Tag Archives: respiratory

Coltsfoot–Herbal Cough Remedy


“Waters are distilled out of Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, and Roots.” ~Nicholas Culpeper

(Coltsfoot)

I often come across references to coltsfoot in my reading. My favorite is related by the beloved British Author Miss Read in her charming books about rural life in the small, fictional village called Thrush Green. In her Thrush Green collection, coltsfoot is a favorite herb in a concoction brewed by the eccentric herbalist, Dotty Harmer. The herb is native to England and Scotland, in grasslands and wastelands. It flowers in early spring and is one of the most popular ingredients in cough remedies. It’s generally given together with other herbs possessing soothing respiratory qualities, such as horehound, marshmallow, and ground ivy. Coltsfoot tea and coltsfoot rock, a confectionery product created from Coltsfoot extract, has long been a remedy for coughs.

(Owl Cat in one of my garden beds with catnip)

In A Modern Herbal Ms. Grieve says, “The botanical name, Tussilago, translates to ‘cough dispeller.’ Coltsfoot has been called ‘nature’s best herb for the lungs and her most eminent thoracic.’ Dioscorides, Galen, Pliny, Boyle, and other great authorities recommend the smoking of the leaves for a cough. Pliny recommended the use of both roots and leaves.”

Ms. Grieve goes on to say coltsfoot leaves are dominant in the medicinal blend called British Herb Tobacco. Other ingredients include: Buckbean, Eyebright, Betony, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, and Chamomile flowers. This herbal tobacco is reputed to relieve asthma and chronic bronchitis. She adds, “A decoction of coltsfoot is made of 1 OZ. of leaves, in 1 quart of water boiled down to a pint, sweetened with honey or liquorice, and taken frequently in teacupful doses for both colds and asthma.”

Liquorice has been cultivated in England since 1562, mentioned in Turner’s Herbal, and was popular by the time of Queen Elizabeth. But the plant, native to Southeast Europe and Southwest Asia, has an ancient history of use elsewhere. An extract of the root is made into a syrup, or administered in a powdered form. The most notable use for liquorice is in flavoring and candy, also a sought after remedy for soothing coughs, chest congestion, and the bladder and bowel. I take a powdered extract of the root in hot milk with a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of sugar.

This post is an excerpt from my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles, available  in print and kindle at Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Plants-Medieval-Garden-British-Isles-ebook/dp/B00IOGHYVU/

Nonfiction Herbal

An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales.

Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.

Herbal Lore–Boneset (Not actually used to set bones)


boneset

Boneset (Ague-weed) is a beautiful native American plant found in moist meadows, woodlands, along stream banks, or in swamps across Eastern North America and west to Louisiana and Minnesota.  A member of the aster family, it blooms July–September with flat clusters of white flowers. Once established, boneset resembles a small shrub at 3’ to 4’ tall. The base of the leaves appear to wrap around the stem, as if pierced by the stem. This perforated arrangement of the leaf and stem led to the species name E. perfoliatum. Because the leaves are wrapped around the stem, early herbalists concluded the plant would be useful as a plaster, along with bandages, for setting broken bones.

Boneset was also infused as a tea to treat fevers, colds, and digestive ailments. A Modern Herbal suggests the name boneset rose from its use as a treatment for Dengue fever, also known as Break Bone Fever, and declares, ‘Probably no plant in American domestic practice has had more extensive and frequent use.’ The summer flowers attract pollinating insects, such as butterflies. In the fall, the seeds draw a variety of songbirds.

From http://medicinalherbinfo.org/herbs/Boneset.html:

“Boneset was one of early America’s foremost medical plants, a popular panacea of extraordinary powers. Native Americans introduced the settlers to this New World herb. Its name reflects its use during a particularly harsh strain of flu called “break bone fever”. Come cold and flu season, boneset can be invaluable in relieving coughs and upper respiratory congestion. Today, it is chiefly regarded as a weed with an interesting past.”

From another interesting site: http://www.alchemy-works.com/eupatorium_perfoliatum.html

“In West Virginia folk medicine, boneset was simmered with lemon and honey to make a cough syrup. The Eclectic physicians used it with success during the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. In modern herbalism, it is usually combined with elder and willow for fevers with aches, and with scullcap and milkweed for flu.”

That’s pretty darned amazing because that was a killer flu.