Description of Coltsfoot:
Tussilago farfara, corn is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower from Feb to April, and the seeds ripen from Mar to May. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, self. The plant is self-fertile.
Cultivation of Coltsfoot:
Tussilago farfara is a very easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils when grown in full sun. It prefers a moist neutral to alkaline soil and will also succeed in partial shade. Plants are hardy to about -29°c. Coltsfoot is a very tough plant that is more than capable of looking after itself. When well sited its roots will spread very freely sending up new shoots at some distance from the clump even if growing amongst dense weed competition. This can make it a problem weed in gardens, so either choose your site with care or find some means of restraining it such as by planting in a large tub that is buried in the ground. The rhizomes can lay dormant in the soil for many years, emerging when the soil is disturbed.
Propagation of Coltsfoot:
Seed – the plant does not usually require help with spreading itself around, but if required the seed can be sown in situ in early spring or autumn. Division of the roots is very easy and succeeds at almost any time in the year. The divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.
The flowers should be gathered before they have fully bloomed (end of February to April) and dried carefully in the shade. The leaves are best collected between May and June. They should be chopped up before they are dried and stored. The fresh leaves can be used until autumn.
Culinary uses of Coltsfoot:
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Oil. Edible Uses: Oil, Salt, Tea.
Flower buds and young flowers – raw or cooked. A pleasant aniseed flavour, they add a distinctive aromatic flavour to salads.
Young leaves – raw or cooked. They can be used in salads, added to soups, or cooked as a vegetable. The leaves have a bitter taste unless they are washed after being boiled. An aromatic tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves and flowers. It has a liquorice-like flavour. The dried and burnt leaves are used as a salt substitute. The slender rootstock is candied in sugar syrup.
Actions: Expectorant, anti-tussive, anti-spasmodic, demulcent, anti-catarrhal, diuretic, Emollient, ,skin,astringent,tonic.
Coltsfoot combines a soothing expectorant effect with an anti-spasmodic action. There are useful levels of zinc in the leaves. This mineral has been shown to have marked anti-inflammatory effects. Coltsfoot may be used in chronic or acute bronchitis, irritating coughs, whooping coughs and asthma. Its soothing expectorant action gives Coltsfoot a role in most respiratory conditions, including the chronic states of emphysema. As a mild diuretic it has been used in cystitis. The fresh bruised leaves can be applied to boils, abscesses and suppurating ulcers.
The leaves are commonly used in Europe, though the flowering stems (which contain higher levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids) are preferred in China. They are rich in mucilage and are the main parts used, though the root is also sometimes employed. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids have a toxic effect upon the liver, but are largely destroyed when the plant is boiled to make a decoction. Some caution should be employed in the use of this remedy – the flowers should not be used except under professional supervision, the leaves should not be used for more than 4 – 6 weeks at a time, the herb should not be taken whilst pregnant or breast-feeding and it should not be given to children under the age of six. Modern research has shown that extracts of the whole plant can increase immune resistance . In a Chinese trial 75% of patients suffering from bronchial asthma showed some improvement after treatment with this plant, though the anti-asthmatic effect was short-lived. The leaves are harvested in June and early July, the flowers are harvested when fully open and the root is harvested in the autumn. All can be dried and used as required. The plant is antitussive, astringent, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, stimulant and tonic. It is widely used in the treatment of coughs and respiratory problems and is often candied so that it can be sucked as a sweet. The plant is of particular use in the treatment of chronic emphysema and silicosis, helping to relieve the persistent cough associated with these conditions. A poultice of the flowers has a soothing effect on a range of skin disorders including eczema, ulcers, sores, bites and inflammations. A bitter, tonic and diaphoretic preparation can be obtained from the root.
Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “diffusive expectorant, sedative and demulcent: suitable for debilitated and chronic conditions, especially where there is a tubercular diathesis.” They give the following specific indications: chronic pulmonary conditions, chronic emphysema and silicosis, pertussis, asthma.
King’s says that “It relieves irritation of the mucous tissues. The decoction is usually administered in doses of from l to 3 or 4 fluid ounces and has been found useful in coughs, asthma, whooping cough , laryngitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, and other pulmonary affections; in gastric and intestinal catarrh; and said to be useful in scrofula. The powdered leaves form a good errhine for giddiness, headache, nasal obstructions. Used externally, in form of poultice, to scrofulous tumors.”
In the treatment of coughs it may be used with White Horehound, Mullein or Elecampane. or Coltsfoot is particularly effective when used in combination with liquorice (Glycyrrhiza species), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and wild cherry (Prunus serotina).
Preparations & Dosage of Coltsfoot:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried flowers of leaves and let infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day, as hot as possible. Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Compost, Oil, Soil stabilization, Stuffing, Tinder.
The soft down on the underside of the leaves is used as a stuffing material. When wrapped in a rag, dipped in saltpetre and dried in the sun it makes an excellent tinder . Plants have an extensive root system and are used to stabilize banks . The leaves are a valuable addition to the compost heap.
Wealth, prosperity, and love. Use in love sachets. Sacred to Brighid. Use in spells for peace and tranquility.
- Flavonoids; rutin, hyperoside and isoquercetin
- Mucilage, consisting of polysaccharides based on glucose, galactose, fructose, arabinose and xylose; and inulin
- Pyrrolizidine alkaloids, including senkirkine and tussilagine