Habitat & Cultivation : Coltsfoot, originating in Europe and northern Asia and now naturalized in North America, is a prevalent plant frequently observed along roadsides, verges, and waste grounds. Harvesting involves collecting the flowers in late winter and the leaves in the summer.
Parts Used : Leaves, flowers.
Constituents : Coltsfoot comprises various constituents, including flavonoids, approximately 8% mucilage (polysaccharides), 10% tannins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, vitamin C, and zinc. While the pyrrolizidine alkaloids may potentially have a toxic effect on the liver, it’s important to note that they are largely destroyed when the plant parts are boiled to create a decoction.
The polysaccharides present in coltsfoot exhibit anti-inflammatory and immunostimulant properties. Additionally, the flavonoids in coltsfoot contribute to its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects
History & Folklore : Coltsfoot has been used for at least 2,500 years as a remedy for coughs and has been traditionally smoked to facilitate easier breathing. Dioscorides, a Greek physician from the 1st century CE, advocated its use for dry coughs and mentioned its efficacy for individuals who could only breathe comfortably while standing upright. This historical usage highlights coltsfoot’s long standing association with respiratory relief.
Medicinal Actions & Uses : Coltsfoot is recognized as a highly effective demulcent and expectorant herb, making it one of the most popular European remedies for addressing chest problems. In Europe, the leaves are favored over the flowers (which contain higher levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids), while in China, the flowers are preferred. Both parts of the plant are often taken as a decoction for chest conditions.
When administered as a syrup or in medicinal cigarettes, coltsfoot proves beneficial in relieving asthma. It is specifically used to treat spasmodic coughs and exhibits heightened efficacy when combined with other herbs such as licorice, thyme, and wild cherry.
Research : Extracts from the entire coltsfoot plant have demonstrated the ability to enhance immune resistance. In a Chinese trial that included 36 patients with bronchial asthma, 75% of them exhibited some improvement after treatment. However, it’s important to note that the anti-asthmatic effect observed in the trial was found to be short-lived. While coltsfoot may show promise in certain respiratory conditions, further research and evaluation are necessary to fully understand its long-term efficacy and potential side effects.