Herb: Dutch Rush

Latin name: Equisetum hyemale

Family: Equisetaceae (Horsetail Family)

Medicinal use of Dutch Rush:

Horsetails have an unusual chemistry compared to most other plants. They are rich in silica, contain several alkaloids (including nicotine) and various minerals. The plant is anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, haemostatic, hypotensive and styptic. It also has an appetite-stimulating effect. The barren stems are used, they are most active when fresh but can also be dried and sometimes the ashes of the pant are used. The plant is a useful diuretic when taken internally and is used in the treatment of kidney and bladder problems. A decoction applied externally will stop the bleeding of wounds and promote healing. The plant contains polyphenolic flavonoids with bactericidal activity.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

Habitat of the herb:

Shady streambanks etc, to 500 metres.

Edible parts of Dutch Rush:

Strobil (the fertile shoots in spring) - cooked. An asparagus substitute. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Roots - dried and then cooked. A source of starch. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. A further report says that the peeled stems, base of the plant, root and tubers were eaten raw by the N. American Indians, the report went on to say that this may be inadvisable.

Other uses of the herb:

The stems are very rich in silica. They are used for scouring and polishing metal and as a fine sandpaper. The stems are first bleached by repeated wetting and drying in the sun. They can also be used as a polish for wooden floors and furniture. The infused stem is an effective fungicide against mildew, mint rust and blackspot on roses. It also makes a good liquid feed. Used as a hair rinse it can eliminate fleas, lice and mites. A light pink dye is obtained from the stem. The hollow stems have been used as whistles. Another report says that the stem joints are pulled apart and used by children to produce a whistling sound.

Propagation of Dutch Rush:

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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Shady streambanks etc, to 500 metres.

Known hazards of Equisetum hyemale:

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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.