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence).Early research shows that taking a supplement containing horsetail and other herbs helps to reduce urination and loss of bladder control in people that have trouble controlling their bladder.
- Fluid retention.
- Hair loss.
- Heavy periods.
- Kidney and bladder stones.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the tonsils (tonsillitis).
- Urinary tract infections.
- Use on the skin for wound healing.
- Weight loss.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if horsetail is safe or what the side effects might be.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if horsetail is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Alcoholism: People who are alcoholics are generally also thiamine deficient. Taking horsetail might make thiamine deficiency worse.
Allergies to carrots and nicotine: Some people with allergy to carrot might also have allergy to horsetail. Horsetail also contains small amounts of nicotine. People with nicotine allergy might have an allergic reaction to horsetail.
Diabetes: Horsetail might lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use horsetail.
Low potassium levels (hypokalemia): There is some concern that horsetail might flush potassium out of the body, possibly leading to potassium levels that are too low. Until more is known, use horsetail with caution if you are at risk for potassium deficiency.
Low thiamine levels (thiamine deficiency): Taking horsetail might make thiamine deficiency worse.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Efavirenz (Sustiva)
- Efavirenz (Sustiva) is a drug used to treat HIV. Taking horsetail with efavirenz might reduce the effects of efavirenz. Talk with your healthcare provider before using horsetail if you are taking efavirenz.
- Horsetail might have an effect like a water pill or "diuretic." Taking horsetail might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Horsetail might decrease blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking horsetail along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
- Medications for HIV/AIDS (Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs))
- Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are used to treat HIV. Taking horsetail with NRTIs might reduce the effects of these drugs. Talk with your healthcare provider before using horsetail if you are taking an NRTI. Some NRTIs include emtricitabine, lamivudine, tenofovir, and zidovudine.
- Water pills (Diuretic drugs)
- "Water pills" can decrease potassium levels in the body. Taking large amounts of horsetail might also decrease potassium levels in the body if used long-term. Taking horsetail along with "water pills" might decrease potassium in the body too much.
Some "water pills" that can deplete potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), and others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Betel nut
- Horsetail and betel nut both reduce the amount of thiamine that the body has to use. Using these herbs together raises the risk that the amount of thiamine will become too low.
- Chromium-containing herbs and supplements
- Horsetail contains chromium (0.0006%) and could increase the risk of chromium poisoning when taken with chromium supplements or chromium-containing herbs such as bilberry, brewer's yeast, or cascara.
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
- Horsetail might lower blood sugar. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might cause blood sugar to drop too low in some people. Some of these products include alpha-lipoic acid, bitter melon, chromium, devil's claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, Siberian ginseng, and others.
- Crude horsetail contains thiaminase, a chemical that breaks down thiamine. Taking horsetail might cause thiamine deficiency.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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