Weekly Herb Review #13-Coltsfoot

Common Names: Colts foot (Bulls foot, Coughwort, Horsehoof)

Scientific Name: Tussilago farfara (Tussilago means ..ugh Dispeller..n Latin)

Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)

Parts Used: Leaf and flower, generally dried

Growing/Harvesting: Coltsfoot is a perennial that likes moist, clay soil in full or partial sun. The flowers, which look similar to dandelions, come up in the early spring (late Feb. through April). Gather them in full bloom. The leaves, which come up only after the flowers have bloomed, look like a horses hoof and can be gathered when they are mature.

Qualities: Bitter, Sweet, Cool

Constituents/Nutrition: Polysaccharides (inulin and mucilage), tannins, flavonoids, glycosides, many minerals (zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium), triterpenes, and pyrrolizidine alkaloids (in higher concentration in the flowers).

Properties/Actions: Decongestant, expectorant, antitussive, astringent, bitter, antispasmodic, anticatarrhal, anti-inflammatory, demulcent

Uses/Indications: Good for respiratory symptom relief with colds, congestion, asthma and coughs. Can be uses as a mouth and throat gargle for inflammation and as a poultice for inflammatory skin conditions like boils, abscesses and ulcers.

Folk History/Magical Uses: Coltsfoot was used primarily as a cough suppressant in Asia and Europe for thousand of years. It was recommended by the Greek and Roman physicians Dioscorides, Pliny and Galen, as a smoke for lung issues. For whooping cough, the colonial Americans would soak blankets in hot coltsfoot infusion and wrapped it around the patient. The Eclectics used Coltsfoot for many respiratory and digestive conditions.

Cautions/Side Effects/My Thoughts: Coltsfoot is not recommended during pregnancy, breastfeeding or if you have a history of liver disease. It contains Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), some forms of which can be toxic. There have been studies to show that some PA.?can cause veno-occlusive liver disease and cancer in certain animals (specifically rats). While many herbalists no longer use Coltsfoot (or other herbs containing PA.?like Comfrey and Borage), others still feel it is an excellent remedy for respiratory issues, especially if it is not used in high doses or for long term (greater than 4-6 weeks per year.) The final decision is up to you.

Preparation/Dosage: Infusion, decoction (may destroy most of the PA.?by boiling the leaf) tincture, syrup, smoked, poultice

More Info:
Purple Sage

Brinker, F. (1998). Herb contraindication and drug interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications.

Castleman, M. (1995). The healing herbs. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Coltsfoot. Retrieved on January 31,2006 from

Element, Shaftesbury. (1990). Magic and medicine of plants. New York: Reader.?Digest Association.

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Holmes, P. (1998). The energetics of western herbs, Vol 1. Colorado: Snow Lotus Press.

Meyer, J. (1918). The herbalist. Illinois: Meyerbooks.

Pengelly, A. (2004). The constituents of medicinal plants. Cambridge, MA: CABI Publishing.

Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum. New Jersey: Herbacy Press.

Tussilago farfara. Retrieved on January 31, 2006 from

2 thoughts on “Weekly Herb Review #13-Coltsfoot

  1. Great Stuff you got here! I am so stoked that I found you in xanga land. I am excited to here about your adventures with your new Land. What a beautiful thing your doin! Hey I think your livin ‘my dream! haha come visit me in xanga world sometime (LjDharma). Peace
    Blessed Be!

  2. What a pretty plant! (Of course, I think dandelions are pretty, too. I’m a Homeowner’s Association’s worst nightmare, I guess…) Interesting information about the move away from using this due to concerns about PAs and liver problems. It’s interesting to me how traditional and herbal remedies are now sometimes finding support from the mainstream medical profession and, at the same time, herbal medicine and other traditional healing practices are learning from scientific research and adapting their practices to reflect new knowledge. Of course many medical practitioners are still far too focused on just one way of knowing and healing, but I find the cross-fertilization of ideas to be pretty exciting when it happens!

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