Horsetail for Acne
The herb horsetail has been used for both internal and external medicinal purposes since ancient times, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Several of its characteristics make it useful as a treatment for damaged or problematic skin, including moderate to severe acne. While horsetail and other herbal treatments are not substitutes for prescription medication in severe acne cases that warrant stronger medicine, they may be effective in improving the condition.
Though not all of acne's causes are known, the primary contributors to the condition include improper shedding of dead skin cells and excessive production of sebum, the oil excreted through the pores to keep skin moist, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Both of these issues can produce clogged pores, which can appear on the surface of the skin as acne blemishes. Additionally, excess sebum that clings to the surface of the skin provides a breeding ground for bacteria, which can irritate blocked pores, allowing breakouts to spread. Excess sebum and improper skin cell shedding can be related to hormones, heredity, stress and other factors, but through simple management of those skin issues on a daily basis, it is possible to minimize the appearance of acne.
Horsetail Botanical Profile
Horsetail is a brittle, bristly, perennial, non-flowing herb that grows wild throughout the northern hemisphere, according to Nancy Arrowsmith's book, "Essential Herbal Wisdom: A Complete Exploration of 50 Remarkable Herbs." It has diuretic properties, and when taken internally can help purge excess fluid and impurities from the body. Its silica content is easily absorbed, making horsetail an effective ingredient in strengthening treatments for hair and nails. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that initial human studies have indicated horsetail may have applications in the treatment of osteoporosis, though these benefits have yet to be verified through clinical trials.
Arrowsmith states that topical horsetail solutions are anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, which makes them ideal for addressing the bacteria and sebum that produce acne blemishes while soothing the acne that already exists. Its anti-inflammatory properties also make horsetail appropriate for a broader range of skin problems like rashes and razor burn. "Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies" by Anthony J. Cichoke states that horsetail has been used historically to stop the bleeding of open wounds and accelerate their healing process.
Horsetail extract is an ingredient in some commercially available topical pastes and ointments. When using this form of horsetail to treat acne, apply the solution to acne-prone skin per the directions on the label. When using raw horsetail herbs, one treatment option is to boil them as a tea and use as a daily skin toner. Cichoke suggests pouring one cup of boiling water over two tsp. of dried horsetail, leaving it to steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then straining. Apply the cooled tea topically as a toner after daily face washing, but try this on a small area of skin first and dilute the solution with water if it is too harsh. Arrowsmith states that the dried herbs can be combined with a little water and a thickening agent like honey, face mask clay, oatmeal or almond meal to create an exfoliating face mask.
According to "A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America" by Steven Foster, James A. Duke and Roger Tory Peterson, possible side effects from the topical application of horsetail solutions can include mild skin irritation, rash and dermatitis.
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