Herbs & Botanicals
Bottle Brush (mu zei)
What is bottle brush?
Also known as horsetail because of its shape, bottle brush is found throughout the temperate zones of Asia, North America and Europe. There are two varieties of bottle brush: one grows in the early spring and resembles asparagus (except for its brown color); the other grows in the summer and has thin, branched green stems.
Bottle brush is a rich source of essential nutrients; among its constituents are silicon, potassium, selenium, aluminum and manganese, along with 15 types of bioflavonoids. The stems and leaves are used medicinally.
Why do we need bottle brush? What is it used for?
Since it was first recommended by the Roman physician Galen, bottle brush has been used as a folk remedy by several cultures for a host of conditions, ranging from kidney ailments and genitourinary infections to arthritis, bleeding ulcers and tuberculosis. Traditionally, topical applications of bottle brush were used to clean wounds and promote healing.
It is believed that silicon is a vital ingredient in the formation of bone and cartilage tissue. As such, bottle brush has been used by some practitioners to help strengthen bone and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. The presence of flavonoids has led some researchers to speculate that it can act as a diuretic and be used to treat incontinence and bed-wetting. Anecdotal reports suggest bottle brush may treat brittle nails.
How much bottle brush should I take?
The German Commission E monographs suggest up to six grams of bottle brush per day for internal use. As a tea, many practitioners recommend pouring 2-4 tablespoons of the herb in one cup of water for five minutes, steeping the tea for 15 minutes, then straining out the herb and drinking the tea two to three times per day.
What forms of bottle brush are available?
Bottle brush is available as a tincture, extract or infusion. Dried forms of the herb can also be found at specialty markets or health food stores.
What can happen if I take too much bottle brush? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Bottle brush is generally considered safe; however, patients should be sure that they are using the correct species. One species of bottle brush, equisetum palustre, contains toxic compounds and is a well-known livestock poison.
Bottle brush is also high in selenium, which may cause birth defects. As such, it should not be used by pregnant women or people with weak immune systems.
The Canadian Health Protection Branch requires manufacturers to document that their bottle brush products do not contain the enzyme thiaminase, found in crude bottle brush, which destroys the B vitamin thiamin. Since alcohol, high temperatures and alkalinity neutralize thiaminase, any tinctures, extracts or preparations subjected to temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius or higher during manufacturing should be the preferable form of herb used.
Certain medications may interact with bottle brush. These medications include loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics, triamterene and spironolactone. Make sure to consult with a qualified health care provider before taking bottle brush or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
- Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, pp. 1501.
- Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 2nd ed. Sandy, Oregon: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998: 85.
- Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press; 1985:492.
- Fabre B, Geay B, Beaufils P. Thiaminase activity in equisetum arvense and its extracts. Plant Med Phytother 1993;26:1907.
- Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: AB Arcanum, 1998:238239.