Equisetum arvense

Equisetum arvense

The fields of Horsetail (Equisetum arvense L., 1753) is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to Equisetaceae family.

Systematic –
L ‘Equisetum arvense belongs to the Domain Eukaryota, the Kingdom Plantae, Subkingdom Tracheobionta, Division Pteridophyta, Equisetopsida Class, equisetales Order, the Equisetaceae Family, the Gender Equisetum species and then the E. arvense.

Etymology –
The generic name (Equisetum) comes from the Latin meaning “horse hair”; while the specific name ( “arvense”) refers to its typical habitat: in the fields. We need to Dioscoride Pedanius (Anazarbus in Cilicia, 40-90 around A.D.), who was a doctor, botanist and ancient greek pharmacist who practiced in Rome at the time of Emperor Nero, one of the first detailed descriptions of this plant.
The scientific name currently accepted (Equisetum arvense) has been proposed by Carl von Linné (Rashult, 23 May 1707 – Uppsala, January 10, 1778) biologist and Swedish writer, considered the father of modern scientific classification of living organisms, in the publication Species Plantarum of 1753.
In German this plant is called Acker-Schachtelhalm; in French it is called Prêle des champs; in English it is called Field Horsetail.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The source area is Circumboreal, but also the Eurasian and North Americana- its spread is common in humid areas of Europe and Asia, while in Italy it is common throughout the area including the Alps.
The appellation arvense denotes its presence in rural habitat, and indeed it is frequently find it on damp fallow land or along the ditches; but also along the embankments, ruderal environments, and sandy and clay soils. The substrate that is preferred is that siliceous limestone, with a neutral pH soil, average nutritional values ​​and average moisture values.
Its altitudinal distribution sees him on the pads where these plants can be located up to 2000 m s.l.m .; then attend the following vegetation levels: hilly, mountainous and subalpine.

Description –
The biological form of the species is geophyte rhizomatous; ie are herbaceous perennials that bring the gems in the underground location. During the season they do not exhibit adverse aerial organs and the buds are located in underground organs such rhizomes (an underground stem from which, every year, branch roots and stems airplane). In fact, even during the adverse periods the plant must continue to live underground so some short lateral branches are transformed into round tubers containing reserve substances for wintering. The life cycle is perennial. The average height ranges from 10 to 60 cm (maximum 100 cm).
It possesses early fertile stems, of short duration, high 10-20 (30) cm and 0.5 cm in diameter, brown-reddish or whitish, without chlorophyll, simple; large sheaths at the base of each internode, a bit ‘flared, almost funnel-shaped, with 8-12 big teeth lanceolate-sharp dark-brown.
The strobilus (or ear) terminal, pedunculated, ovate-oblong, obtuse apex is up to 4 cm long, formed by Sporophyll which are inserted the sporangia in the shape of small shields, where they develop spores. After sporulation the fertile stems wither and die.
The stems are very sterile polymorphs, green, prostrate or erect, arising after the fertile stems, tall up to 50 (60) cm, rough, silicified on the coasts (6-19) and with a central recess which measures 1/4 of the diameter. Characterized by whorls with articulated branches erect-licenses, in section trigonal tetragonal or more frequently, often provided with ramuli, the upper shorter, often irregular and the first longest segment of the sheaths; sheaths smaller than those of the fertile stems, a bit ‘dilated at the top, with sharp teeth, such dark apex and with a narrow margin cartilaginous.
It spherical spores, aleti, provided four wireworms (or amplessori) Sporificano that between March and May.
It is a diploid species (2n = 216).
The genus includes a globally thirty species of which nine present in Italy. The horsetails easily formed hybrids when the various species are to come to coexist.

