Tussilago Farfara (Coltsfoot, Kuan Dong Hua)

Winter heliotropeAs one of the best herbs that quell a cough in homeopathic remedy, tussilago farfara or coltsfoot is also known as Kuan Dong Hua in Chinese, which, literally translated, means “winter-arrive flower.” And just as its name suggested, it is a kind of edible flower that blooms only during the winter solstice and early spring. From that you can picture how this small grass with golden yellow flowers brave the wind and snow in the coldest days of winter when all the other flowers have perished in the storm. Thanks to that cold-resistant quality, it is widely used for relieving cough and asthma since these conditions are usually considered associated with pathogenic cold and wind. The logic here may sound odd but the tussilago farfara effects have been testified by generations of TCM doctor’s experience.

What is tussilago farfara flower?

Medicinally it refers to the dried flower buds of Tussilago farfara L., which is a plant in the family Compositae. So, other names of this crude medicine include Ass’s foot, Foal’s foot, Common Coltsfoot Flower, Tash Plant, Coughwort, Bull’s foot, Flos Farfarae, Butterbur, Winter heliotrope, Horse Foot, Flos Tussilaginis Farfare, Foalswort, etc. Pretty as it is, this golden yellow flower in full bloom is not the medicinal part. Instead it is the buds that don’t break through the ground yet. As a result, it needs to dig the flower buds before or after the winter solstice. After that, place it in ventilated place, screen out the dirt after it is semi-dry, remove the stalk, and then completely air dry. Because the one produced in Lingtai Gansu province is of best quality, it is also called “Lingtai Dong Hua”. And it is used raw or fried with honey-fried. Nowadays it can be consumed in a variety of ways, such as tussilago farfara tea, flower extract, leaf extract, oil, and more.

Tussilago farfara plant is a perennial herb, normally 10 to 25cm in height. Basal leaves are in the shape of broad heart or ovate, 7 to 15cm long, 8 to 10cm wide, and with obtuse apex and serrate margins. Capitulum is acrogenous; phyllary is 1 to 2 layers and bracts are 20 to 30, thin, oval-shaped, and furry; ray florets grow in a circle, bright yellow and unisexual. Achenes are oblong, with vertical edges and yellow pappus. Flowering time is from February to March and fruit time is in April. Its habitats are river banks and the sand, cultivated or uncultivated.

Main chemical compositions in the flowers include sterols like faradiol, rutin, hyperin, triterpenoid saponins, tannins, waxes, volatile oil and taraxanthin. It is also reported that it can be isolated into farfaratine, tussilagine, and so on.

Tussilago farfara benefits

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that it covers both qi and blood aspects. And thanks to its nature of heatless warmness, moistening pungency, and unblocked sweetness, it is one of the perfect options for moistening lung, transforming phlegm, and suppressing coughing. Hence, it can be utilized in all the coughing related to lung disease no matter it is induced by interior and exterior, heat and cold, or deficiency and excess. And it makes more sense on treating cough caused by lung deficiency and lung cold accompanied with excessive phlegm. In addition, it also does its job in the cases of consumptive cough and hemoptysis due to lung heat. This herb is often fried with honey in order to enhance the efficacy. In terms of compatibility of medicines, Zi Wan (Radix Asteris) is its best partner and they often appear together. This is simply because coltsfoot is good at relieving a cough and Radix Asteris focuses on making expectoration easy. In this way they are very complementary. What’s more, it is necessary to mention that there is a bizarre ancient coltsfoot use, in which the smoking of coltsfoot is a good therapy for chronic cough.

Modern pharmacological actions of coltsfoot herb

1. Its decoction and ethanol extract have antitussive effect;
2. Its extract by acetic acid and ethanol has expectorant effect;
3. It ether extract in a small amount has slight bronchodilator effect;
4. Its alcohol and ether extracts have respiratory stimulating effect;
5. Its ether extract and decoction can raise the blood pressure;
6. Its ether extract can inhibit the gastrointestinal smooth muscle. And it has antispasmodic effect;
7. Its farfaratine and ethanol extract have anti-platelet-activating factor effect.

Selected herbal remedies of coltsfoot flower

The Chinese Materia Medica tends to think that coltsfoot is acrid and slightly sweet in flavor and warm in properties. And it goes to lung meridian. Its functions are mainly to moistening lung, descending qi, and preventing phlegm from forming and stopping coughing. Essential tussilago farfara uses and indications include new or chronic cough, asthma, and coughing up blood in consumptive. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, cream, pills, or powder.

1. Kuan Dong Jian from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand Golden Prescriptions). It is formulated with Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger Root), Radix Asteris, and Wu Wei Zi (Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis) to cure cold-inclined cough.

2. Kuan Dong Hua Tang from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It combines with Zhi Mu (Rhizoma Anemarrhenae Asphodeloidis), Sang Ye (White Mulberry Leaf), and Chuan Bei Mu (Fritillaria Bulb) for the treatment of lung-heat cough.

3. Bai Hua Gao from Ji Sheng Fang (Life-preserving Prescriptions). It couples with Bai He (lily bulbs) to treat chronic cough accompanied with blood-stained sputum.

4. Kuan Hua Tang from Chuang Yang Jing Yan Quan Shu (A Complete Manual of Experiences in the Treatment of Sores). It is used with Jie Geng (Balloon Flower Rhizome), Yi Yi Ren (Coix Seed), etc. for lung abscess accompanied with spitting or coughing up purulent sputum.

5. She Gan Ma Huang Tang from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Cabinet). This formula is primarily designed for asthma or cough with wheezing in the throat.

Tussilago farfara side effects and contraindications

Though there are many medicinal uses of tussilago farfara herb, it may be considered toxic since it contains hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which will lead to cancer or impairment of the liver. For that reason, it is rated with a 2B by the AHPA. That’s to say, women during pregnancy and breast-feeding should stay away from it even though most PAs might be destroyed when it is decocted. Besides, it shouldn’t be used in people who have allergy to ragweed or others, heart disease, liver disease, and high blood pressure.

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