Coltsfoot – characteristics, cultivation and use


The coltsfoot is so modest that it even grows on pure brown coal. In early spring, it is one of the first plants that show their flowers. Often the yellow flowers are mistaken for dandelion, but closer inspection reveals significant differences, because the plant not only grows on a scaled stalk, but the plant has no leaves in the flowering period. The horseshoe-shaped, soft leaves appear only when the flowers are long gone. They smell mild balsamic and are matted gray on the underside. The preferred use of coltsfoot in natural medicine are diseases of the respiratory system from simple coughing to asthma.

Profile of coltsfoot:

Scientific name: Tussilago farfara

Plant family: composite, asters (Asteraceae)

Other names: –

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: February – April

Harvest time: April – June

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, shoots, roots

Location: sunny locations

Soil quality: low demands, prefers moist and loamy soils

Use as a medicinal herb: flu-like infections, irritating cough, bronchitis, stomach upset, diarrhea, wound healing, pimples, eczema

Use as aromatic herb: as raw food, in wild herbs salads

Plant characteristics and classification of coltsfoot

Origin of coltsfoot

Coltsfoot is relatively widespread and native to many countries in Europe, Africa and West Asia. The herb is one an invasive plants, which is why it is also found today in North America and East Asia.

Occurrence of coltsfoot

The herb is today found both in the lowlands and in the middle layers of the high mountains. It grows mostly on barren soils and populates primarily quarries, natural paths, brooksides, riversides and embankments. It can withstand many site conditions, is robust and extremely adaptable.

Plant order of coltsfoot

Fine hairs make the leaves appear as if they were powdered with flour. The form of the leaves is hoof-shaped.

The coltsfoot belongs to the daisy family and is therefore related to other herbs such as dandelion, tarragon, stevia or marigold. Tussilago farfara is the only single species in the genus Tussilago .

Characteristics of Coltsfoot


Coltsfoot usually reaches heights of growth between 15 and 30 cm (6 and 12 in). The plant is frost resistent and perennial.


The long-stemmed leaves of coltsfoot have a shield-shaped form, are slightly serrated and reminiscent of a hoof. The underside of the up to 20 cm (8 in) wide leaves feels soft because of the many small leaf hairs. On the upper side you can see distinct leaf veins.


The coltsfoot has striking yellow flowers that appear between February and April. The plant is a classic early flowering plant. The basket-like flower is characteristic of its plant family. Each individual flower basket can contain up to 300 individual flowers.


The fruits of coltsfoot are called achene. This fruit shape is typical for members of the daisy family. Achenes are special nut fruits that develop from the inferior ovary of the flower. The fruit is reminiscent of the dandelion seed head. However, the fruits can be clearly distinguished from the dandelion by the scales on the flower stem.

coltsfoot fruits after ripening
coltsfoot fruits after ripening

Coltsfoot – cultivation and care


The coltsfoot is a very frugal spring bloomer for moist locations. In nature, this undemanding plant grows on roadsides, on the riversides, and even on construction sites. The herb likes moist to wet soils in a sunny to partially shaded spot. Ideal is the cultivation in partial shade.


Well suited is a loamy soil, mixed with sand or fine gravel. It is also possible to cultivate in pots, as long as peat-free soil is used and some sand is incorporated.


As a fertilizer pond water is very good. Of course, in winter, watering must be done on frost-free days.


On sunny locations, care must always be taken that the soil is moist. Therefore, regular watering, preferably in the morning, so that the plant can not burn or evaporate too much moisture, is essential.


The coltsfoot is propagated either via seed or cutting, taken from the root. Propagation by seeds is just as unproblematic as the cultivation of young plants from roots. The seeds are brought into the soil in the spring and after only two days, the seeds begin to germinate. If coltsfoot flowers in your own garden, you do not need to worry about propagating seeds. The plant is self-sowing and, because of the big amount of seeds that are formed, there will grow entire carpets, that are especially attracted by butterflies.


Even if coltsfoot is considered to be frost hardy, potted plants should be brought into the house.

Coltsfoot and its use

Coltsfoot is one of the first plants besides crocuses and snowdrops that bloom in late winter or early spring. This is also the time when the harvest of the flowers is started, which are used in the kitchen, but rather in herbal medicine.

Coltsfoot in the kitchen

Dandelion, ashweed and daisies are favored plants used as wild herbs in salads. Coltsfoot as an edible plant, however, is relatively unknown. Buds, flowers and flower stalks taste wonderful in salad. Likewise, the flowers are used as an edible decoration and processed in patties.