Cultivation –
Horsetail grows without problems either in the sun or shade; however, preferring bright places. It does not stand the cold and it is also found in the wild in many regions of the Italian peninsula; if you want you can also grow in the apartment, keeping it in pots filled with water.
The winter horsetail grows well in fairly rich soil, but light, with a neutral to subacido. The ideal soil is the one where the sand appears predominant.
essential element is the moisture at root level. We can choose to add on the banks of a pond, or inside. The roots grow well when they are immersed at about 10 cm from the surface.
It is not demanding as to the exposure. Of course the growth is more vigorous in full sun (when they have plenty of water) or in partial shade, but light shade will not be due to decay.
These plants like wetlands, ponds and meadows, where the water is fairly low and firm; They are very suitable for planting on the banks of small water gardens. They require no fertilization, and prefer fairly rich, deep soils. Given the rapid and remarkable growth of underground rhizomes is appropriate to restrict the development estirpandone periodically a part, in order to avoid that they become weeds.
This plant, such as ferns or mushrooms, it reproduces by releasing spores into the air; for the difficulty of finding and using the same spores usually we proceed to the propagation of the horsetail by division of clumps of rhizomes. It is sufficient to dig up the roots and pick a part with a sharp knife, the new plant thus obtained is immediately placed at home.
These plants are very hardy and are rarely attacked by pests or diseases.
The planting of this plant can be done in spring or autumn. The first option is preferable if we live in an area with cold winters.
On the bank of a pond is well implanted up to 5 birds per m2: in this way you will get in a short time, a dense bush and very decorative
In water instead it should place the plants in special pots filled with soil suitable. Inseriamoli to a maximum depth of 10 cm. The ideal density is always more than 5 specimens m2.
Potted opt for a deep container and width of at least 40 cm. Are commercially available products specifically designed, fitted on the bottom of a large water reservoir. We fill the remaining space with soil for green plants supplemented with abundant sand.
Since this is a highly invasive plant is, in full ground, highly recommended prepare barriers (at least 30 cm deep in the soil) that block the expansion of the rhizomes.
It is a vegetable rather autonomous. To preserve the beauty is recommended to devote time to time the removal of crooked stems, damaged or dried, cut about 10 cm from the base.
As said the horsetails do not produce seeds. The only practical way to get new plants is dedicate to the division of rhizomes. We must extract the root system and cut sections of each one of roots and stems.
This is done usually in the spring or summer, but avoid the hottest months.

