Botanical name: Tussilago farfaro
Other names: coughwort, horsehoof, British tobacco
Part used: leaf
Action (karma): expectorant, astringent, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, antitussive, diuretic.
Dose: in Australia only permitted to be smoked. Use to replace tobacco.
Contraindications: not to be used when pregnant or while nursing.
For over two thousand years coltsfoot has had a history of use, as a cough remedy. The Romans called it ‘tussilago’ meaning cough plant. It was traditionally used as a tea for dry irritating coughs, wheezing, laryngitis, bronchitis, shortness of breath and pleurisy. Several early herbals mention smoking the dried leaves to ease coughs, and it can be effective to directly get to a tickle at the back of the throat. A Japanese study showed that coltsfoot flowers, fed in high concentration over a long period of time to rats, resulted in tumors of the liver and could be carcinogenic. Many queries came up as to whether this particular research was fair and balanced. In China, a project with people given 18 grams daily of coltsfoot showed 75% relief from asthma. There was other evidence that suggested ingestion of up to 3.3 mg for every kilogram of body weight could be fatally toxic. Coltsfoot preparations are now restricted for sale in Australia for therapeutic use. Scientific trials and restrictions placed on the herb have left unanswered questions, particularly in the light of the evidence that the Index Guidelines for ranking carcinogenic risk, which is the Human Exposure/Rodent Potency (HERP) that compares different food substances, lists carcinogenic risk of coltsfoot at 0.06%, diet cola at 0.06% and raw mushrooms at 0.1%. Why havn’t we been restricted in eating mushrooms and drinking diet coke? Note: the recommended daily dose of the drug Phenobarbital is more than 100 times higher than the risks of coltsfoot.
Ref: ‘Ayurvedic Medicine by Sebastian Pole; ‘Ayurvedic Pharmacology & Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants’ by Vaidya V.M. Gogte; ‘Yogi of Herbs’ by V. Lad & D. Frawley; ‘Herbs Are Special’ by Isabel Shipard.