Tussilago farfara, commonly known as coltsfoot, is a plant in the groundsel tribe in the daisy family Asteraceae, native to Europe and parts of western and central Asia. It is a perennial herbaceous plant with yellow flowers that emerge in early spring and bear a close resemblance to the dandelions.
Coltsfoot can grow in damp or dry conditions and grows well in alkaline clay soil. It is usually found in places such as wastelands, on the side of the road or railway, hedge banks.
The botanical name, Tussilago, means ‘cough dispeller’. The herb has been used for this purpose and to provide relief from other respiratory disorders since pre-historic times.
Though the leaves and flowers are the commonly used parts, at times the root is also used.
It has had uses in traditional medicine, but the discovery of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the plant has resulted in liver health concerns. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids are found in highest levels in the root.
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