When our meadows and hills show no sign of spring and the eye just barely notices the swelling of the willow-catkins, the Coltsfoot is the first to appear, sending forth its stalk with the yellow flower. Wet ground, embankments, wasteland and gravel-pits are covered with blankets of Coltsfoot flowers, which appear long before the leaves. Coltsfoot grows especially well on clay soil. Bees and insects visit it to get their first nectar. These are the first flowers that can be gathered to lay in stock for the coming winter.
With its pectoral and anti-inflammatory qualities Coltsfoot is used successfully for bronchitis, laryngitis, pharyngitis, bronchial asthma and pleurisy, even at the onset of tuberculosis of the lungs. For a persistent cough and for annoying hoarseness Coltsfoot tea with honey should be drunk very hot frequently during the day. Later in May, when the leaves appear green on the upper surface and silvery felted beneath, they are used, because rich in vitamin C, as an addition to soups and salads. Since the leaves have more medicinal power than the flowers, they are gathered to be used together with the flowers for infusions.
From ancient herbalists to the Abbe Kneipp, all give praise to the Coltsfoot. The fresh leaves, washed and the pulp applied as a poultice to the chest, help in pneumonia, in erysipelas and bruises with swelling and discolouration and even bursitis. The effect of these poultices is startling. Compresses made from a strong decoction of the leaves of Coltsfoot are used for scrofulous sores. The steam of Coltsfoot, from the flowers as well as from the leaves, should be inhaled several times a day in chronic bronchitis with fits and shortness of breath. Swollen feet should be bathed in a decoction made of the leaves of Coltsfoot.
A syrup, prepared from the leaves, has proved its worth in lung disorders and bronchitis. In an earthenware pot put alternate layers of leaves and raw sugar, let it settle and keep adding until the pot is full. Cover well with 2 to 3 layers of strong parchment paper. Now put the pot in a hole in the ground in a sheltered spot in the garden. Place a board over it and cover with soil. The even temperature produces fermentation. After 8 weeks dig out the pot, boil up the syrup thus obtained, once or twice. Pour into small wide necked bottles. This syrup is our best protection against winter and influenza. Take it in teaspoonful doses.
For asthma, damage caused by smoking and bronchitis, 2 to 3 teaspoons of freshly pressed juice of the leaves taken in a cup of broth or warm milk, are beneficial. For phlebitis, a poultice, prepared from the crushed leaves and fresh cream, is applied to the inflamed areas and bandaged lightly with a cloth. The freshly pressed juice from the leaves of the Coltsfoot is dropped into the ear to relieve earache.
Cough infusion: For a tea that is an expectorant; mix equal parts of the leaves and flowers of Coltsfoot, Lungwort and Plantain. Take 2 teaspoons of this mixture to1/4 litre of boiling water. Sip 3 cups of this tea sweetened with honey daily.
Infusion: A heaped teaspoon of flowers (later equal parts of flowers and leaves) per 1/4 litre boiling water, infuse for a short time.
Poultice: Fresh leaves are crushed and applied.
Inhalation: A heaped tablespoon of flowers and leaves, infuse and inhale the steam under a towel. Repeat several times a day.
Foot bath: A heaped double handful of leaves is infused in the appropriate amount of water for a short time; bathe for 20 minutes.
Fresh juice: Washed fresh leaves are put in a juice extractor.
Syrup and infusion for cough and hoarseness: Refer to part in above text.