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Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)


Coltsfoot, scientifically known as Tussilago farfara are herbs which have been used as cough depressants for hundreds of years. They are angiosperms which belong to the plant Astaraceae. However, the use of coltsfoot as a cough depressant has been challenged of late with the linking of pyrrolizidine alkaloid component to liver problems because of its toxic nature.

Coltsfoot grows in colonies spreading by rhizomes and by seeds. They are flowering plants in spring and their flowers resemble the dandelion flowers while the leaves are generally absent, beginning to sprout when the seeds begin toe appear. Coltsfoot is native to many continents notably Asia and Eurrope and has been introduced to other continents especially the Americas for medicinal purposes. The herb is referred to by other names like winter heliotrope, horsefoot, foalswort, foal’s foot, coughwort, butterbur, bull’s foot, ass’s foot and tash plant depending on where it is found.

Medicinal Uses

  • There are varied medicinal uses of coltsfoot due to the useful components that it contains including strerols, salts, tannins, and inulin. Mainly, it is used for relief from respiratory problems. It has been used for centuries in the treatment of coughs and as an antitussive for chest problems especially during cold or exposure to dust.
  • The leaves and the flowers are made into decoctions that are drank or inhaled for relief from these chest problems. Continued usage of coltsfoot brings relief from spasmodic coughs associated with other diseases like asthma and whooping cough.
  • Externally, coltsfoot is used tor make a special kind of pulp that is applied on painful joints, rashes, wounds, injuries, sores and other skin ailments which brings relief and healing.
  • Coltsfoot syrup made from its crushed leaves and flowers or special formula from herbal chemists is used as a diuretic and blood purifier for slow metabolism cases and asthma, diarrhea and other related conditions.

Dosage and Administration

There is no recommended dosage for coltsfoot especially for the home made extracts. The flowers, leaves and oil extract which are edible can be used in any quantities. For example, the flower buds and the young coltsfoot flowers used in making salads or cooking foods can be used just in as much quantities as the other spices. As for the extracts sold in chemist outlets, the dosage and usage instructions are often clear. For example, the coltsfoot extract from Stakich has a recommended dosage of 10 to 30 drops which should be taken 3 times daily. There are also syrup coltsfoot extracts which are consumed two to 3 tablespoonfuls at a time. Extended usage of coltsfoot is no longer recommended and any dosage should be limited bottle due to reported toxicity and health problems.

Parts Used

Several parts of coltsfoot can be used mainly the leaves and the flowers.


The benefits of coltsfoot are both as an edible plant and for medicinal purposes. For edible uses, the leaves, flowers and oil extracts are used. Coltsfoot can also be used as tea additive and salt. The young flowers and flower buds add a distinctive aromatic or aniseed flavor to salads and food either cooked or raw. In addition, they can be added to soups or cooked with other vegetables. An aromatic tea f coltsfoot can be prepared from flowers or leaves that have been dried. It can also be mixed with the conventional tea to retain the real taste of the normal tea while introducing a pleasant aroma and medicinal benefits.

Those who suffer from diseases like heart diseases and diabetes who are supposed to refrain from salt consumption can use burnt and dried leaves of coltsfoot as a substitute in food. To reduce the effects of sugar on such patients, the slender redstock of coltsfoot can be candied in sugar syrup.

Side Effects

Of late, extensive usage of coltsfoot is being discouraged with some doctors discouraging complete abandonment. This is because coltsfoot has been tested and found to contain tumorigenicpyrrolozidine alkaloids that have mutagenetic activities. They include senkirkine, senecionine and show authentic comparative test when used on the drosophila melanogaster.

Consuming tea containing coltsfoot is especially dangerous for a pregnant woman as it causes liver problems to the infant which has led to death in a few known cases.


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