Coltsfoot is a perennial plant found in the U.S., Europe, and the East Indies in wet areas such as streambanks, in pastures, and on ridges or embankments, preferring loamy and limestone soils. The creeping rootstock sends up first the downy white, scaly flower stems that resemble asparagus, topped by large yellow flowers similar to dandelions.
Family: Compositae (Sunflower Family)
Cultivation: Coltsfoot is best propagated from root cuttings planted in spring or fall. It likes moist, clay soil under full sun or partial shade. It is so easy to grow, it may overrun a garden. But it works well in containers. Flowers should be gathered in full bloom and dried. Leaves should be harvested when mature.
History: Coltsfoot has been a cough-suppressing herbal medicine of Asia and Europe for 2,000 years. And it is still widely used today. Chinese physicians have long prescribed it for asthma, coughs, colds, flu, bronchial congestion, and even lung cancer.
For cough and asthma, the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides and the Romans Pliny and Galen recommended a coltsfoot treatment that today sounds ridiculous, which is smoking the herb. But this approach continued for more than 1,500 years.
In Paris around the time of the French Revolution, coltsfoot was so popular that signs bearing its golden flowers were the standard symbol hung outside apothecary shops.
Colonists introduced coltsfoot into North America, and the Indians adopted it as a cough remedy. The 19th century American Eclectic physicians prescribed coltsfoot for all respiratory problems and digestive upsets.
Constituents: Mucilage, pyrrolizidine alkaloid – (senkirkine), saponins, tannin, zinc, potassium, calcium.
Properties: Astringent, demulcent, emollient, expectorant.
Colds, coughs, hoarseness, bronchitis, bronchial asthma, diarrhea, and as a poultice for sores.
Coltsfoot may help treat respiratory problems. It contains a substance (mucilage) that may soothe the respiratory tract. A German study using experimental animals showed the herb increases the activity of the microscopic hairs in the breathing tubes that move mucus out of the respiratory tract.
Preparation And Dosages:
Collect the flowers as soon as they open, the leaves when they reach full size.
Infusion: Use 1 to 3 teaspoons leaves or flowers with 1 cup water; steep for 30 minutes and strain. Sweeten with honey and take warm.
Juice: Take 1 to 2 teaspoons at a time.
Tincture: Fresh (1:2), dry (1:5) in 50% alcohol. 30 to 60 drops as needed.
Caution: Avoid excessive consumption. Coltsfoot contains a low content of the pyrrolizidine alkaloid senkirkine which may damage the liver.
Coltsfoot is also a wild food.