(Some plants in the Asteraceae contain hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Coltsfoot is among them. More info here: Livertoxic PAs --Henriette.)
The leaves and flowers of Tussilago Farfara, Linné.
COMMON NAME: Coltsfoot.
Botanical Source.—Coltsfoot has a long, perennial, creeping, horizontal rhizome, with many fibers. The leaves are radical, erect, on furrowed, channelled foot-stalks, heart-shaped, slightly lobed, copiously and sharply toothed, very smooth, of a slightly glaucous-green above, pure white and densely cottony, with prominent veins beneath; when young, they are revolute, and thickly enveloped in cottony down. They do not appear until after the flowers are withered; they are 5 to 8 inches long by 3 to 6 broad. The flowers are large, bright-yellow, and compound; the heads drooping in the bud, and about 1 inch broad; the rays are spreading, copious, and very narrow. Each flower-head is borne on a simple, round, woolly scape, about 5 inches high, scaly, with numerous, reddish, smooth, scattered bracts, and crowded under the head like an exterior involucre. Receptacle naked. Anthers scarcely tailed; styles of the disk inclosed and abortive; of the ray bifid, with taper arms. Achenium of the ray oblong-cylindrical; of the disk abortive. Pappus of the ray in many rows; of the disk in 1 row, consisting of very fine setae (L).
History and Description.—This plant grows in Europe, the Crimea, Persia, Siberia, and the East Indies, from the seashore to elevations of nearly 8000 feet; it also grows in this country in wet places, on the sides of brooks, flowering in March and April. Its presence is a certain indication of a clayey soil (W.). The flowers are rather fragrant, and continue so after having been carefully dried. The leaves are the parts used, though all parts of the plant are active, and should always be employed, especially the leaves, flowers, and root. The leaves should be collected at about the period they have nearly reached their full size; the flowers as soon as they commence opening; and the root immediately after the maturity of the leaves. When dried, all parts have a bitter, mucilaginous taste, and yield their properties to water or diluted alcohol.
Chemical Composition.—According to analysis by C. S. Bondurant (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1887, p. 340), the leaves contain a small quantity of an acrid volatile oil, wax, caoutchouc, a bitter glucosid, soluble in ether and water, resin, tannin, saponin, albuminous matter, mucilage (3.4 per cent), etc. The dried leaves yielded 17 per cent of ash.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Coltsfoot may be regarded as emollient, demulcent, and slightly tonic (P.). It relieves irritation of the mucous tissues. The decoction is usually administered in doses of from 1 to 3 or 4 fluid ounces, and has been found useful in coughs, asthma, whooping-cough, laryngitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, and other pulmonary affections; in gastric and intestinal catarrh; and is said to have been useful in scrofula. The powdered leaves form a good errhine for giddiness, headache, nasal obstructions, etc. Used externally, in form of poultice, to scrofulous tumors. A strong tincture of the leaves and the flowers, using strong alcohol, may be given in doses of 1 to 10 drops.
Related Species.—Aplopappus laricifolius (Nat. Ord.—Compositae,) Yerba del Pasmo. Southwestern United States. This plant is mentioned by Prof. H. T. Webster, M. D. (Dynam. Therap., p. 120), as a remedy worthy of investigation, reports having been made of its efficacy in "tetanus, eclampsia, chorea, and other spasmodic affections." A tea of the herb is made use of in small and oft-repeated doses, and, in traumatic tetanus, the parts are also bathed with the infusion.
Cineraria maritima (Nat. Ord.—Compositae).—South America. The fresh juice of this plant is accredited with curative properties in ocular disorders, especially in ophthalmia. It has been lauded as a remedy to cure cataract by absorption (see Pharm. Jour. Trans., Vol. XVIII, 1887-88, p. 985). Two drops of the milky juice are to be dropped into the palpebral fissure, and the tissues subjected to gentle massage.
Mutisia viciaefolia, Cavanilles (Nat. Ord.—Compositae), Scale-flowers, Span, Chinchircoma.—Western South America (see illustration and description, by Dr. Rusby, in Drug. Bull., 1888, p. 369). Flowers reputed antispasmodic and cardiac tonic. Employed in respiratory affections, particularly for cough and croup disorders. It has also been used for hysteria and cardiac weakness, brought on by high altitudes. The dose of the fluid extract has been given as 10 to 60 minims.
Siegesbeckia orientalis, Linné.—Mauritius Islands. Contains a white crystalline body, darutyne, resembling salicylic acid. Plant used in leprosy, syphilis, and various skin diseases.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.