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Richard Mandelbaum RH (AHG)


Tussilago farfara

Kuan dong hua

Part used: leaves, (also flowers, root)

Native range: Eurasia, Mediterranean, northern Africa,

naturalized in N. America

Harvestable status / sustainability: widespread

Flavor: leaf: sweet, bitter

flower: acrid

Energetics: leaf: neutral, moistening

flower: warming

Actions: expectorant, demulcent, antitussive, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory,

antimicrobial, diuretic, mild astringent

Tussilago is an ancient and long-standing lung and respiratory remedy. Due to PA content it
is no longer often used for chronic conditions but rather for short-term limited use, but has in
fact been used as an effective tonic to the lungs until fairly recently. The leaf is the primary
part used although there are historical references (see Felter and Lloyd) to use of the root and
flower as well. Tussilago is also used in China, mainly the flowers are used to redirect Lung Qi
downward. Coltsfoot is interesting energetically in that (1) it is gentle and therefore versatile
energetically, and (2) that it is both mucilaginous and bitter at once.
Richard Mandelbaum RH (AHG)

• Tussilago protects the mucous membrane from irritation and calms irritated, dry, non-
productive coughs.
o Bronchitis, chronic or acute
o Dry, irritated sore throat, laryngitis
o Pertussis
o Emphysema
o Asthmatic wheezing and tightness, asthmatic cough
• Felter writes that Tussilago is “a demulcent to allay irritation of the bronchial and
gastric mucous membrane, and of considerable value in coughs, laryngitis, bronchitis,
asthma, pharyngitis, whooping cough, and gastric and intestinal catarrh. A coltsfoot
candy is a popular confection for cough and sore throat.”
• Weiss considers Tussilago to be “the remedy of choice in chronic cases” (see below for
safety precautions) and recommends it for acute coughing episodes associated with
emphysema and silicosis – begin the day with a hot cup of tea, sweetened with honey,
and then again at night potentially with an antispasmodic such as khella. Weiss
considers the PA content to be too low to be of concern. Weiss notes, “it contains a
bitter as well as mucilage [so] is a good tonic”.
• Traditional uses for smoking / inhalation:
o Traditionally smoked for quitting tobacco (not recommended)
o Gerard (c. 1545–1612) writes: “The fume of the dried leaves taken through a
funnell or tunnell, burned upon coles, effectually helpeth those that are troubled
with the shortnesse of breath, and fetch their winds thicke and often. Being
taken in a manner as they take Tobaco, it mightily prevaileth against the diseases
aforesaid.” (As a general cough remedy Gerard recommends decoction of the
leaf or root.)

Non-respiratory uses:
• Gently soothing to the bladder and urethra in the case of cystitis or other forms of
bladder irritation
• Fresh bruised leaves can be used as poultice for ulcerations, boils, abscesses, insect bites
and stings, and infant eczema
• Mouthwash/gargle for inflammations of the mouth and throat

Traditional Chinese indications:

Tussilago flower is known as kuan dong hua and is used mainly for Cold attacking the Lung
(formulate well in cases of excessive Heat or Yin deficiency in the Lung)
o Moistens the Lung, dissolve phlegm, stop coughing, relieve wheezing
o Directs Lung qi downward: for wheezing, dyspnea, difficulty breathing and pain
or discomfort upon inhaling
Richard Mandelbaum RH (AHG)

Safety, Contraindications, Interactions and/or toxicity:

• AHPA Class 2(b), 2(c), 2(d): CI in cases of liver disease, not to be used during
pregnancy, lactation. Short term use only (4-6 weeks per year); do not exceed
recommended dose.
• Unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids have been associated with veno-occlusive disease
and may also be carcinogenic. The PA content of flowers and root are poorly
documented but may be higher in unsaturated PAs than leaves.
• PA-free products are safe for long-term use. Some varieties have been bred to be low in
unsaturated PAs (Tussilago farfara 'Wien')
• It should be noted that there are no documented case reports of toxicity from Tussilago;
the precautions are based on the PA content. There have been documented cases of
adverse effects arising from misidentification such as confusion with Petasites.

Preparation: Tincture

Dosage: 4-6 g herb daily in infusion or decoction

1-2 ml TID tincture
4-6 weeks maximum per year total usage

Major plant constituents: mucilage / polysaccharides, saturated and unsaturated PAs

(primarily senkirkine), tannins, triterpenes, flavonoids, inulin, volatile oils

Additional notes:
• The scientific name Tussilago derives from the Latin for “acting upon a cough”; farfara
being the ancient Latin name for the flower (http://www.first-
• Only species in genus; closely related to other genera including Petasites and Senecio.
• According to Hoffmann, the leaves are high in zinc

AHPA Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd Edition
Bensky and Gamble, Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica
Bone and Mills, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy
Brinker, Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions
Chen and Chen, Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology
Felter, The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Felter-Lloyd, King’s American Dispensatory
Gaby, A to Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions
Ganora, Herbal Constituents
Gerard, Gerard’s Herbal, Spring Books, 1927
Richard Mandelbaum RH (AHG)

Hoffmann, Medical Herbalism

Mabberley, D.J., The Plant Book, Second Edition
PDR for Herbal Medicines, Third Edition
Skenderi, Herbal Vade Mecum
Tierra, Planetary Herbology
Weiss, Herbal Medicine
Winston and Kuhn, Herbal Therapy and Supplements