Medicinal plants

Coltsfoot - application, effects and risks

Coltsfoot - application, effects and risks

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Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), a meadow plant from the daisy family, bears its name as a medicinal plant. The Latin "Girls" means cough and "Ago" "I drive out". The messenger of spring with the golden yellow tongue flowers was widely used in folk medicine as an expectorant for stucking coughs and as a remedy for respiratory diseases. However, new research also shows serious side effects.

Profile of coltsfoot

  • Scientific name: Tussilago farfara
  • Common names: Cow patties, broad lettuce, donkey lettuce, breast lettuce, crossbars, Latvian, field slat, donkey hoof, horse foot, Rosshuff, donkey branch, foal foot, hoof sheet
  • family: Daisy family
  • distribution: Extremely frugal pioneer plant all over Eurasia and widespread in North Africa, there dry warm locations with permeable soil - it even grows on brown coal.
  • application areas: Strengthening of the immune system, external wounds, inflammation, pain reliever, expectorant, help with swelling, cough medicine, especially with irritable cough
  • Parts of plants used: The herb

Tussilago - the most important facts

  • Coltsfoot is widespread and common as a pioneer plant, especially where there is moist clay soil.
  • The mucilages contained in the plant alleviate stimuli in inflamed mucous membranes and thus also the cough and pain.
  • Polysaccharides contained in Tussilago promote cell communication, which strengthens the effectiveness of the immune system.
  • The coltsfoot tannins are astringent, anti-inflammatory and also slightly anti-toxic.
  • Coltsfoot flowers and leaves are easy to process into tea, which is either drunk or soothes the skin in envelopes.
  • Tussilago also contains toxins - pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Although their amounts are usually small, they promote liver diseases and carcinomas. That is why doctors today generally advise against collecting wild coltsfoot privately.


Coltsfoot contains chemical components that are believed to relieve pain, help reduce swelling and are anti-inflammatory. The main substances are polysaccharides with anti-inflammatory activity that stimulate the immune system. These include mucopolysaccharides, pectin and inulin. Added to this are flavonoids with anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic functions such as quercetin and kaempferol, glycosides and hyperosides, and further terpenes such as tussilagon, faradiol, sterols and phenolic acids.

The tannins contained in Tussilago include tannin, which has an astringent effect and thus prevents foreign substances from penetrating and helps to heal light wounds. It also promotes coughing. There are also saponins that inhibit inflammation and loosen mucus.

Coltsfoot flowers

The flowers of coltsfoot (Latin: Flores Farfarae) are mostly used dry. They offer mucilages (around seven percent), plus pyrrolizidine alkaloids, terpenes and tussilagon, sterols such as sitosterol and triterpenes. Added to this are flavonoids and their glycosides, phenol carboxylic acids, including caffeic acid, ferulic acid and p-hydroxybenzoic acid.

The leaves

The coltsfoot leaves contain polysaccharides (approximately 8.2 percent), including 30 percent inulin and approximately 70 percent acidic mucus polysaccharides, including arabinose, galactose, glucose, uronic acids and xylose. There are also toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids and non-toxic tussilagin. To a lesser extent, the leaves contain flavonoids and sterols, triterpenes, bitter substances (0.05 percent), tannins and essential oil (0.05 percent).

Coltsfoot - application and effect

Tea made from the dried flowers and / or leaves is a traditional home remedy for cough, hoarseness, bronchitis or asthma. Decongestant and anti-inflammatory effects, irritant substances (for over-sensitive mucous membranes) and a calming of the mucous membranes as well as an expectorant activity which helps to cough up the secretions are documented.

Coltsfoot compresses for skin problems

In folk medicine, wraps and compresses with coltsfoot extracts were a remedy for abscesses on the skin, light burns, insect bites and eczema. Envelopes with fresh leaves should help against rheumatic complaints.

For skin and hair

Below the threshold of serious illnesses, but for healthy skin such as hair, folk medicine used a steam bath with coltsfoot for the face to cleanse the pores and drive away pimples and blackheads. A rinse with the extract should remove dandruff on the scalp and help against oily hair.

Coltsfoot in medical history

Coltsfoot already mention luminaries of ancient medicine such as the Greeks Pedanios Dioskurides and Galenos von Pergamon as medicinal plants, and the forefather of medicine in Europe - Hippocrates - saw Tussilago externally applied as a remedy for ulcerations. The medicinal clergyman Hildegard von Bingen discussed the importance of the March flower as a medicinal herb in the Middle Ages.

It was probably not only its active ingredients that contributed to the coltsfoot's good reputation, but also its symbolism as a “light bringer”. The flowers open in February, bloom fully in March and shine golden yellow - like the sun. In this way, they fostered associations between the light of the open spring and the plant. The medically effective flowers could be harvested before other medicinal flowers blossomed.

