Horsetail Extract for Hair: Dietary Sources, Benefits & More

Turn over your shampoo bottle, especially if you use a natural product, and chances are good you will see horsetail extract listed on the ingredients.

Nope, horsetail extract has nothing whatsoever to do with actual horses (thank goodness, right?).

It is actually extracted from a plant known as Equisetum, sometimes also known as snake grass or puzzlegrass.

What Is Horsetail Extract? 

This plant is classified as a “living fossil” because it existed clear back in prehistoric times in Paleozoic forests! The name “horsetail” simply refers to the shape of the plants, which bear a superficial resemble to horses’ tails.

Some prehistoric horsetail plants were actually trees and got to be as tall as 30 meters (modern horsetail plants do not reach this height, and remain relatively small undergrowth plants). All in all, a pretty cool plant. But what can it actually do for you?

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Why is it included in so many hair care products, and does it have any other interesting health benefits?

What Is Horsetail Used For? 

People use horsetail for a number of different purposes:

There are a few other applications as well for both health and beauty, but those are the most common ones.

Dietary Sources of Silica

Silica? Wait, weren’t we talking about horsetail extract? We are, but the primary reason horsetail extract is so good for your hair and nails has to do with its high silica content. Technically the only dietary source of horsetail extract is horsetail, so it makes more sense to talk about other dietary sources of silica, being as that is one of the key nutrients.

Here are some foods that are reasonably high in silica content:

  • Oats
  • Millet
  • Barley
  • Potatoes
  • Whole wheat grain
  • Artichoke
  • Red beets
  • Corn
  • Asparagus
  • Rye

As you can see, grains are high in silica, and several vegetables as well. If you eat these foods regularly, you are already doing a lot to nourish your hair, skin, and nails (while also enjoying the other benefits for your bones). Still, extra silica in the form of horsetail extract can be very helpful, which is why it is included in multivitamins for beauty as well as shampoos and conditioners.

And if you do not eat a lot of grains (maybe you are on a low-carb diet), odds are you could do with more silica in your diet.

How Does Horsetail Extract Work?

Silica (which is the same thing as silicon dioxide) is a building material that is used in a number of different bodily tissues, including bone, nails, and hair. You may not do a lot of thinking about silica, but it is an essential element that you cannot live without.

This is why horsetail extract is prescribed for patients who suffer from osteoporosis.

Horsetail can help to improve bone density. This is also why horsetail is great for strengthening brittle nails!

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Health and Beauty Benefits of Horsetail Extract

  • Horsetail extract has antioxidant properties. These properties are so strong that some studies show they may even inhibit the growth of cancer cells! These same properties can improve your hair, skin, and nails. How? Antioxidants combat the damage of free radicals. Free radicals cause many of the effects of aging by harming tissues in your body. Horsetail thus acts as an antidote to aging, and helps to keep your skin, hair, and nails healthy and beautiful!
  • This herbal extract can also fight inflammation. Inflammation is a common problem associated with acne and other skin conditions. Horsetail can reduce this inflammation, helping acne, wounds, eczema and other conditions to heal and clear up faster.
  • Horsetail helps your body to produce collagen. How? This comes back to silica. Silica is a constituent element of prolyl hydroxylase , a key enzyme in collagen growth. Prolyl hydroxylase incidentally is also needed to produce glycosaminoglycans, a protein complex that is part of bone tissue, nails, skin, and hair. In this way, horsetail strengthens your nails (and your bones), improves your skin tone, and also nourishes your hair for healthy growth.

Horsetail is a fascinating herb. It’s been around since prehistoric times, yet researchers are only now just starting to realize its applications in health and beauty products.

Even though the extract is best known for its ability to improve bone density, the same nutrients can help to make your hair and nails stronger and improve the elasticity of your skin.

Now you know why horsetail extract might be in your shampoo or conditioner, and why taking a little extra as an oral supplement is a good idea.

It can really help your skin to glow, and taking it in supplement form is really the only way to reap the benefits for your nails!

Read Next: How To Address Post Menopausal Hair Loss 

Sources:

http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=111806
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/horsetail
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-843-horsetail.aspx?activeingredientid=843&activeingredientname=horsetail