Customs and Traditions –
The Equisetum arvense is considered a “plant fossil”; It is in fact one of the oldest plants in the world, belonging to pteridofite, along with ferns. 400 million years ago the earth was populated by Equiseti gigantic, tall as trees.
The remains of these plants then went on to form the coal deposits underground.
The Equisetum arvense is a plant known and used since prehistoric times.
Already Dioscoride described attributing this plant also astringent and it advised the juice to stop the epistaxis; He stated, moreover, that the leaves of horsetail placed on favored wound healing.
The Mattioli, talks about the use which did the ancient physicians, stating that “the grass is restrictive and therefore stagnates its juice from the nose blood. Bevesi with wine for dysentery and for causing the urine. The trite fronds and knead consolidate fresh wounds. It should be the root along with the herb cough, asthmatics, and broken.”
Also Mattioli writes that Horsetail sprouts were cooked and eaten during Lent instead of the fish and that women used it to polish metals and those working at the lathe to burnish the wood.
Nell ‘Equisetum arvense (but common property to other horsetails) are present in particular: silicic acid (up to 15%), glucoside of saponins (equisetonina), flavonoids, small amounts of alkaloids, resins and organic acids (including ascorbic acid) , bitter substances and other mineral substances (potassium salts, aluminum and manganese).
The Equisetum arvense has healing properties: antiemorragiche, healing, hemostatic, diuretic, astringent, anti-tuberculosis and mineralizing (valid especially for patients with pulmonary tuberculosis). It seems that also has some toxicity, especially in cattle (probably the high amount of silicified membranes can cause injury and therefore infection in the intestinal tract of herbivores).
Among the parts used in homeopathic purposes we use the sterile stem (collected in summer), which is dried, crushed and pulverized.
In the past, from farming families, the sprouts were occasionally breaded and fried or cooked in vinegar. It can be added to soups or stews as a supplement of mineral salts. Even today in Japan, the cones are boiled, salted and left to marinate in vinegar together with a local sauce; while the basal parts of the plant are boiled and eaten by some Indian tribes of Mexico. The taste of the plant is that of hay.
The silicic acid present in horsetails was exploited in the polishing of wooden or metal objects by wiping them with the stems. The operation also resulted practice for the shape and the elasticity of the drums themselves, so that they were often also used for cleaning the inside of vessels and bottles. In ancient times these macerated plant is used as a fertilizer (are quite rich in minerals), but also to combat rust.
The ancient Romans used horsetail as a soap substitute (see the soap of the ancient Romans) and now also in cosmetics enters the ingredients of anti-wrinkle creams, because it seems to slow down skin aging. It also owned anticellulitiche.
The Equisetum arvense is one of the most famous plants in Homeopathy recognizes and appreciated due to its beneficial properties and the healing virtues. Of this plant are used fresh buds collected in the summer and will produce the mother tincture, whose main use is to improve mental clarity, order, organization and structure of thought.
Also in homeopathy arvense Equisetum is used for cases of general debility, helps brittle nails and hair (thanks to its rich content of silica), it helps heal broken bones faster, inhibits tumors, helps to remove stains white nails.
The Equisetum is a plant of very ancient origins and is a close relative of the fern, with cables and shoots that seem asparagus stalks. Traditionally used as a natural folk remedy for disorders of the kidneys and bladder, arthritis, bleeding ulcers and tuberculosis. For topically, horsetail was used to stop the bleeding of wounds and promote rapid healing.
To summarize dell’Equisetum arvense properties are: diuretic, hemostatic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, accelerates the healing of connective tissue, astringent, soothing.
In addition, the Equisetum arvense helps to improve the process of calcification of the bones and thanks to the presence of silicon helps to eliminate metabolic waste, while its coagulating action is due to the wealth of calcium. Its diuretic action, however, is due to the wealth of potassium salts and in the presence of flavonoid glycosides and saponins.
The Horsetail essential oil has a wide range of antimicrobial activity against some bacteria and fungi, and also can be a valuable aid purification to treat acne through the preparation of a decoction of horsetail to drink 3 cups a day and used in combination with the day cream becomes a wrinkle good.
But be careful to excess. The intake of excessive amounts can lead to disorders such as nausea, increased frequency of bowel movements, increased urination, muscle weakness, skin rashes, dermatitis.
Women who are pregnant or lactating women and people with kidney disorders and diabetes should avoid intake of Equisetum arvense.
It is always recommended a medical opinion before any intake.
Whether horsetails, and in particular by very common Equisetum arvensis, you can obtain an extract to be used as fertilizer for the plants. The strong content in silicon, in fact, is to help the plants weak or debilitated.
It proceeds by soaking one kg of stems in ten liters of rain water for about two weeks. It seems to be also effective to prevent the advent of cryptogams.
In certain areas it is considered weed.

How to prepare –
After being collected, the sterile stems are dried and comminuted to obtain the herbal tea cutting.
The infusion of the plant has a diuretic effect.
By making a more fine grinding is possible to obtain the Horsetail powder from a qualitative point of view it is preferable to any other type of Horsetail extract, because it is maintained the same composition of the dry plant in particular with regard to the silicon salts, substances important for the mineralizing action of the plant.
With regard to this mother tincture you are obtained by maceration of fresh aerial part of the plant in a indroalcolica solution by way of 55 ° for a time of about a month.
Horsetail has a flavor reminiscent of hay. In the past, especially farmers, they used sprouts that were occasionally breaded and fried or seasoned with vinegar.
Horsetail can be added to soups or minestrones as a mineral salt supplement.
Currently in Japan the strobili are boiled, salted and left to macerate in vinegar together with a local sauce; moreover, the basal parts of the plant are boiled and eaten by some Indian tribes of Mexico.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Please note: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgici uses are indicated for information purposes only, do not represent in any way a medical prescription; it accepts no liability on their use for therapeutic purposes, cosmetic or food.




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