Tussilago has been one of the most widespread medicinal plants since ancient times, firstly due to its action against stubborn cough, and secondly, the plant was and can be found almost everywhere: on the field, on the side of the path, on meadows, rubble piles, railway embankments, undeveloped property - everywhere, where there is loamy soil and all over Europe.

In the early modern period, Tussilago was used as a remedy for chest tightness, cough and tuberculosis. In the 16th century, the botanist and pharmacist Tabernaemontanus recommended inhaling the smoke from the dried leaves. In folk medicine, Tussilago served as a remedy for various respiratory diseases. The pioneer of naturopathy, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), treated open ulcers with fresh coltsfoot leaves. Even today, many people take coltsfoot against serious lung diseases such as bronchitis and whooping cough.


According to the independent scientific committee of experts “Commission E” at the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM), coltsfoot medicines are indicated for acute airway catarrhs ​​and their symptoms such as cough and hoarseness, as well as mild inflammation of the throat and mouth.

Uncertain evidence , however, exists in the following common applications:

  • Asthma,
  • Whooping cough,
  • Bronchitis,
  • wheezing,
  • Inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis),
  • Sore throat,
  • Sore throat.

It is not clear whether coltsfoot works against these symptoms, but how effectively it can be used therapeutically.

Coltsfoot is common

Coltsfoot is a pioneer plant that is widespread throughout Europe, West Asia and North Africa and is considered an invasive neophyte in North America. He settled as one of the first plants in excavated sand pits, newly created road embankments or developed building plots. It usually grows on the banks of rivers, streams, ditches and canals. Tussilago loves loamy, moist soil and is even considered an indicator plant for waterlogging.

Recognize coltsfoot

Tussilago is easy to recognize. It grows on the ground, the leaves are up to 30 centimeters wide and have a gray felt underneath. They are considered natural toilet paper for outdoor freaks and country people. They have a characteristic shape - rounded at the front, widened at the back. Our ancestors remembered the appearance of a hoof, and that's why the name coltsfoot comes from. As one of the first flowering plants, the golden yellow leaves at the end of February are unmistakable, later they superficially resemble the dandelion.


The coltsfoot leaves can be confused with white butterbur. Coltsfoot leaves, however, are smaller and have jagged edges. The yellow flowers with the small petals can quickly be mistaken for dandelions. The best way to differentiate between them is that coltsfoot either has flowers or leaves and not both together.

Allergies to daisies

Coltsfoot belongs to the daisy family (also called "daisy family" or "aster family"), which includes around 24,000 species with around 1,700 genera worldwide. In addition to coltsfoot, this family includes, for example, dandelion, wormwood, mugwort, Jerusalem artichoke, marigold, chamomile or mountain goat. If you have an allergy to asters, they are also allergic to coltsfoot and should be avoided as a medicine.

Toxic substances

Coltsfoot contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), including

  • Senkirkin,
  • Senecionin,
  • Seneciphylline,
  • Integer rimin,
  • Tussilagin
  • and isotussilagin.

Some of them are toxic. More specifically, they trigger toxic reactions that promote the development of liver diseases and worsen existing liver diseases. Some of these pyrrolizidine alkaloids are even considered to cause cancer. Today there are varieties of coltsfoot that no longer contain PAs and can be used without hesitation.

No coltsfoot during pregnancy and lactation

Wild coltsfoot is considered unsafe because of the toxins. Pregnant and nursing women are particularly at risk. The alkaloids can cause birth defects and harm the baby. It is unclear whether coltsfoot medicines are safe during pregnancy without these substances. Therefore, you should generally avoid the plant during pregnancy and use products on a different basis for inflammatory diseases of the respiratory tract.

Beware of high blood pressure and heart failure

You should avoid Tussilago if you suffer from high blood pressure, heart failure and heart disease. There is legitimate concern that coltsfoot products interfere with therapies for high blood pressure and heart disease.


In this article, no instructions for home remedies such as tussilago tea or coltsfoot extract were described - for good reason: coltsfoot was still very popular in folk medicine two or three generations ago as a medicinal plant for cough, runny nose and hoarseness. However, new studies have shown that this medicinal herb contains toxins, albeit in very small amounts. That is why many doctors today advise against collecting coltsfoot in the open.

Meanwhile, there are cultivated forms that are free of the alkaloids. These can be easily used by people unless you are allergic to daisy or heart failure, high blood pressure, pregnant or breastfeeding. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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Video: Coltsfoot Flower Honey Cough Go Far Away (October 2022).