“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed to which it shall be for meat’.” (Genesis 1:29)
My Master Gardener instructors and classmates would be horrified: I have intentionally planted Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in my garden. The reason for their horror? Coltsfoot is said to be an invasive species and is not native to this land (albeit it has become naturalized like so many other plants brought from European settlers in earlier generations). My reason for defying some unspoken MG oath? Coltsfoot is one of the main ingredients in the tincture that I brew to control my asthma and to heal any winter bouts with bronchitis. I have even healed a bout of pneumonia with it and that makes it more valuable than any “oath”. Furthermore, I want to know what’s in my medicine. In my home garden, I know it hasn’t been sprayed with any chemicals or genetically-modified.
The information contained herein is for educational purposes ONLY. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This blog post/article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
In Coltsfoot’s defense, the one lone plant that I transplanted over 3 years’ ago has only “spread” to a second plant in those 3 years. At the museum where I used to be their herb garden lead, it was also slow-spreading. So, while I’ll give it the “non-native” status, I question the “invasive” part. It wouldn’t surprise me if the university is receiving kick-backs from one of the major drug companies to downplay this little beauty. The latter makes an awful lot of money off of seasonal allergy sufferers, asthmatics and others with chronic upper-respiratory illnesses. A plant whose primary use is for upper-respiratory complaints is a threat to their livelihood and, because it is a “weed”, it cannot be patented. (And, yes, I’m on another rant and getting all conspiracy theorist, too; sorry, I trust big pharma about as far as I can throw them.)
Ahem…ranting aside, many may mistake Coltsfoot for a dandelion. They have similar flowers, albeit, Coltsfoot’s floral head falls somewhere between a dandelion and an English daisy. Unlike the dandelion, whose foliage sprouts before the flowers bloom, Coltsfoot flowers first and then the colts’ foot-shaped leaves emerge (hence, its name).
Images from my garden:
Image found on Yahoo of the foliage later in the season:
Image comparing Coltsfoot in full bloom with a dandelion, also in full bloom:
As stated above, I use Coltsfoot (leaves only) as part of a tincture to control my asthma and to treat bronchitis. The tincture in question (and I will leave the formula below) contains several other herbs, but it is the combination of Coltsfoot with another “weed”, Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus), that makes this tincture so effective against asthma. While Coltsfoot is both an expectorant and anti-imflammatory, mullein is antispasmodic, as well as also being an expectorant. Both herbs have demulcent properties, which mean they produce a mucilage that coats inflamed bronchial passages. Additionally, Coltsfoot is antitussive, astringent and sedative. It’s very name in Latin translates to “cough dispeller” and it has been used effectively over thousands of years to aid the healing of coughs, wheezing, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, emphysema, laryngitis, hoarseness, flu, colds, sore throat, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath (Tierra, 2003, pp. 70-71). Since using Coltsfoot, I have not had to rely on a steroidal-based inhaler at all. And, while my allopathic medical doctor has not been willing to stake his medical claim on it, every time I have gone in for a note due to some sort of upper-respiratory ailment, he has repeatedly told me to keep taking/doing whatever I’m taking/doing as he has never heard my lungs so clear.
Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Now, all that being said, I would be remiss as a responsible herbalist if I did not state that even herbalists caution not to use Coltsfoot if pregnant, nursing, or stricken with some sort of liver disease. And, with children, only very small doses of the below tincture (1/8 – 1/4 tsp every 4 hours if battling some sort of bronchial condition, or as needed to control an asthma attack; or 1/2 cup of a weak tea brewed for 10 minutes with a lid with local honey added). Coltsfoot has contraindications with fritillaria, magnolia flowers, ephedra, scute, coptis and astragalus (some of these I have never even heard of using in herbal medicine???).
3 1/2 tbsp each of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
1 tbsp each of Elecampane Root (Inula helenium), Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) or, if being used for smokers, substitute Hops (Humulus lupulus)
1/2 tbsp each of ginger (Zinziberis officinalis) and Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
To tincture, measure the above herbs (I normally use dried herbs; fresh herbs would need to triple amount) into a clean 1-quart size Mason jar. Fill the jar, covering the herbs, with 100 proof vodka or brandy (Majorska has a good 100 proof vodka that has worked well for me). Screw the cover on, give it a good shake, and place the jar in a dark, dry cupboard. Shake it a couple of times each day while it tinctures. In two weeks’ time, it will be ready to use. I typically strain the liquid through a sieve and funnel it into dark-colored bottles found at my local herb shop (check online if you do not have a herb store nearby).
NOTES: You can also use apple cider vinegar, if using alcohol is a concern, but it will have a much shorter shelf life and have to be kept in the fridge. Also, it can be challenging to find 100 Proof. I recommend it because anything less than that may cause mold to form over time. With 100 Proof, it typically has a shelf life of 2 years. However, if you can only find 80 proof, 1/4 tsp. of vitamin E will aid in the preservation. I would also recommend labeling the jar with the date created, the ingredients used, and I always include a batch number so, if you’re making this for the first time, it is “Batch 1”.
May God bless you & keep you!
Tierra, Lesley (2003). Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.
Yahoo (n.d.) “Coltsfoot Plant-lore.” Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FWB6KpeHHkAzD9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybDY4NmF2BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQzAwNzBfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=coltsfoot%2C+images&fr=mcafee#id=62&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.plant-lore.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2010%2F12%2FIMG_2774-e1505765426444.jpg&action=click
Yahoo (n.d.). “Coltsfoot vs. Dandelion.” Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FWB6KpeHHkAzD9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybDY4NmF2BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQzAwNzBfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=coltsfoot%2C+images&fr=mcafee#id=7&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.coldclimategardening.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2Fcoltsfoot_vs_dandelion.jpg&action=click