Jan 9, 2016

Posted by in Herbs | 0 Comments

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot
English: Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) One of ...

English: Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) One of the earliest spring flowers, coltsfoot was formerly used as a remedy for coughs and asthma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) has been used to treat chest problems since the time of the ancient Greeks.  Dioscorides and Pliny recommended smoking it to relieve coughs and asthma.  It is the distinctive shape of the leaves that gives Coltsfoot its name. Other common names for the plant are Ass’s foot, British tobacco, Bull’s foot, Butterbur, Claywee, Cleats, Coughwort, Donnhove, Flower Velure, Fieldhove, Filius ante patrem, Foal’s Foot, Foalswort, Hallfoot, Horsefoot, Horsehoof, Huki-Tanpopo, K’Uan Tung, Oksurukotu, Pas d’ane, Son-before-father, Sponne, To Wu, Tun Hoof, and Winter Heliotrope.  A perennial herbaceous plant, Coltsfoot can be found in the US, Europe, and the East Indies, on the banks of streams, in pastures, along roadsides, or other places where the soil is loamy or full of limestone. The flowers, which look a little like dandelions, typically appear before the leaves.

Coltsfoot flowers have the following medicinal properties:

Expectorant – loosens phlegm

Antispasmodic – reduces muscle spasms and muscle tension

Demulcent – soothes and softens damaged or inflamed tissue, particularly mucous membranes

Coltsfoot also acts to reduce the amount of phlegm.

Coltsfoot leaves, while also used for coughs, have emollient properties (externally soothe and soften), and can also be applied externally as a poultice for sores and wounds that are slow to heal.

Coltsfoot flowers and leaves can be prepared as a decoction (simmered for up to an hour), and/or a tincture (steeped in an alcohol and water solution).  However, coltsfoot should only be taken internally under professional supervision, because it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids.  Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are toxic to the liver, and Coltsfoot has them in high concentrations.  Botanists in Germany have created a version of coltsfoot that does not contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, called Tussilago farfara Wein.

In magical herbalism, coltsfoot flowers are added to love sachets, and are used in spells for peace and tranquility. The leaves, when burned and inhaled, can induce visions. The plant is considered feminine in nature, ruled by the planet Venus, and the Element of Water. Because Coltsfoot’s yellow flowers are among the first to appear in the spring, it is an excellent choice for rituals centered on the return of the sun, such as those performed at Imbolc, Ostara, or Beltane.

Shortly before writing this article, I was weeding a portion of my garden in which I had amended the soil with hay and droppings from our goats’ stall, and discovered that there was quite a lot of Coltsfoot amongst the weeds. There is a creek running by our property, so the goats certainly could have eaten it there. I will make a special point of looking for the location of the wild Coltsfoot on my property in the spring, so that I may collect a few flowers for my altar.

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