Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tussilago farfara


This common roadside plant is most known and best recognized in early springtime, when the flowers bloom. It is a contrary! Blooming first and then growing its leaves!

Also known as Coltsfoot, this herb, like so many that joined us from Europe has made itself quite comfortable in the wilds of North America. The botanical name suggests its most commonly known traditional use, for tussis means cough in Latin. The common name refers to the shape of the leaf, which resembles a . . . colt's "foot," helping us to identify the plant in the wild, especially after flowering. Early European botanists actually identified the spring and summer plant as two separate plants. It's a trickster!

Being a plant medicine for the RAPID respiratory system might suggest a treatment plan to mirror that RAPID verve - one of short duration. Funny, too, that this plant - just like comfrey and borage, contain the liver toxic PAs that we really want to avoid lest we damage ourselves. Not only did our ancestors seem know this on some level, but the plant tells us too - in some very simple ways.

It most often grows - these days - along roadsides where we wouldn't be inclined to harvest, and where the earth needs healing. The flowers bloom and fade rapidly too, over the coarse of only a couple weeks. The flowers bloom in early spring, opposite the year-wheel of the common cough season.

Liver toxic PAs aside, the flowers do make an amazing cough syrup, layered in a jar with brown sugar and left to macerate in a dark cabinet 'til a cough calls upon it several months later when it may be strained and used. It's a good medicine to know about, yet I would be inclined to use another herb for my cough in its stead and protect my liver!

But it's still beautiful and humble, clever and contrary and a worthy plant we can learn from!

This photo was taken at the Summer Solstice in Cornwall Hollow, CT.

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