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Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara): Health Benefits, Side Effects And Precautions

Coltsfoot or coughwort, botanically named as Tussilago farfara, is a plant that belongs to the daisy family Asteraceae. It bears yellow dandelion-like flowers and is a low growing perennial herb commonly found in England, China and the US and grows well in wet grounds, forest edges, waste places, and steep slopes. This multi-branched rhizome perennial plant is grown for ornamentation and as a medicinal herb. Coltsfoot plant has long leaves and smooth flower stalk filled with milky white sap.

The plant has been used since ancient times in Rome and Greece to cure respiratory disorders like cough, lung cancer and bronchitis. Nowadays, coltsfoot is used in a form of extract, infusion, tincture or as a herbal tea [1] .

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Nutritional Information Of Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot is abundant in nutrients. The flower of the plant contains

vitamin C, zinc and mucilage (fibre). The non-nutrients in the flower include tannins (compounds that helps in stimulating protein production), flavonoids (antioxidants) [2] tussilagone, a sesquiterpenoid [3] .

The leaves of coltsfoot contain vital compounds like essential oil, inulin, and minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and sodium.

All these active compounds in coltsfoot possess the diuretic, astringent, anti-inflammatory [3] , antispasmodic, and anticatarrhal ability.

Health Benefits Of Coltsfoot

  • Helps in reducing inflammation: Tussilagone present in coltsfoot helps in treating inflammatory conditions like gout, asthma, arthritis and other types of swelling [3] .
  • Treats chronic respiratory conditions: A study conducted on mice proves that coltsfoot is efficient against respiratory disorders like asthma, whooping cough, and bronchitis [4] .
  • Protects brain: Flavonoids present in coltsfoot has shown effective results in preventing nerve damage, tissue death, and inflammation of the brain [5] .
  • Rejuvenates the skin: The natural antioxidant property of coltsfoot protects the skin from the damage done by free radicals and rejuvenate the skin by reducing wrinkles and age marks [6] .
  • Fights dandruff: Mucilage content in coltsfoot helps in treating dandruff, making collagen, and providing strength to the hair. It is beneficial for both dry and oily hair types [7] .

Apart from these conditions, coltsfoot also helps in treating other medical conditions but there are no sufficient studies done in humans. However, some of its unproven benefits include the following:

  • Fights depression
  • Boosts immunity
  • Prevents gastrointestinal problems like diarrhoea, ulcers and colitis
  • Treats urinary tract infection
  • Gives relief from vaginal irritation
  • Treats allergies
  • Treats skin problems like sores, insect bites and eczema

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Side Effects Of Coltsfoot

Though coltsfoot has several health benefits, certain potential side effects of the plant are something of concern. The possible side effects of coltsfoot are as follows:

  • A toxic compound called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, found in the leaves of the plant can cause chronic liver damage if consumed orally [8] .
  • If consumed by pregnant women, coltsfoot tea can result in serious blockage of the blood vessels.
  • The two toxic compounds found in coltsfoot (senecionine and senkirkine) can be carcinogenic and result in DNA mutation.
  • Taking coltsfoot for a longer time can cause a rare type of liver cancer [9] .

Precautions

  • Don't take large doses of coltsfoot for a long time.
  • Hypertension and cardiac patients should avoid it as it increases the blood pressure if taken for long term.
  • Avoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding [4]
  • Avoid giving it to children under 6.
  • Avoid using a large amount of it orally.
  • Avoid interaction with blood pressure medications.
  • If you are allergic to ragweed, use coltsfoot with caution.
  • Stop its intake immediately if you observe symptoms like nausea.
  • Limit the intake of coltsfoot tea to 2-3 cups a day [10] .

Coltsfoot Tea Recipe For Cough And Congestion

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried leaves and flowers of coltsfoot
  • 1 cup of water
  • Lemon or honey to taste

Method

  • Put the water to boil and add 1 tbsp of coltsfoot.
  • Allow the ingredients to boil for 10 minutes.
  • Strain it and serve hot.
View Article References
  1. [1] Li, J., Peng, J., Zhao, S., Zhong, Y., Wang, Y., Hu, J., ... & Liang, M. (2019). Tussilagone suppresses angiogenesis by inhibiting the VEGFR2 signaling pathway. Frontiers in pharmacology, 10, 764.
  2. [2] Liu, K. Y., Zhang, T. J., Gao, W. Y., Chen, H. X., & Zheng, Y. N. (2006). Phytochemical and pharmacological research progress in Tussilago farfara. Zhongguo Zhong yao za zhi= Zhongguo zhongyao zazhi= China journal of Chinese materia medica, 31(22), 1837-1841.
  3. [3] Cheon, H. J., Nam, S. H., & Kim, J. K. (2018). Tussilagone, a major active component in Tussilago farfara, ameliorates inflammatory responses in dextran sulphate sodium-induced murine colitis. Chemico-biological interactions, 294, 74-80.
  4. [4] Kim, Y. K., Yeo, M. G., Oh, B. K., Kim, H. Y., Yang, H. J., Cho, S. S., … Lee, K. J. (2017). Tussilagone Inhibits the Inflammatory Response and Improves Survival in CLP-Induced Septic Mice. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(12), 2744. doi:10.3390/ijms18122744
  5. [5] Cho, J., Kim, H. M., Ryu, J. H., Jeong, Y. S., Lee, Y. S., & Jin, C. (2005). Neuroprotective and antioxidant effects of the ethyl acetate fraction prepared from Tussilago farfara L. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 28(3), 455-460.
  6. [6] Ravipati, A. S., Zhang, L., Koyyalamudi, S. R., Jeong, S. C., Reddy, N., Bartlett, J., … Vysetti, B. (2012). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of selected Chinese medicinal plants and their relation with antioxidant content. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 12, 173. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-173
  7. [7] Ziment, I., & Tashkin, D. P. (2000). Alternative medicine for allergy and asthma. Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 106(4), 603-614.
  8. [8] Seremet, O. C., Olaru, O. T., Gutu, C. M., Nitulescu, G. M., Ilie, M., Negres, S., … Margina, D. M. (2018). Toxicity of plant extracts containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids using alternative invertebrate models. Molecular medicine reports, 17(6), 7757–7763. doi:10.3892/mmr.2018.8795
  9. [9] HIRONO, I., MORI, H., & CULVENOR, C. C. (1976). Carcinogenic activity of coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara L. GANN Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, 67(1), 125-129.
  10. [10] Sperl, W., Stuppner, H., Gassner, I., Judmaier, W., Dietze, O., & Vogel, W. (1995). Reversible hepatic veno-occlusive disease in an infant after consumption of pyrrolizidine-containing herbal tea. European journal of pediatrics, 154(2), 112-116.

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