Coltsfoot is a plant in the groundsel tribe in the daisy family Asteraceae, native to Europe and parts of western and central Asia. The name “tussilago” is derived from the Latin tussis, meaning cough, and ago, meaning to cast or to act on.
It is a perennial herbaceous plant that spreads by seeds and rhizomes. Tussilago is often found in colonies of dozens of plants. The flowers, which superficially resemble dandelions, open on leafless stems in early spring before the leaves appear. The leaves, which resemble a colt’s foot in outline appear after the flowers have set seed and wither and die in the early summer.
Coltsfoot has been traditionally used in herbal medicine and consumed as food with some confectionery products, such as Coltsfoot Rock. Tussilago farfara leaves have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally (as tea or syrup) or externally (directly applied) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, locomotor system, viral infections, flu, colds, fever, rheumatism and gout.
Tussilago farfara contains tumorigenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. There are documented cases of coltsfoot tea causing severe liver problems in an infant, and in another case, an infant developed liver disease and died because the mother drank tea containing coltsfoot during her pregnancy. In response the German government banned the sale of coltsfoot. Clonal plants of colstfoot free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids were then developed in Austria and Germany, resulting in the registered variety Tussilago farfara ‘Wien’ which has no detectable levels of these alkaloids. (source: Wikipedia)