Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot is a perennial herbaceous plant in the Asteraceae family that spreads both by seed and rhizome. The rosette of large cordate, dentate leaves do not appear until after the flower has gone to seed, rather unusually, resulting for a short time in a plant with scaly stems, flowers, but no leaves. The leaves are glabrous on top, and downy white on the underside. The yellow flowers should be gathered before they have fully come into bloom, which is usually at some point in the Spring, and the leaves should be collected shortly after, between May and June. A native to Europe and Asia introduced by settlers in the past couple hundred years, it’s commonly thought to be invasive and is found in disturbance areas such as by railroad tracks and roadsides. It’s commonly found in wet areas, such as near stream-banks, embankments, and pastures, and prefers loamy, limestone soils. It’s pollinated by honey bees and some species of moths.

Medicinal Uses
Coltsfoots is high in vitamin C and zinc, making it a popular folk medicine in Europe for treatment of respiratory conditions such as colds and bronchitis, to stimulate immune cells, ease headaches, and break up mucus, as zinc is quite anti-inflammatory. It was also once used as the symbol for an apothecary in France. It is an expectorant, anti-tussive, demulcent, anti-cattarhal, and diuretic. The combination of it’s expectorant and anti-inflammatory qualities makes it useful in the treatment of bronchitis, whooping cough, and asthma, especially when combined with white horehound, marshmallow, and mullein. It’s soothing qualities, being a demulcent herb, are excellent for soothing the irritated tissues in emphysema. Coltsfoot can be prepared as a tincture or as an infusion, and can also be eaten in salads and soups. It is also used in some herbal tobacco blends, and is thought to ease coughs when smoked. When applied externally as a poultice, it can treat ulcers, bug bites, burns, and sores. Some studies warn from excessive consumption due to alkaloids found in this plant that can potentially damage the liver, however, other studies have show that these alkaloids are destroyed by boiling.

Folk Uses
Coltsfoot leaves have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea or syrup and externally as a poultice for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, locomotor system, viral infections, flu, colds, fever, rheumatism and gout. It’s also made into a confection in the UK called Coltsfoot Rock, a traditional recipe, containing Parogoric (a camphorated tincture of opium), capsicum, oil of aniseed and coltsfoot extract. Both a wine and a beer can be made with Coltsfoot root. The fluffy seed heads were also popular pillow stuffing for pillows.

1-2 teaspoons of dried herb per cup of water, infused for 10 minutes, drunk three times daily and taken as hot as possible. As a tincture, 2-4ml of the tincture three times daily.

(s) 1, 7, 8, 10, 12

Coltsfoot leaves, after flowering.

Coltsfoot leaves, after flowering.