Coltsfoot: Health Benefits, Side Effects, and Contraindications

What is Coltsfoot?

Coltsfoot is a plant that originated in parts of Asia as well as in Europe. It also grows in the damp area of North America.

The flowers and leaves of the Coltsfoot plants are used for medicinal purposes, whereas the roots are avoided. It is used for the treatment of respiratory infections, sore throat, gout, fever, and flu.(1)

A substance known as mucilage present in coltsfoot works to coat the throat and soothe the respiratory tract. It works as a respiratory demulcent and relieves irritated mucus membrane of mouth by forming a protective film.

However, its use has also been linked with blood clots, liver damage and cancer.

How To Consume Coltsfoot?

The common ways of consuming coltsfoot are:

  • It is commonly made into tea, using its leaves and flowers
  • Its topical flower compress can be used to treat inflammation on the skin
  • Some people also smoke its herb, that is said to be effective for respiratory disorders

None of the above preparation is backed by any research study or scientific evidence.

Health Benefits Of Coltsfoot

Health Benefits Of Coltsfoot

Reduces Inflammation

Coltsfoot can be used as a natural remedy for inflammatory conditions such as gout (a type of arthritis in which there are swelling and pain in joints) and asthma.

Tussilago is an active compound present in coltsfoot that was capable of reducing several inflammatory markers in mice who had been induced colitis and characterized intestinal inflammation.(2) Another study showed that Tussilago blocked specific pathways that were involved in regular inflammation.(3)

Benefits Brain Health

There are a few studies that show the role of coltsfoot in protecting brain health.

A test-tube study found that coltsfoot prevented nerve cell damage and fought harmful radicals, compounds that contribute to chronic diseases.(4)

An animal study found that giving coltsfoot to rat helped in protecting nerve cells, preventing tissue death in the brain, and reducing inflammation.(5)

Treats Chronic Cough

Coltsfoot is used traditionally for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma and whooping cough.

Coltsfoot reduces the frequency of cold by 62 percent and increases the secretion of sputum and decreases inflammation.(6)

The extract from the flower bud of this plant helps in reducing the frequency, by increasing the time between two coughs. In the study, the extract was given to the mouse orally.(7)

The studies proving the benefits of coltsfoot are done of animals. More research is needed to determine its effect on humans.

Side Effects Of Coltsfoot

In spite of the health favoring function, coltsfoot has some effects that are of serious concern.

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) present in coltsfoot, if taken orally, can cause acute and chronic liver damage.

A study found that a female who took coltsfoot tea during pregnancy, lead to serious blockage of blood vessels leading to her baby’s liver.(9)

Another study found that a man developed a blood clot in the lung, after taking coltsfoot supplements.(10)

One more study found that 67 % of rats who administered coltsfoot for a year developed a rare form of liver cancer.(11)

Coltsfoot is also listed in the poisonous plant database or food and drug administration and its uses are prohibited in certain countries.

Contraindications

There are some medications, along with which the coltsfoot should be taken with caution. There are not many studies supporting it but still, a doctor should be consulted before consuming it:

Anticoagulants: Coltsfoot can lead to an increase in the clotting time and cause a higher risk of bruising and bleeding if it is taken along with anticoagulants.

If taking Coumadin, heparin, Motrin, Anaprox, or other blood thinners, either do not take coltsfoots or consult your healthcare provider on the same.

Antihypertensive drugs: Coltsfoot lowers the effectiveness of hypertensive drugs and leads to an increase in blood pressure.

If you are on antihypertensive drugs use coltsfoot with caution.

Cytochrome inducers: Certain medications such as Tegretol, rifampin, Mycobutin, Dilantin and Phenobarbital breakdown in the liver. This can increase the liver toxicity potential of coltsfoot.

Anybody taking the above medication should consult their healthcare provider before taking coltsfoot.