We have treated very stubborn coughs with coltsfoot.
This is what it says on doctoryourself.com - we found this after our daughter had a cough for a month - tried everything - nothing worked until we gave her coltsfoot - was gone the next day. Don't know hot it is for the elderly
1. As an alternative to patent or prescription cough medicines, herbal remedies deserve consideration. COLTSFOOT herb (Tussilago farfara) leaves made into a tea forms one of the best cough medicines I know of. You can buy dried coltsfoot at any herb store and at many health food stores. It is not expensive and has a low likelihood of side effects with occasional use. (Not for use during pregnancy or nursing. For full cautionary information, I recommend a library or internet search for "coltsfoot herb toxicity." http://www.healthwell.com/healthnotes/Herb/Coltsfoot.cfm
are especially good.) We use a tablespoon or two of herb to each mug of hot water. For an adult, several mugs full can even stop the cough of pneumonia. I know, because I had pneumonia and was sick as a dog... a constantly coughing dog, that is. Prescription cough medicine WITH CODEINE did not touch it. Three mugs of coltsfoot tea eliminated coughing for hours. It is the only cough remedy we ever needed in our house.
THis is from botanical.com - interesting stuff:
Medicinal Action and Uses---Demulcent, expectorant and tonic. One of the most popular of cough remedies. It is generally given together with other herbs possessing pectoral qualities, such as Horehound, Marshmallow, Ground Ivy, etc.
The botanical name, Tussilago, signifies 'cough dispeller,' and Coltsfoot has justly been termed 'nature's best herb for the lungs and her most eminent thoracic.' The smoking of the leaves for a cough has the recommendation of Dioscorides, Galen, Pliny, Boyle, and other great authorities, both ancient and modern, Linnaeus stating that the Swedes of his time smoked it for that purpose. Pliny recommended the use of both roots and leaves. The leaves are the basis of the British Herb Tobacco, in which Coltsfoot predominates, the other ingredients being Buckbean, Eyebright, Betony, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, and Chamomile flowers. This relieves asthma and also the difficult breathing of old bronchitis. Those suffering from asthma, catarrh and other lung troubles derive much benefit from smoking this Herbal Tobacco, the use of which does not entail any of the injurious effects of ordinary tobacco.
A decoction is made of 1 OZ. of leaves, in 1 quart of water boiled down to a pint, sweetened with honey or liquorice, and taken in teacupful doses frequently. This is good for both colds and asthma.
Coltsfoot tea is also made for the same purpose, and Coltsfoot Rock has long been a domestic remedy for coughs.
A decoction made so strong as to be sweet and glutinous has proved of great service in scrofulous cases, and, with Wormwood, has been found efficacious in calculus complaints.
The flower-stalks contain constituents similar to those of the leaves, and are directed by the British Pharmacopceia to be employed in the preparation of Syrup of Coltsfoot, which is much recommended for use in chronic bronchitis.
In Paris, the Coltsfoot flowers used to be painted as a sign on the doorpost of an apothecarie's shop.
'The fresh leaves, or juice, or syrup thereof, is good for a bad dry cough, or wheezing and shortness of breath. The dry leaves are best for those who have their rheums and distillations upon their lungs causing a cough: for which also the dried leaves taken as tobacco, or the root is very good. The distilled water hereof simply or with elder-flowers or nightshade is a singularly good remedy against all agues, to drink 2 OZ. at a time and apply cloths wet therein to the head and stomach, which also does much good being applied to any hot swellings or inflammations. It helpeth St. Anthony's fire (erysypelas) and burnings, and is singular good to take away wheals.'