Common Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
In the student dorm I was about to pack my stuff and head home for the weekend, when my granddad (Opa) called me. He told me he would need my help, two weeks ago a sort of gadfly had stung him and the puncture inflamed badly. A hand-sized patch of skin was swollen, red and hot, whilst a massive suppurative focus had developed around the puncture. He was in pain, and – here it comes – he voluntarily went to the doctor the week before, who prescribed him some antibiotic powder.
So the antibiotic powder had not helped at all, subsequently Opa was at his wits end, not wanting to go back to the doctor again – you know once every ten years is enough et cetera.
Normally I go for chamomile and honey maybe some whiskey for skin inflammations, but somehow as soon as my granddad had told me about his issue, the picture of horsetail popped into my mind and did not let go. On arrival at the farm, I scanned through my herbal books, yet still could not find any other application for common horsetail, than cleansing of kidneys and so forth.
Well, by now I was used to listen to the ‘visions’ and decided to raid my herb larder for horsetail and give it a go anyway. When using herbs for an infusion that are wooden you need to let them simmer for about 5 minutes to break them open. So I made an infusion let it cool down a little, then still warm put it as a compress on the inflamed leg.
Opa told me that within half an hour the pressure from the wound had ceased. He renewed the compress several times throughout the night. At some point during this night, the wound opened and the pus came out. When he showed me the leg the following morning, the swelling was reduced significantly as well as the inflammation. The thing healed completely within the next five days.
I later found another herbal book that stated the use of common horsetail for wounds and acroedema – time to get new books!!
Although I never found sources stating that marsh horsetail (Equisetum palustre) is poisonous for any other than live stock, the rule of thumb from my great granddad – who was a homeopath and passed that on to my granny, who passed that on to my mom and both passed that on to me – was not to use any other than the common horsetail for infusions, because (so goes my family lore) the marsh horsetail is poisonous.
Measurements: I never measure weight or volume when preparing remedies. This has several reasons. Depending on the weather of the year, or the time of harvest the herbs have different strengths, so sometimes I need more, sometimes less. It also always depends on the suffering family member – if they have a strong constitution or are weakened by stress, the dosage has to be adapted. Opa for instance had a constitution like a Clydesdale – so with him I could go for one off strong dosages, whilst other family members need long term smaller doses.
Warmth and Inflammation: normally don’t go together, as a warm and moist environment is a happy living place for germs. However, warmth opens pores of the skin, so family lore goes if you want to draw something out the initial bandage has to be warm. It however cooled down during the application, any further fresh bandages were room temperature.