Coltsfoot (Kuan Dong Hua)
Botanical Name: Tussilago farfara
Coltsfoot is full of mucilage, the substance that coats sore throats, making it a popular traditional cough remedy. This herb has long been known for its amazing broad spectrum ability to treat a wide variety of lung conditions, no matter the cause, including asthma, emphysema, wheezing and stubborn cases of bronchitis. Even the leaves have been, and are, smoked to help treat coughs. Both Western and Eastern (Traditional Chinese Medicine) regard this herb highly.
Below is an overview of Coltsfoot (Kuan Dong Hua), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Coltsfoot (Kuan Dong Hua).
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Also Known As: Coughwort, Horsefoot, Bullsfoot, Farfara, Ass’s Foot, Fieldhove, Foalsfoot, British Tobacco
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Demulcent, Expectorant, Tonic, Diuretic, Blood Purifier, Antispasmodic, Antitussive. Asthma, coughing, colds, bronchitis, emphysema, silicosis.
Also Known As: Lingtai Dong Hua
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Moistens the Lungs/Descends Qi/Stops Cough/Transforms Phelgm: cough and wheezing due to Cold, Heat or Yin Deficiency, chronic cough with blood streaked sputum, cough with thick yellow mucus, shortness of breath, lowers fever, pleurisy, tuberculosis, emphysema, acute and chronic lung infections, sore throat, scrofulous sores. Promotes Tissue Repair: used externally to treat burns, swellings and lesions.
Flavors/Temps: Spicy, Acrid, Warm
Caution: Do not exceed 10g a day. Not recommended for infants and small children or during pregnancy. Not recommended for those suffering from liver ailments or weaknesses.
History/Folklore: The name of the plant, “Farfarus,” is an ancient name for the White Poplar, as the leaves of the coltsfoot are somewhat similar. The name “Tussilago” means “cough dispeller.” The common name, “coltsfoot” is said to derive from the leaves being horseshoe or hoof shaped.
The shoots that develop flowers and the shoots that develop leaves are collected separately as both are used medicinally for different purposes. The spreading small white roots are also used medicinally. The leaves are collected in June and early July, with flower stalks collected in February. The flower stalks are often combined with the plant’s leaves to treat chronic bronchitis.
Recent studies indicate that the pyrrolizidine alkaloids found in coltsfoot root (and that are not found in the stalks, flowers or leaves) can cause liver damage if taken internally. If you have used the herb, and are for any reason concerned, we recommend you consult your healthcare provider to run a few simple blood tests to confirm any possible damage to your liver. Be aware these compounds are largely destroyed during the boiling processes for making teas and decoctions. Both Western and Eastern (Traditional Chinese Medicine) regard this herb highly.
Recent studies also confirm the plant contains significant amounts of mucilage, the substance that is famous for safely and effectively soothing sore throats and treating coughs, wheezing, bronchitis and asthma.
When coldsfoot was brought to America, a popular method of treating whooping cough was to soak blankets in a solution of coltsfoot and wrap the blankets around the patient.
The plant can look very different during its various stages of growth. Typically an image of the plant in flower and the plant during foliage are both needed for proper identification. The early famous botanist, Pliny, thought the plant had no leaves, as none are seen until after the plant blooms. Seldom do the leaves and flowers ever appear together at one time. It is often mistaken for dandelion because the flowers are similar and the plants both like to grow in waste land and roadside areas.
The Chinese prefer to use the flower calling it, “Welcome Winter Flower,” as the edible flower blooms only during the winter solstice and early spring, even while snow can still be on the ground. The Chinese consider it an excellent herb for treating coughs and colds caused by pathogenic Wind Cold. The best quality flowers are produced in Lingtai Gansu province and this prized variety is called, “Lingtai Dong Hua”.
To improve the herb’s ability to moisten the lungs, the Chinese will fry the herb in honey. This approach is very good for treating especially dry coughs and wheezing.
Smoking the leaves as a remedy for coughs dates back to the Ancient Greeks, with all the great herbalists, both ancient and contemporary supporting this approach, though it is also made into tinctures, teas, decoctions and other preparations used to treat coughs and lung disorders. It is legal to smoke the leaves in most countries, including the United States.
The British Herb Tobacco, uses coltsfoot as a main ingredient, along with such other herbs as eyebright,
betony, buckbean, rosemary, thyme, lavender and chamomile flowers to relieve asthma and difficulty breathing in bad cases of bronchitis. This is an herbal “tobacco” and not a nicotine tobacco, making it a remedy and not injurious to one’s health. Cornish tin miners regularly smoked coltsfoot to guard against lung diseases.
In Paris, the flower was a symbol painted on the signs of shops indicating they were an apothecary and a place to buy herbs and remedies.
In Northern England the leaves were used to tell the future. By peeling away the soft grey tissue hairs on the new leaves, it was said that the now shiny leaf would act as a mirror or window that with the right incantation could show you your future, or future spouse.
The silky hairs found on the seeds are often used by goldfinches to line their nests.
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