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Least Viewed Herbs

Finocchio
Southernwood
(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
And There Is Pansies That's For Thoughts
Acorn
Poppy
Bluebell (wild Hyacinth)
Asparagus
Anemone (wood)
House Leek (crassulaceoe)



Coltsfoot








The Coltsfoot, which grows abundantly throughout England in
places of moist, heavy soil, especially along the sides of our raised
railway banks, has been justly termed nature's best herb for the
lungs, and her most eminent thoracic. Its seeds are supposed to
have lain [117] dormant from primitive times, where our railway
cuttings now upturn them and set them growing anew; and the
rotting foliage of the primeval herb by retaining its juices, is
thought to have promoted the development and growth of our
common earthworm.

The botanical name of Coltsfoot is Tussilago farfara, signifying
tussis ago, I drive away a cold; and farfar, the white poplar
tree, which has a similar leaf. It is one of the Composite order, and
the older authors named this plant, Filius ante patrem--the son
before the father, because the flowers appear and wither before
the leaves are produced. These flowers, at the very beginning of
Spring, stud the banks with gay, golden, leafless blossoms, each
growing on a stiff scaly stalk, and resembling a dandelion in
miniature. The leaves, which follow later on, are made often into
cigars, or are smoked as British herbal tobacco, being mixed for
this purpose with the dried leaves and flowers of the eye-bright,
buckbean, betony, thyme, and lavender, to which some persons
add rose leaves, and chamomile flowers. All these are rubbed
together by the hands into a coarse powder, Coltsfoot forming
quite one-half of the same; and this powder may be very
beneficially smoked for asthma, or for spasmodic bronchial cough.
Linnoeus said, Et adhuc hodie plebs in Suecia, instar tabaci
contra tussim fugit--Even to-day the Swiss people cure their
coughs with Coltsfoot employed like tobacco. When the flowers
are fully blown and fall off, the seeds with their clock form a
beautiful head of white flossy silk, and if this flies away when
there is no wind it is said to be a sure sign of coming rain. The
Goldfinch often lines her nest with the soft pappus of the
Coltsfoot. In Paris the Coltsfoot flower is painted on the doorposts
of an apothecary's house.

[118] From earliest times, the plant has been found helpful in
maladies of the chest. Hippocrates advised it with honey for
ulcerations of the lungs. Dioscorides, Pliny, and Galen, severally
commended the use of its smoke, conducted into the mouth
through a funnel or reed, for giving ease to cough and difficult
breathing; they named it breechion, from breex, a cough.

In taste, the leaves are harsh, bitter, and mucilaginous. They
appear late in March, being green above, with an undersurface
which is white, and cottony. Sussex peasants esteem the white
down of the leaves as a most valuable medicine.

All parts of the plant contain chemically tannin, with a special
bitter principle, and free mucilage; so that the herb is to be
considered emollient, demulcent, and tonic. Dr. Cullen employed a
decoction of the leaves with much benefit in scrofula, where the
use of sea water had failed. And Dr. Fuller tells about a girl cured
of twelve scrofulous sores, by drinking daily, for four months, as
much as she could of Coltsfoot tea, made so strong from the leaves
as to be sweet and glutinous. A modern decoction is prepared from
the herb with boiling water poured on the leaves, and with
liquorice root and honey added.

But, hark! I hear the pancake bell, said Poor Richard in his
almanack, 1684; alluding to pancakes then made with Coltsfoot,
like tansies, and fried with saged butter.

A century later it was still the fashion to treat consumptive young
women with quaint remedies. Mrs. Delaney writes in 1758, Does
Mary cough in the Night? two or three snails boiled in her barley
water may be of great service to her.

Again, the confectioner provides Coltsfoot rock, [119] concocted
in fluted sticks of a brown colour, as a sweetmeat, and flavoured
with some essential oil--as aniseed, or dill--these sticks being well
beloved by most schoolboys. The dried leaves, when soaked out in
warm water, will serve as an excellent emollient poultice. A
certain preparation, called Essence of Coltsfoot, found great
favour with our grand sires for treating their colds. This consisted
of Balsam of Tolu and Friar's Balsam in equal parts, together with
double the quantity of Spirit of Wine. It did not really contain
a trace of Coltsfoot, and the nostrum was provocative of
inflammation, because of the spirit in excess. Dr. Paris said: And
this, forsooth, is a pectoral for coughs! If a patient with a catarrh
should recover whilst using such a remedy, I should certainly
designate it a lucky escape, rather than a skilful cure. Gerard
wrote about Coltsfoot: The fume of the dried leaves, burned upon
coles, effectually helpeth those that fetch their winde thicke, and
breaketh without peril the impostumes of the brest; also the
green leaves do heal the hot inflammation called Saint Anthony's
fire.

The names of the herb--Coltsfoot, and Horsehoof--are derived
from the shape of the leaf. It is likewise known as Asses' foot, and
Cough wort; also as Foal's foot, and Bull's foot, Hoofs, and (in
Yorkshire) Cleats.

To make an infusion or decoction of the plant for a confirmed
cough, or for chronic bronchitis, pour a pint of boiling water on an
ounce of the dried leaves and flowers, and take half a teacupful of
it when cold three or four times in the day. The silky down of the
seed-heads is used in the Highlands for stuffing pillows, and the
presence of coal is said to be indicated by an abundant growth of
the herb.

Another species, the Butter bur (Tussilago petasites), [120] is
named from petasus, an umbrella, or a broad covering for the
head. It produces the largest leaves of any plant in Great Britain,
which sometimes measure three feet in breadth. This plant was
thought to be of great use in the time of the plague, and thus got
the names of Pestilent wort, Plague flower and Bog Rhubarb. Both
it, and the Coltsfoot, are specific remedies (H.) for severe and
obstinate neuralgia in the small of the back, and the loins, a
medicinal tincture being prepared from each herb.





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Previous: Club Moss



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