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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.



SEVERE CAUTIONCOLTSFOOT
COMPOSITAE
aka Ass's foot, Bull's foot, Butterburr, Coughwort, Donnhove, Fieldhove, Flower velure, Foalswort, Horsehoof, Pas d'ane
(Tussilago farfara)
[kuan dong hua]
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PROFESSIONAL USE ONLY!
• CONTAINS PYRROLIZIDINE ALKALOIDS which are also present in Comfrey.
These alkaloids are of some concern due to the potential for liver damage.
Internal use of these herbs is not currently recommended.
• NOT TO BE TAKEN when liver disease or alcohol abuse is present!
• DO NOT MIX WITH MEDICATIONS!
• NOT FOR PROLONGED USE!
• NOT when PREGNANT or NURSING!
• Not with heavy mucosal congestion.

FYINative to Europe, but naturalized in the United States as well as northern Asia and northern Africa, this is an unusual, stoloniferous perennial weed which sends up its solitary, yellow composite FLOWERS (with numerous reddish bracts) before the leaves appear; disk flowers are bisexual, but sterile; ray flowers are fertile; flowers open when sunny, closing up when overcast or dark. STEMS are scaly. LEAVES are hoof-shaped on long stalks about 4 inches across, thus giving it its common name; leaves have angular toothed margins; when young they are covered with white downy hair. The ROOT is small, white and spreads easily. SEEDS are linear achenes with a pappus of white hair. Is usually found in clay type soils. It tends to be invasive and is not recommended for the home garden. Its scientific name (tussilago) means 'cough dispeller'.

Astrologically ruled by Venus §

PLANT CONTAINS: Mucilage, tannin, bitter glucosides, phytosterols, sitosterol (anticancer compound), dihydride alcohol, faradial, zinc, inulin, rutin, hyperoside, isoquercetin, polysaccharides, pyrolizidine alkaloids, essential oil, potassium, calcium salts, sulphur, iron phosphate, natural sugars, high organic content.
FLOWERS CONTAIN: Mucin, rutin, hyperin, triterpenoid saponins, taraxanthin, tannin, phytosterols, arnidiol, faradis, essential oil.
LEAVES CONTAIN: Mucin, tannin, sitosterol, saltpeter, inulin.

PROPAGATION By SEED (germination takes 1 to 2 weeks at 60 to 70ºF in rich, moisture-retentive loam with a pH 4.5 to 7.5 in sun to part shade);
by DIVISION or ROOT CUTTINGS after flowering.
NEEDS Perennial to Zone 2; invasive; not recommended for the home garden.
FLOWERS Early spring
PART USED Leaves, flowers, root; parts are usually dried with the exception of use in a poultice.
HARVEST FLOWERS as soon as they open; LEAVES when they reach full size.
SOLVENT Water, Diluted alcohol
FORM Infusion, decoction, juice, tincture, cream, poultice, compress.



