Tussilago farfara

Synonyms: British Tobacco, Butterbur, Coughwort, Rower Velure, Hallfoot, Horsehoof, Horse-foot, Ass’s Foot, Foalswort, Fieldhove, Bullsfoot, Donnhove, (French) Pas d’ane

Coltsfoot grows abundantly throughout England. The specific name of the plant is derived from Farfarus, an ancient name of the White Poplar.

In Paris, the Coltsfoot flowers used to be painted as a sign on the doorpost of an apothecarie’s shop.

An old name for Coltsfoot was Filius ante patrem (the son before the father), because the star-like, golden flowers appear and wither before the broad, sea-green leaves are produced.

The botanical name, Tussilago, signifies ‘cough dispeller,’ and Coltsfoot has justly been termed ‘nature’s best herb for the lungs and her most eminent thoracic.’

Coltsfoot as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

coltsfootMedicinally, Coltsfoot is never used alone; it is always combined with other pectorals such as Horehound, Marshmallow, and ground Ivy.

Coltsfoot is used to treat respiratory problems, head and chest congestion, and is soothing to the stomach and intestines. Combine it with horehound, ginger, and licorice root for a soothing cough syrup, suitable for all ages.

For both colds and asthma, a decoction is made of 1 ounce of leaves, in 1 quart of water boiled down to a pint, sweetened with honey or liqorice, and taken in tea-cupful doses frequently.

The leaves are the basis of the British Herb Tobacco, in which Coltsfoot predominates, the other ingredients being Buckbean, Eyebright, Betony, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, and Chamomile flowers. This relieves asthma and also the difficult breathing of old bronchitis. Those suffering from asthma (including children), catarrh and other lung troubles derive much benefit from smoking this Herbal Tobacco, the use of which does not entail any of the supposed injurious effects of ordinary tobacco.

Pliny recommends the dried leaves and roots of Coltsfoot to be burnt, and the smoke drawn into the mouth through a reed and swallowed, as a remedy for an obstinate cough, the patient sipping a little wine between each inhalation. To derive the full benefit from it, it had to be burnt on cypress charcoal.

Crushed Coltsfoot leaves – or a decoction of the leaves – has been used for insect bites, inflammations, general swellings, burns, phlebitis, boils, abscesses, scrofula, 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 and insect bites. A cream form has been used to treat cold sores.

Water distilled from the leaves has been used for piles.

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 and flowers) has been used.


An infusion can be made as follows: 1 to 2 teaspoons 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 ounce dried flower buds in 1 pint of boiled water and steeped 10 minutes.

For a hot compress, make an infusion of 1 heaping tablespoon of dried herb in 1 quart of water. Moisten cloth in the tea and apply.

Coltsfoot Cough Drops

To make coltsfoot cough drops, boil 1 ounce of fresh leaves in 1 pint of water until 1 cup is left; strain and add 2 cups of sugar; boil to hard ball stage; pour onto a buttered cookie sheet and score into cough drop sizes; roll in slippery elm powder so pieces with not stick together.

Other Uses for Coltsfoot

coltsfoot-seed-headThe fluff from the seed heads was once used to stuff pillows.

Once upon a time in France, a coltsfoot flower and/or leaves were painted on the doorpost to identify a pharmacy.

Culinary Uses of Coltsfoot

Fresh leaves were once eaten as a vegetable by frying in batter or used in omelets and served with a mustard sauce. The taste and texture is slimy-sweet and the leaves have a honey-like smell when they are rubbed.

The flowers were once used to flavor wine.

Coltsfoot tea. The chemical constituents have expectorant, anti-tussive, anti-spasmodic, demulcent, anti-catarrhal and diuretic properties, making coltsfoot extremely helpful in the case of racking coughs such as those that accompany chest colds, asthma and emphysema.

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 pounds 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.


In Italian Folk Medicine Coltsfoot was used for epilepsy. In other cultures, it was used as a folk remedy for liver ailments.

Magickal Uses. Add to love sachets and use in spells for peace and tranquility. Smoke the leaves to aid in obtaining visions.


Administration during pregnancy and while nursing is contraindicated.

Because of the possible hepatotoxic and carcinogenic pyrrolizidine alkaloid content, the administration of the blossoms should be avoided.

Colt’s Foot leaves may no longer be brought into circulation in Austria. In Germany, dosages cannot exceed an intake of 10 meg pyrrolizidine alkaloids with 1.2-unsaturated necic parent substances in the form of tea mixtures, and an intake of 1 meg in the form of extracts.

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