Action: Expectorant, antitussive, anti-catarrhal, pectoral, antispasmodic, demulcent, emollient.
Systems Affected: Lungs, mucous membranes.
Preparation and Dosage (thrice daily): Dried leaves, dose 0.5-3.0 grams by decoction.
Named after its leaf shape, Coltsfoot is one of the most important herbal remedies for respiratory problems. Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, its Latin name Tussilago means 'cough plant', from which the modern medical term (anti)tussive is derived. Even in the days of Dioscorides Coltsfoot was smoked to relieve coughing, a tradition maintained today in its incorporation as the basic ingredient of herbal smoking mixtures.
The plant is indigenous to forests, riverbanks and damp environs in Europe and temperate Asia, but it has been introduced and naturalized elsewhere. A creeping perennial up to 30 centimeters in height, it requires moist soil to flourish. It may become rampant in some situations, and care is needed to restrict its growth in gardens. The bright yellow dandelion-like flowers appear and wither before the broad green leaves are produced (hence the mediaeval name of the plant, filius ante patrern, meaning 'the son before the father').
The leaves are the part most commonly employed, but the flowers may be used also; the flowers are collected as soon as they open, the leaves when they reach full size. The leaves and flowers are prepared by decoction, which should be strained through fine cloth or cotton wool before use to eliminate the down from the underside of the leaves which would be irritant to the throat.
Coltsfoot is prescribed for a variety of respiratory tract conditions: bronchitis, bronchial asthma, pleurisy, emphysema, the side-effects of colds and flu, acute or chronic catarrh and, more specifically, for all manner of coughs.
Because of its demulcent and restorative action on irritated and inflamed mucous membrane, Coltsfoot can also be useful in the treatment of gastritis and enteritis.
Externally, the dried leaves, smoked as a cigarette, provide relief for asthmatics. Combined with Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata), they make a mixture used for smoking in pulmonary complaints such as chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath and dry cough.
The decoction or the fresh leaves crushed and mixed with a little honey to form a poultice, can be used externally for badly-healing wounds, ulcers, inflammations, burns and scalds, skin irritations and insect bites.