Coltsfoot has a slightly peppery taste, is hearty and can also be eaten as a vegetable.Young leaves are cut into salad or herbal quark. Leaves and flower stems also taste good as vegetables. For this it should be boiled briefly and seasoned with a little salt or other herbs and spices. The taste is ideal for potato or rice dishes. Large leaves are suitable for roulades, filled with cheese and vegetables.

From September, the roots can be harvested and processed in patties or cooked together with other root vegetables.

Please note!

Coltsfoot should not be consumed in large quantities because of harmful side effects and not be taken permanently as a remedy! The plant contains toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids that consumed in large quantities, can lead to liver damage.

A bunch of coltsfoot flowers
A bunch of coltsfoot flowers

Coltsfoot as a medicinal herb

Coltsfoot has been forgotten as a medicinal plant. Thereby, the mucolytic ingredients make the plant a proven medicinal herb since ancient times against various conditions in the area of bronchi (for example, bronchitis, cough, hoarseness, common cold). For the use of coltsfoot as a medicinal herb in addition to the leaves and the flowers are used – both dried and fresh.

Coltsfoot tea or tincture for coughing

The main application for coltsfoot is cough and all its relatives. It relieves persistent dry cough and loosens the mucus. It also helps to breathe more freely in asthma because it widens the bronchi.

It can be taken as a tea or tincture.

Time needed: 10 minutes

This is how you prepare a coltsfoot tea or tincture

  1. Put 2 teaspoons on a cup

  2. let brew for about 10 minutes

  3. drink in small sips

Also popular are tea blends, which are mixed together depending on the type of cough. For a dry cough:

  • coltsfoot
  • mullein
  • licorice

Mix in equal parts and prepare as an infusion. Drink in small sips.

Coltsfoot tea for coughing and skin problems

Tea prepared of coltsfoot leaves promote digestion, alleviate both constipation and diarrhea and counteract inflammation in the digestive tract. In addition, this tea boosts appetite.

An infusion of coltsfoot flowers or leaves can be used in the form of envelopes or as a wash for many skin diseases. Because it is anti-inflammatory, astringent and antibacterial, the tea helps for eczema, poorly healing wounds, bacterial infections, mild burns, phlebitis and boils.

Preparation of coltsfoot honey

In addition to the use of coltsfoot tea, also honey made of it is used. The preparation is easy:

Either the flowers are inserted in honey and strained out after a month, or you can make a syrup from half a kilogram (18 oz) of sugar and 200 g (7 oz) of flowers. Furthermore, a quarter of a liter (25 fl oz) of water is needed, which is boiled together with flowers and sugar and then strained. When needed, some syrup or honey is taken pure or in tea when coughing.


It is not recommended consuming coltsfoot for more than a month as the pyrrolizidine alkaloids found in the plant are classified as toxic. It is nevertheless recommended that women in pregnancy as well as liver patients avoid consumption or at least discuss with a doctor or expert.

Coltsfoot can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • asthma
  • badly healing wounds
  • boil
  • bronchitis
  • cold
  • constipation
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • dry cough
  • ear infection
  • eczema
  • eye inflammation
  • facial erysipelas
  • fever
  • gastritis
  • hoarseness
  • inflamed wounds
  • intestinal catarrh
  • intestinal inflammation
  • laryngitis
  • light burns
  • loss of appetite
  • lower leg ulcer
  • neuralgia
  • phlebitis
  • pleurisy
  • pimples
  • smoker’s cough
  • spring fever
  • stimulating metabolism
  • strengthening nerve system

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • astringent
  • emollient
  • expectorant
  • hemostatic
  • stimulating
  • sudorific
  • toning

It was different with Pliny and other historical scholars. Pliny already recommended the smoke of coltsfoot for asthma and bronchitis. In the past, its leaves were often smoked as cigarettes or in pipes. Coltsfoot smoke has a relaxing effect and helps to loosen stuck mucus. Even today, we can take advantage of this effect in persistent cough and mucus by burning dried leaves on a hot stove and inhale the smoke.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Coltsfoot – What is there to pay attention to?

Coltsfoot is available as a plant, as dried herb, as seed or already processed in care products

When purchasing plants, care should be taken to ensure that the leaves of coltsfoot are free from small reddish or yellow spots. These points are usually an indication that the herb is infected with the rust. Fresh plants cost about 3-5 EUR / $.

Seeds are also offered by some specialized traders. As coltsfoot is very common in nature, it seems that trading is not worthwhile here. The best way to find seed is online. The price for this is about 1-2 EUR / $.

Some manufacturers also offer special over-the-counter remedies based on coltsfoot. The palette ranges from juice to dried herbs intended for making your own teas.

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