The other day in the market, I noticed several bound herb packets including te de limon and manzanilla. The third mound was unfamiliar to me, so I asked about it. The woman selling them said it was cola de caballo and was for kidney disease. All righty then, time for another plant study!
Cola de caballo (Equisetum spp) is also known as equiseto, limpiaplata, cien nudillos, cola de rata, caña carricillo, and candalillo in Mexico. This plant is believed to have been part of the staple diet of herbivorous dinosaurs. There are about 30 species and subspecies in the Equisetaceae family, which reproduce by spores rather than seeds. At least three varieties, Equisetum hyemale subsp. affine, Equisetum laevigatum and Equisetum myriochaetum, are native to Mexico.
Traditionally in Mexico, it’s used as a diuretic, for kidney stones, and bladder or urinary tract infections. It’s also used in treatments for gout, wounds, hair loss, conjunctivitis, cough, diabetes type 2, and to increase energy. The young shoots are eaten as a vegetable. It has a grassy flavor, as to be expected.
A tea made from romerillo (Viguiera linearis) and cola de caballo (Equisetum laevigatum) is prescribed in Chiapas, Durango, and Sonora to treat urinary disorders. In Oaxaca, a tea prepared with 4 teaspoons dried or 8 teaspoons fresh of leaves, flowers, stems, and roots (Equisetum hyemale subsp. affine) in 1 cup of boiling water is given for kidney stones. Allow the infusion to steep from 5-20 minutes. Strain and drink daily before meals. In Chiapas, Guerrero, and Oaxaca, cola de caballo (Equisetum myriochaetum) is combined with barba de maíz (Zea mays), corn silk, for treatment of kidney ailments. Seven to 12 grams of each ingredient is added to ½ liter of water and boiled for 15 minutes. Two cups are prescribed daily. Yet another kidney stone treatment calls for a decoction made from cola de caballo (Equisetum myriochaetum), nopal paddle (Opuntia ficus-indica), and gobernadora leaves (Larrea tridentata) prepared every morning and cooled by the morning dew for 40 days.
A wash for wounds consists of 200 grams (Equisetum myriochaetum) boiled for 30 minutes in 2 liters of water. Because cola de caballo has a high silicone content, it is believed that drinking a daily infusion will promote shiny hair and strong nails.
Research on Equisetum arvense, the most commonly studied variety, has been shown it to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, antidiabetic, anticancer, cardioprotective, and antimicrobial. This variety has also demonstrated the ability to increase bone mineral density supporting its use in treating wounds including its application to bone healing.
Equisetum myriochaetum also shows promising health applications. It has anti-tumor, anti-diabetic, antioxidative, and diuretic activity. Equisetum hyemale is antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiparasitic. It also lowers cholesterol. Most other species and subspecies have not been examined thoroughly, but undoubtedly will have similar properties.
Note: Individuals with low potassium levels should not use remedies with cola de caballo.
Interested in health? Learn traditional Mexican plant remedies used today for wellness with