Herb: Sweet Coltsfoot

Latin name: Petasites japonicus

Synonyms: Nardosmia japonica

Family: Compositae

Medicinal use of Sweet Coltsfoot:

The plant (though the exact part of the plant used is not specified) is antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, expectorant and poultice. A decoction is used in the treatment of chronic coughing and pulmonary "deficiency", laboured or difficult breathing and asthma, constant sputum formation and pulmonary tuberculosis.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Moist woods and thickets.

Edible parts of Sweet Coltsfoot:

Leaf stalks - cooked and used like rhubarb. The stems can be up to 1.2 metres long. They can be boiled and seasoned, pickled and used in winter soups or preserved in miso. They can be boiled, dipped in cold water then peeled and baked - they have a pleasant fragrant taste. Flower buds cooked or used as a flavouring. A slightly bitter yet agreeable flavour, they are much prized in Japan. They can be eaten whilst still green with miso or boiled down in soy sauce. The young flowering stems can be eaten cooked.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves of the sub-species P. japonicus giganteus are used as umbrellas by Japanese children. The leaf stalks can be used as walking sticks. Plants can be grown as ground cover in damp shady places. They are too invasive for most gardens and should only be used where they have plenty of room.

Propagation of Sweet Coltsfoot:

Seed - we have no information on this species but suggest sowing the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe or in early spring. Only just cover the seed and do not allow the compost to dry out. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division succeeds at almost any time of the year. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moist woods and thickets.

Known hazards of Petasites japonicus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.