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Is Coltsfoot Too Toxic For Tea?
I grew up in Europe and was often given coltsfoot tea for cough and chest congestion and have given it to my daughter, age six, for the same purpose. Recently, I learned that coltsfoot taken internally is toxic to the liver. I'm concerned about liver damage that might have already occurred.
Answer (Published 12/4/2010)
Coltsfoot has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for coughs and colds. Its botanical name, Tussilago farfara, is partially derived from the Latin tussis, meaning cough. I discussed your concerns about coltsfoot with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women's health, and an expert on botanical medicine.
Dr. Low Dog said that while coltsfoot is likely to be effective for minor respiratory complaints, its leaves and flowers contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can damage the liver. For this reason, use of this herb is less than ideal from a safety perspective.
I recommend a number of herbal treatments for coughs and congestion that can be used safely by adults and children:
If you're concerned that the coltsfoot tea you and your daughter have consumed may have harmed your liver, ask your health care practitioner to run some blood tests to make sure that your liver function hasn't been affected. My guess is that it will be fine. If any abnormalities show up, consider milk thistle, a safe and effective herb to optimize liver health. Adults should follow the dosage directions on the package. The correct dosage for children is 5-10 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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