Coltsfoot is a perennial plant that looks similar to a dandelion when it blooms in spring. This wild edible plant is unusual in that the flowers bloom and die before the appearance of any leaves, which earned Coltsfoot the name of "son before the father" in earlier times. Before the introduction of matches, the felt-like covering of the plant, wrapped in a rag and dipped in a solution of saltpetre, was considered to be excellent tinder after being dried in the sun. This plant contains mucilage, bitter glycosides, and tannins; it is these that are thought to give the herb anti-inflammatory and antitussive (cough prevention and treatment) properties.
Coltsfoot grows wild over much of Europe. The name is derived from the horseshoe shaped leaves. It was so popular in Europe at one time that French pharmacists painted its flowers on their doorposts. It was brought to the American colonies from Europe. Before the plant flowers, it resembles butterbur enough that old herbals caution against confusing the two.
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