USES

MEDICINAL:
♦ Never used alone; always combined with other pectorals such as Horehound, Marshmallow, and Ground Ivy.
Considered a prime expectorant; also demulcent, antitussive, astringent, diaphoretic, emollient, tonic, pectoral, central nervous system depressant, metabolic stimulant, mildly diuretic; affects lungs. Extracts show antibacterial, antitussive and CNS-depressant activity.
In times past, smoking was the preferred method of administration for asthma, bronchitis, other respiratory problems and always in combination with other herbs such as Buckbean, Eyebright, Betony, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, and Chamomile. Pliny recommended burning the dried roots and leaves over cypress charcoal, then drawing the smoke into the mouth and swallowing it for a cough. Smoking, along with decoctions and infusions have been used to treat children's cough, coughs of all types, colds, hoarseness, bronchitis, bronchial asthma, pleurisy, emphysema, silicosis, tuberculosis. A decoction of the flowers has also been used for coughs and phlegm of colds and flu. A tincture of the flowers (sometimes combined with thyme and elecampane) has also been used for chronic cough. A syrup of the flowers made from a decoction has been used for coughs. Other remedies have included a combination with rose leaves and yarrow as an herbal tobacco to treat asthma and combined with garlic or echinacea for bronchitis. The juice has also been used for coughs.
Has been used to clear the lungs when quitting smoking and also for shortness of breath related to Parkinson's.
The dried powdered leaves were once used as a snuff for nasal obstruction and sinus headache.
The flower stalks were once used to make Syrup of Coltsfoot, BP, which was used for chronic bronchitis.
Has been used in the past to treat rickets and swollen glands.
Due to its astringent nature, it has been used to treat diarrhea.
Being mildly diuretic it has been used to treat cystitis.
The crushed leaves or a decoction of the leaves has been used for insect bites, inflammations, general swellings, burns, erysipelas, phlebitis, boils, abscesses, scrofula, scrofulous tumors, and badly healing wounds and ulcers (contains organic zinc). The dried leaves soaked in boiling water have also been used as a poultice for neuralgia (back and loin), sunburn, sores, ulcers, insect bites. A cream form has been used for cold sores.
Water distilled from the leaves has been used for piles.
The aqueous root extract has been used for fever.
Combined with Goldenseal, Elecampane, and Hyssop has been used to treat young females approaching puberty which is marked by oily skin, nasal congestion, and chronic cough.
Some Native American tribes soaked a blanket in the infusion and warpped it around a person suffering from severe congestion.
In Italian Folk Medicine Coltsfoot has been used for epilepsy. In other cultures it was used as a Folk remedy for liver ailments.
In traditional Chinese medicine the flowers [kuan dong hua] and leaves are used for chronic cough, wheezing, colds, hoarseness, bronchitis, sore throat, dry cough, to encourage rising lung qi (energy) to descend, coughs with blood, and lung cancer. Crushed leaves have been used for insect bites and stings. The infusion has been used for diarrhea. A poultice has been used for earache.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
Use is confined to low doses (1 tsp daily) and only for short periods. The German Commission E states the risk of use is too great to recommend its internal use for therapeutic purposes.
GRAINS = 60 to 120
INFUSION = 1 to 2 tsp of leaves or flowers in 1 cup of water just off the boil; steeped 30 minutes; strained; sweetened with honey; taken warm a mouthful at a time 3 times daily. OR 1/4 oz. dried flower buds in 1 pint of boiled water and steeped 10 minutes.
OLD COMPOUND COUGH INFUSION = 1/2 oz each of Coltsfoot, Horehound, Comfrey root (contains P.A.'s; not currently used internally), Hyssop, Vervain and 1 stick of Licorice (be aware that not everyone can tolerate Horehound; determine sensitivity first); Steep combination in 3 pints of boiling water and let stand for 12 hours; 1 tsp is taken every few hours through the day.
DECOCTION = 1 oz leaves in 1 quart of water; boil down to 1 pint; usually sweetened with honey; taken 1 to 2 tsp at a time.
JUICE = 1 to 2 tbsp, 3 times daily
TINCTURE = 10 to 20 drops up to 1/2 to 1 tsp (2 to 4 mls)
SYRUP = Make 3 infusions, one after another, of coltsfoot; each time using half a pound in a quart of water; strain last infusion and add a pound-and-a-half of sugar and boil to a syrup.
HOT COMPRESS = Make an infusion of 1 heaping tbsp of dried herb in 1 quart of water. Moisten cloth in the tea and apply.
COUGH DROPS = Boil 1 oz of fresh leaves in 1 pint of water until 1 cup is left; strain and add 2 cups of sugar; boil to hard ball state; pour onto a buttered cookie sheet and score into cough drop sizes; roll in slippery elm powder so pieces with not stick together.

HOMEOPATHIC:
Used for problems of overweight and plethora.

VETERINARIAN:
Has been used to treat livestock of coughs, pneumonia, pleurisy, asthma, tuberculosis, cramps, and epilepsy, dose being 1 handful of cut leaves or flowers to 1½ pints of water; given 1 cup morning and night. Also as a poultice for abscesses, ulcers, earache, toothache; poultice is made by combining the cut leaves with bran in a cotton bag, then dipping into boiling beer for 5 minutes; applied several times daily.

CULINARY:
Fresh leaves were once eaten as a vegetable by frying in batter or used in omelets and served with a mustard sauce.
The flowers were once used to flavor wine.
COLTSFOOT WINE = 2 quarts flowers (measured in their fresh state); these are set out to dry. When quite dry place in a pot and pour 1 gallon of boiling water over them and allow to sit for 3 days, stirring 3 times daily. Strain out the flowers and add 3 lbs of sugar to the liquid; boil for 30 minutes. When cool put 1 package of yeast on a piece of toast and place on liquid. Allow liquid to ferment for 24 hours. Next day remove the toast and put the liquid in a cask; add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of raisins, 3 cut up Seville oranges and 2 cut up lemons. Let stand for 3 months, then bottle.

COSMETIC:
An infusion has been used as a lotion to reduce facial thread veins.
A poultice of the leaves has been used to reduce puffy eyes (mince or grind the leaves and add enough water to make a pulp; place between layers of muslin to make two pads; chill in refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes; place over eyes for 15 minutes, then dash with cold water to rinse and dry).
For skin spots a compress of the infusion (leaves & flowers) has been used.

DYE:
Plant produces a yellow-green with an alum mordant; green with a copperas mordant (or ferrous sulphate).

OTHER:
Once a common ingredient of cough syrup.
The downy felt of the young leaves was once rubbed off, wrapped in a bit of rag, then dipped ina a solution of saltpeter, sun dried, then used as tinder.
Coltsfoot has been combined with other herbs to create an herbal tobacco.
The fluff from the seed heads was once used to stuff pillows.
At one time in France a coltsfoot flower and/or leaves were painted on the doorpost to identify a pharmacy.
Has been used to cure pipe tobacco.




©2001 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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