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Tussilago farfara (L)


Synonyms and Common names: Fafara, Coughwort, Horsehoof, English tobacco, bullsfoot, foals foot, horsefoot, butterbur, flower velure, hallfoot, fieldhove, donnhove, son before father

French = Tussilage, German = Huflattich, Spanish = Tusilago, Italian = Tossalaggine

Order: Compositae

Description: Tussilago is a perennial herb with a creeping rhizome and long runners. Both the flower and the leaf buds grow on the rhizome. In early spring, erect, unbranched woolly stems, covered with reddish-brown scales, grow from the flower buds, terminating in a pale yellow flower head, up to 35mm in diameter, with a single-rowed involucre composed of up to 300 strap-shaped ray florets and up to 40 tubular disc florets. This becomes a white downy sphere when the long-stalked basal leaves begin to sprout. These are round, heart-shaped, shallowly toothed at the edges, and divided into five to twelve lobes. They are glossy and dark green above and greyish below due to the felt-like hairs covering the underside; the young leaves are densely felted on both sides. The fruits are long, cylindrical, glabrous achenes, with shiny white down at the tip, appearing at the same time as the large leaves. Tussilago is a common invasive weed which prefers heavy clay soils throughout Britain, Europe, North Africa and Asia and sporadically in the US.

Parts used: Dried flowers and leaves

Collection: The flowers are gathered before they reach full bloom, from the end of February to April, and dried in the shade. The leaves are collected between May and July and are chopped and dried. The fresh leaves can be used until autumn.

Constituents: Flowers - Mucilage, flavonoids (rutin and carotene), taraxanthin, arnidiol and faradiol, a little tannin, essential oil. Leaves - mucilage, abundant tannin, glycosidal bitter principle, inulin, sitosterol, zinc

Actions: Relaxing expectorant, antitussive, demulcent, anticatarrhal, diuretic

Indications: Bronchitis, laryngitis, pertussis, asthma. Specifically indicated in chronic spasmodic bronchial cough.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Tussilago has a soothing expectorant and antispasmodic action which is effective in the treatment of  acute or chronic bronchitis, irritating coughs, whooping cough and asthma. It reduces non-productive coughs and soothes dry, irritable airways. Its has a role in most conditions of the respiratory tract, including the chronic states of emphysema and silicosis. The mucilages supply the soothing action while the sesquiterpenes are spasmolytic. The triterpene saponins in the flowers provide a stimulating expectorant action.

Tussilago is a mild diuretic and has been used in cystitis. It contains appreciable levels of zinc which may be responsible for the herb's anti-inflammatory and healing properties; the fresh, bruised leaves can be applied to boils, abscesses and ulcers while compresses made from the fresh leaves may help to relieve joint pain. Antibacterial activity has been documented against various Gram-negative bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, Proteus hauseri, Proteus vulgaris and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Combinations: In the treatment of coughs Tussilago may be combined with Verbascum and Marrubium.

Caution: This herb is restricted in Australia and New Zealand because it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have been shown to cause liver damage in rats. However, they occur in minute quantities, and Swedish research suggests that they are destroyed by boiling. It is also thought that the mucilage present in the plant makes the alkaloid safe. Nevertheless, in the UK it is recommended that this herb should be used internally only under professional guidance.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory Status GSL

Dried herb: 0.6-2g or by infusion

Liquid extract: 1:1 in 25% alcohol, 0.6-2ml

Tincture: 1:5 in 45% alcohol, 2-8ml

Syrup: liquid extract 1:4 in syrup, 2-8ml

Additional Comments: Smoking Coltsfoot for the relief of coughs and asthma was recommended by the Greek physician Dioscorides and even today it is an ingredient of many herbal cigarettes. The plant's botanical name means 'cough dispeller'. The plant flowers in early spring and the leaves only appear when the flowers have died down, giving rise to the plant's old name, filius ante patrem (son before father). In China, only the flowers, which are known as kuan dong hua, are used, specifically for chronic coughs with profuse phlegm, and to force rising lung qi (energy) to descend. In Paris, the flowers used to be painted on the doorposts of apothecaries shops.



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Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals