Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hutschefuss - Coltsfoot

Springtime is finally making itself a home here in the Deitscherei, and der Hutschefuss (en: Coltsfoot;  tax. Tussilago farfara) is springing forth.

The traditional uses of this plant include the treatment of asthma (pdc: die Engbruscht), spasmodic coughs, and general chest problems in humans, and it also serves as an equine remedy for coughs and heaves. 
Coltsfoot flower
NOTE: While horses can eat the entire plant, the consumption of the flower is potentially toxic (due to a higher content of pyrrolizidine alkaloids) and I generally recommend the avoidance of its use internally in humans, and the plant is to be avoided during pregnancy. Children under 6 years of age should avoid consuming the herb as well.  I'd not recommend the consumption of the leaves for more than two or three weeks. While many folks consider the whole herb to be safe, one should consult a physician prior to utilizing it.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. The aerial parts of Solomon's Seal can  be toxic when consumed internally. Please consult with a licensed medical professional.

The typical methods of application are decoctions and tinctures of the leaves (35A:65W). The herb bolsters the immune system and functions as an expectorant and eases inflammation of mucus membranes. 

Small coltsfoot leaf early in season
If one were to use the flowers (please note the advisory two paragraphs up) for poultices, the harvest time is usually in mid- to late-April. The flowers appear before the leaves, and the leaves are usually collected in late May or even June. 

The herb's leaf is also sometimes (and traditionally) smoked, alone or in combination with other medicinal herbs such as Mullein Leaf (pdc: es Wolleblaat; tax. Verbascum thapsus), to alleviate symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and other lung ailments. In folklore, the smoking of coltsfoot (again, please see advisory above) is said to induce visions, and magically the smoke of coltsfoot incense is said to be a messenger, particularly of, but not limited to, missives of love. 

Some people also make syrups or lozenges of coltsfoot leaf for spasmodic cough, often combining the herb with other herbs that alleviate cough.

External poultices can include the flower and are effective in easing inflammation of the skin, including insect stings and abrasions.

I also just enjoy seeing the plant growing. I have found two stray turtles (not a common sight just walking in a garden in the middle of suburban Philadelphia) and one skink hiding out in the low canopy of coltsfoot leaves in mid-June. 

Hopefully winter has finally let go of its grip, at least in the daylight hours, and we can all get to our gardening work!