This genus of 15 species of rhizomatous perennials ranges throughout northern temperate regions. Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot) is too invasive for general garden use, but can be grown in the wild garden or where its spread can be contained. A variegated cultivar was known in the 19th century but is now lost to cultivation. Pliny (CE23-79) recommended that coltsfoot leaves and roots were burned over cypress charcoal, and the smoke swallowed rather than inhaled to relieve coughs. Coltsfoot has similar applications in Chinese medicine but only the flower buds and flowers are used. The herb contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, as in Symphytum officinale (See, Comfrey) but these are largely broken down when the herb is boiled to make a decoction. Tussilago is from the Latin tussis, "cough", referring to the anti-tussive effects of T. farfara.

Colt's foot takes its name from the shape of its leaves, which resemble a horse's hoof. The ancient Greeks and Romans beleived that smoking colt's foot leaves was an effective treatment for coughs and colds-a practice that continued for some fifteen hundred years. Today colt's foot is still used for respiratory problems, but instead of being smoked, it's taken in the form of a tincture, juice, or infusion.

Robust, creeping perennial with large, heart-shaped to rounded, toothed leaves, to 30cm (12in) across, which have a cobweb-like covering. Solitary yellow, dandelion-like flowers bloom on wooly, scaly stalks before the leaves in early spring.

Common Name:
Other Names:
British Tobacco, Bullsfoot, Foalswort, Horsehoof
Botanical Name:
Tussilago farfara
Native Location:
Europe, W Asia, and N Africa
Moist, neutral to alkaline soil in sun or partial shade. Invasive.
By seed sown in spring; by division in spring or autumn.
Leaves are cut when full grown and used fresh, or dried for smoking mixtures, liquid and solid extracts, and tinctures. Flowers are picked when they first open and used fresh or dried in decoctions (in Chinese medicine), liquid extracts, syrups, and tinctures.
30cm (12in)
Parts Used:
Leaves, flowers, Root
A bitter-sweet, astringent, expectorant herb. It relaxes spasms, controls coughing, soothes sore tissues, reduces inflammation, and stimulates the immune system.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for coughs, asthma, whooping cough, mucus, bronchitis, and laryngitis. Externally for ulcers, sores, eczema, insect bites, and skin inflammations. Combined with Marrubium vulgare (See, Horehound) and Verbascum thapsus (See, Great Mullien) for irritating coughs.
To treat asthma, cough, and bronchitis. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of colt's foot to treat cough, bronchitis, and inflammation of the mouth and throat.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of colt's foot may range from 0.6-2mL fluid extract three times a day.
Possible Side Effects:
Colt's Foot's side effects include elevated blood pressure, fever, diarrhea, and nausea.
Drug Interactions:
Taking colt's foot with these drugs may cause or increase liver damage:
Abacavir, (Ziagen)
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetaminophen, (Genepap, Tylenol)
Allopurinol, (Aloprim, Zyloprim)
Atovastatin, (Lipitor)
Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
Cidofovir, (Vistide)
Cyclosporine, (Neoral, Sandimmune)
Docetaxel, (Taxotere)
Dofetilide, (Tikosyn)
Erythromycin, (Erythocin, Staticin)
Etodolac, (Lodine, Utradol)
Fluconazole, (Apo-Fluconazole, Diflucan)
Fluphenazine, (Modecate, Prolixin)
Fluvastatin, (Lexcol)
Foscarnet, (Foscavir)
Ganciclovir, (Cytovene, Vitrasert)
Gemfibrozil, (Apo-Gemfibrozil, Lopid)
Gentamicin, (Alcomicin, Gentacidin)
Ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin)
Indinavir, (Crixivan)
Isoniazid, (Isotamine, Nydrazid)
Ketoconazole, (Apo-Ketoconazole, Nizoral)
Ketoprofen, (Orudis, Rhodis)
Ketorolac, (Acular, Toradol)
Lamivudine, (Epivir, Heptovir)
Levodopa-Carbidopa, (Nu-Levocard, Sinemet)
Lovastatin, (Altocor, Mevacor)
Meloxicam, (MOBIC, Mobicox)
Methotrexate, (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
Methyldopa, (Apo-Methyldopa, Nu-Medopa)
Morphine Hydrochloride, (Morphine Hydrochloride)
Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Nelfinavir, (Viracept)
Nevirapine, (Viramune)
Nitrofurantoin, (Furadantine, Macrobid)
Ondansetron, (Zofran)
Paclitaxel, (Onxol, Taxol)
Pantoprazole, (Pantoloc, Protonix)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
Pravastatin, (Novo-Pravastatin, Pravachol)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rifampin, (Rifadin, Rimactane)
Rifapentine, (Priftin)
Ritonavir, (Norvir)
Rofecoxib, (Vioxx)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Sanquinavir, (Fortovase, Invirase)
Simvastatin, (Apo-Simvastatin, Zocor)
Stavudine, (Zerit)
Tamoxifen, (Nolvadex, Tamofen)
Tramadol, (Ultram)
Zidovudine, (Novo-AZT, Retrovir)
Disease Effects:
  • May interfere with treatment for elevated blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, if taken in large amounts.
  • May worsen liver disease.
Supplement Interactions:
  • Increased risk of unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloid (UPA) toxicity when used with Eucalyptus.
  • Increased risk of additive toxicity when used with herbs and supplements containing unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (UPAs), such as Butterbur, and Comfrey.
Culinary Uses:
Young leaves, flower buds and newly opened flowers were traditionally eaten raw in spring salads, added to soups, and made into tea. Flowers are used to make country wine.
Economic Uses:
Dried leaves are an ingredient of herbal tobaccos and are used in curing pipe tobacco.
Contraindicated during pregnancy and lactation.
Remedies containing leaves are usually restricted to a 3-4 week course of treatment.
Flowers contain higher amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids and are no longer recommended by Western herbalists.
This herb is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001. pp. 395-396.
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp. 160-161