Coltsfoot and Stevia: How to Use
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Sandi Tucker
Posted on: August 28, 1998

I have planted this season and Coltsfoot plant and a Stevia plant. Unfortunately, I can find no information on either one of these plants in any of my herb books. I am trying to obtain information on harvesting and utilization of these plants for cooking and medicinal.

Stevia is relatively new to the North American herb world and most herb books do not have any information on it. Even the much lauded "Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses" by Deni Bown does not have anything on stevia.

Stevia is a natural sweetener that can be used for teas, baked goods, and other items. The stevioside compounds in the leaves are known to be 200-300 times sweeter than sugar without the calories. Unlike Nutrasweet, it is stable in heat and can be used in baked goods.

The drawback is that it has a slight bitter aftertaste that is offputting to some people. Other people rather like the taste and accept it as part of the flavour as one would accept honey as a substitute for sugar. Others are so used to sugar that even a slight difference in taste would be a ‘problem’.

The easiest way to use stevia is to dry the leaves. Once thoroughly dry they can be powdered. The powder can be added to food and drinks according to taste. Fresh leaves also can be added to teas.

A tip: steviosides accumulate in the leaves over the summer, and reach their peak just before flowering. Once flowering begins, the stevioside concentration drops. So the best time to harvest is in the late summer before flowering.

Coltsfoot is a medicinal herb for the treatment of inflammations of the mouth and throat and respiratory catarrh with coughing and hoarseness. The leaves are high in mucilage and tannins which accounts for its usefulness to relieve inflammed mucous membranes. It is taken as a tea and it is an ingredient in certain cough remedies. To make the tea, 2 grams (1 tablespoonful) of the dried leaves are steeped in 150 milliliters of boiling water for 5-20 minutes. A cupful is taken several times a day as needed. It should not be taken for more than 4-6 weeks a year.

Although coltsfoot contains traces of pyrrolizidine alkaloids there is no evidence of any risk to the liver or of causing cancer when used as directed for acute conditions and not for chronic conditions. High concentrations of pyrrolizidine alkaloids are a concern in some other plants.

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