Coltsfoot

Scientific names: Tussilago farfara

Common names: Coltsfoot also is known as coughwort, feuilles de tussilage (Fr.), horse-hoof, huflattichbäl?tter (Ger.), and kuandong hua.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Moderate to serious danger.

What is Coltsfoot?

Coltsfoot is a low-growing perennial with fleshy, woolly leaves. A member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family, coltsfoot produces a single golden-yellow flower head that blooms in spring. As the stem dies, the hoof-shaped leaves appear. The plant is native to Europe, but also grows widely in sandy places throughout the United States and Canada. Coltsfoot is collected widely from wild plants in the Balkans, Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, the former Yugoslavia), and Italy. It also has been a part of Chinese folk medicine for centuries. Its silky seeds once were used as a stuffing for mattresses and pillows. Extracts of coltsfoot once had been used as flavorings for candies.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

As part of its Latin name Tussilago implies, coltsfoot is reputed as an antitussive. The buds, flowers, and leaves of coltsfoot have been long used in traditional medicine for dry cough and throat irritation. The plant has found particular use in Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of respiratory diseases, including cough, asthma, and acute and chronic bronchitis. It also is a component of numerous European commercial herbal preparations for the treatment of respiratory disorders. Coltsfoot preparations long have been used to soothe sore throats. The mucilage most likely is responsible for the demulcent effect of the plant. A mixture containing coltsfoot has been smoked for the management of coughs and wheezes, but the smoke is potentially irritating. The mucilage is destroyed by burning; smoking the plant or inhaling vapors of the leaves steeped in water would not be expected to provide any degree of symptomatic relief. Instead, the smoke may exacerbate existing respiratory conditions. However, one source mentions coltsfoot in the form of a medicinal cigarette to help relieve asthma. Coltsfoot, in a mixture of Chinese herbs, has been evaluated in cases of convalescent asthmatics and found useful in decreasing airway obstruction. Related conditions for which coltsfoot has been used include bronchitis, laryngitis, pertussis, influenza, and lung congestion. It is one of the most popular European remedies to treat chest ailments. All early references emphasize the usefulness of coltsfoot's mucilage for soothing throat and mouth irritation. Research reveals little or no clinical data on the anti-inflammatory action of coltsfoot. Because of its potential toxicity, coltsfoot is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.

What is the recommended dosage?

Historical use of 4.5 to 6 g/day of crude herb has been documented.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Because of the content of hepatotoxic (toxic to the liver) pyrrolizidine alkaloids, coltsfoot is not recommended for internal use.

Pregnancy/nursing

Documented adverse effects (hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, risk of fatal hepatic veno-occlusive disease, abortive effects). Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Allergic reactions may occur.

Toxicities

Coltsfoot has an "undefined safety" classification by the FDA. Avoid prolonged use of the plant; it may increase blood pressure and pose a risk of carcinogenicity, hepatotoxicity, or mutagenicity.

References

  1. Coltsfoot. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 23, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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