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  • Jovita Turan

Beneficial Herb of Spring - Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara L.)

By Jovita Turan, April 12, 2021

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara L.) that belongs to the Asteraceae family is a perennial herb, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere (Europe, Asia, North Africa), and the Eastern United States.

The plant is herbaceous, flowers are formed underground and bloom the following year spring. Flowers are bright yellow in color, dandelion-like. After the flowers wither, the leaves appear. The plant is spreading by seeds and/or rhizomes.

Tussilago farfara by Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897

The plant grows in colonies on embankments, wet shores, sewers, roadsides, and untouched places in loamy soils. You can find coltsfoot in the valleys and foothills. Coltsfoot is considered an important honey plant for honeybees because of its pollen and nectar as well as a good food supply for some Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) species.

Traditional medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, the flower buds are used for more than 2000 years to treat sore throat, cough, bronchitis, and asthmatic disorders. In Eastern Europe, however, the leaves are preferred more than flowers for the same applications. As a tea, coltsfoot has been used for gastrointestinal and urinary disorders, it is used to purify blood in cases of rheumatism and skin irritations.

Externally, the freshly crushed leaves of the plant are used to treat burns, injuries, inflammations of the eye, and wounds. As herbal tobacco, the leaves have been used for smoking against asthma.

Recent studies and chemical composition

Recent studies on coltsfoot flower buds showed the immunostimulant activities, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antidiabetic, a-glucosidase inhibitory effect, diacylglycerol acyltransferase inhibitory effect, and inhibitory effect on nitric oxide synthesis in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated macrophages.

Extracts of the flowers and leaves consist of essential oils, sesquiterpenes, triterpenes, phenylpropanoids, furanoeremophilanes, flavonoids (rutin, hyperoside, and iso quercetin), very low amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (senkirkine and tussilagine), and mucilage consisting of polysaccharides based on glucose, galactose, fructose, arabinose, and xylose.


Coltsfoot flowers and/or leaves are used and prepared as an extract, hard candy, infusion, juice, syrup, and powder. As a tea, dried leaves, and flowers are used.

Coltsfoot powder


Usually, Tussilago farfara L. contains relatively low levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, however, they must be controlled all the time during the processing into food, nutrient supplements, and other coltsfoot-based products. Austrian-German developed Tussilago farfara 'Wien' is pyrrolizidine alkaloids free variety and could be used as an alternative.

Other common names of the plant:

ass's foot, bull's foot, coughwort (Old English), farfara, foal's foot, foalswort, horse foot, tash plant


Muravnik, L. E., Kostina, O. V., & Shavarda, A. L. (2016). Glandular trichomes of Tussilago farfara (Senecioneae, Asteraceae). Planta, 244(3), 737-752.

Nedelcheva, A., Kostova, N., & Sidjimov, A. (2015). Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Tussilago farfara from Bulgaria. Biotechnology & Biotechnological Equipment, 29(sup1), S1-S7.

Wu, Q. Z., Zhao, D. X., Xiang, J., Zhang, M., Zhang, C. F., & Xu, X. H. (2016). Antitussive, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory activities of four caffeoylquinic acids isolated from Tussilago farfara. Pharmaceutical biology, 54(7), 1117-1124.

Zhao, J., Evangelopoulos, D., Bhakta, S., Gray, A. I., & Seidel, V. (2014). Antitubercular activity of Arctium lappa and Tussilago farfara extracts and constituents. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 155(1), 796-800.

Zhi, H. J., Qin, X. M., Sun, H. F., Zhang, L. Z., Guo, X. Q., & Li, Z. Y. (2012). Metabolic fingerprinting of Tussilago farfara L. using 1H‐NMR spectroscopy and multivariate data analysis. Phytochemical Analysis, 23(5), 492-501.

Pictures and iliustations:

Main picture Andreas Trepte, CC BY-SA 2.5 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Iliustration: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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