Coltsfoot is a perennial herb. The scientific name of Coltsfoot plant is Tussilago farfara. It belongs to the family Asteraceae. The name ‘tussilago’ means ‘cough suppressant’ and the plant has been traditionally used to treat cough, asthma and other lung ailments. Tussilago farfara, is known by other common names such as Ass’s foot, Tash Plant, Coughwort, Bull’s foot, Foal’s foot, Farfara, Winter heliotrope and Horse Foot. Tussilago farfara is native to Asia and Europe and has been introduced by settlers in the Americas as a medicinal plant. The plant is consumed as food and used as an ingredient in confectionery products.
Tussilago farfara(Coltsfoot) is found in colonies of dozens of plants. The plants multiply by seeds as well as rhizomes and usually grow to a height of 10 to 30 cm. The plant may have taken its name due to its leaves which look like a colt’s foot and usually unfold after the seeds are fully grown. The flowers which appear like dandelions bloom in early spring much before the blooming of actual dandelions. Tussilago farfara(Coltsfoot) plant is found growing along paths, roadsides and waste places.
Coltsfoot tea is made by steeping 5 to 10 grams of leaf or flower in 250 ml of hot water for about fifteen minutes. Three cups of tea can be safely consumed in a day. The tincture can be taken in a dosage of 2 to 4 ml thrice daily. However the use of Coltsfoot should be taken only under medical supervision. In any case, Coltsfoot concoction should not be continued for more than a month. Pyrrolizidine-free preparations of Coltsfoot are safer and can be used without any side effects.
Studies have proved the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Tussilago farfara(Coltsfoot) which have toxic effects on the liver. Coltsfoot is contraindicated in pregnant and nursing women and infants. This herb is also unsafe for people suffering from cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. The German government has banned the cultivation of Coltsfoot. Clonal plants known as Tussilafo farfara Wein have been developed in Germany and Austria which are free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids.