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Horsetail in granite

A familiar and welcome sight in our clean, brilliant woods in the Spring is the feathery, magnificent Horsetail herb.

This herb was used to polish silver and pewterware from the Middle Ages until the eighteenth century. Dairy maids of northern England used it to scour their milk pails.
One may still use the dried stems to polish pewter, or, get this, Heritage cabinetmakers, fine woodwork! Try it, I can't see why not!

Modern herb businesses provide a pill version of the herb, its silicon, like spirulina, is said to be very useful for cleansing of the system.

Horsetail has been called, among other things, Paddock-pipes and Pewterwort. The Properties page on Horsetail lists as many names as possible. It belongs to the plant class Equisetaceae, allied only with Ferns in Britain. (This is from A British Herbal).

The class includes a single genus, Equisetum from the Latin "equus" (horse)and "seta" (bristle). Bet you never heard the word seta in your life. Not me either!

You are perhaps familiar with the finitely jointed, hollow stems which separate with such satisfying results when one is examining a horsetail stem.

Plants of this nature comprised the bulk of the vegetation during the carboniferous period.Their fossilized predecessors are recognized as the giant "Calamites" which had flourished to their height during this period.


Horsetails live in shady woodlands or wetlands, and their catkin fruit contains microscopic spores attached to elastic threads. Young Horsetails germinate from these spores in a similar manner to ferns, and also propagate through tubers, or root growth.

The young shoots of especially E .maximum Horsetail (Three foot high variety) were cooked in flour and butter or dressed like asparagus by poorer Romans of old.They have very little nutrition, though, and do not seem too palatable.

Medicinal use is made of E. arvense (field horsetail) which grows in wet meadows. Its presence is believed to indicate the proximity of springs or underground streams. the shoots of these are colourless and the stems are yellowish, with 2 to 5 joints.

E.sylvaticus (wood horsetail) looks like miniature pine starters and has 3/4 to 1 inch cones. It is a principal food for horses in Sweden, and is also used medicinally, like E. arvense.

Horsetail is diuretic and can also be used to prevent hemmhoraging, for instance, nosebleeds. It can be used internally to heal ulceration.

Plants in ash form are used for stomach acidity and dyspepsia.

Quick- need help in the woods? Horsetail may be applied as a poultice externally to stop wounds from bleeding when you are too far from the styptich rocky stonecrop.



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