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Common Name: Variegated Horsetail
Equisetum variegatum is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.60 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials..
Large quantities of the plant can be toxic. This is because it contains the enzyme thiaminase[
], a substance that can rob the body of the vitamin B complex[
]. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[
The plant also contains equisetic acid - see the notes on medicinal uses for more information[
Arctic and temperate regions of Europe, including Britain, N. America, central and northern Asia.
Dunes, river banks, wet ground on mountains etc, to 480 metres[
Prefers a moist but well-drained fertile soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5[
A very cold-hardy species tolerating temperatures down to about -30°c[
Plants have a deep and penetrating root system and can be invasive. If grown in the garden they are best kept in bounds by planting them in a large container which can be sunk into the ground[
Horsetails have an unusual chemistry compared to most other plants[
]. They are rich in silica, contain several alkaloids (including nicotine) and various minerals[
]. Horsetail is very astringent and makes an excellent clotting agent, staunching wounds, stopping nosebleeds and reducing the coughing up of blood[
]. It helps speed the repair of damaged connective tissue, improving its strength and elasticity[
The plant has been used in the treatment of sore eyes[
The stems contain 10% silica and are used for scouring metal[
] and as a fine sandpaper[
]. They can also be used as a polish for brass, hardwood etc[
The infused stem is an effective fungicide against mildew, mint rust and blackspot on roses[
]. It also makes a good liquid feed[
Spores - best collected as soon as they are ripe in the spring and surface-sown immediately on a sterile compost. Keep moist and pot up as soon as the plants are large enough to handle. Very difficult[
Division. The plants usually spread very freely when well sited and should not really need any assistance.