A delightful and unsuspected ray of floral sunshine greets us early in spring, when the little yellow coltsfoot flowers, thickly padded in fluffy scales, daringly perk their heads from the still wintry ground. The hoof-shaped leaves, which resemble butterbur leaves, appear much later in the summer, when the flowers have long disappeared. This unusual growing habit has earned it the name of Filius ante patrem, Son before Father. Coltsfoot is perhaps one of the better known herbal remedies, but its contemporary status pales to insignificance compared to former times, when it became THE symbol of apothecary valour in France and it was depicted on each and every apothecary's door. Coltsfoot leaves are a popular ingredient in herbal tobaccos.
Coltsfoot is best known for its use as a cough remedy. Being both expectorant and antispasmodic in action, it can be used for dry, irritable coughs and even whooping cough. It is often combined with other herbs for maximum effect. Coltsfoot candies are also commercially available. It is perhaps the primary herbal remedy for asthma, for which it is smoked, a practice that dates back to the days of antiquity- even Pliny reports on it. Externally, the leaves have been used as a poultice for insect bites, ulcers, swellings and burns.
Coltsfoot does not figure prominently in herb magic although it is mentioned in one ancient ritual performed to bring back a lover who has gone astray. Coltsfoot makes an ideal base herb for a visionary smoking mix, although it is inactive by itself.
Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.