Antitussive, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory activities of four caffeoylquinic acids isolated from Tussilago farfara

Pharm Biol. 2016 Jul;54(7):1117-24. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2015.1075048. Epub 2015 Oct 6.


Context: The flower bud of Tussilago farfara L. (Compositae) (FTF) is one of the traditional Chinese medicinal herbs used to treat cough, phlegm, bronchitic, and asthmatic conditions.

Objective: The objective of this study is to isolate four caffeoylquinic acids from the ethyl acetate extract (EtE) of FTF and to evaluate their antitussive, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory activities.

Materials and methods: The structures of compounds 1-4 isolated from EtE were determined by spectral analysis. Mice were orally treated with these compounds and their mixture (in a ratio of 5:28:41:26 as in EtE) at doses of 10 and 20 mg/kg once daily for 3 d. The antitussive and expectorant activities were evaluated separately with the ammonia liquor-induced model and the phenol red secretion model. The anti-inflammation activity was evaluated using leukocyte count in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid after ammonia liquor-induced acute airway inflammation.

Results: The four compounds were identified as chlorogenic acid (1), 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid (2), 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid (3), and 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid (4). All compounds, especially compound 4 (58.0% inhibition in cough frequency), showed a significant antitussive effect. However, the mixture was the most effective to inhibit the cough frequency by 61.7%. All compounds also showed a significant expectorant effect, while compound 2 was the most potent to enhance the phenol red secretion by 35.7%. All compounds significantly alleviated inflammation, but compound 4 showed the strongest effect to inhibit the leukocytosis by 49.7%.

Discussion and conclusion: The caffeoylquinic acids and their mixture, exhibiting significant antitussive, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory effects, could be considered as the main effective ingredients of FTF, and they may act in a collective and synergistic way.

Keywords: 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid; 3,5-Dicaffeoylquinic acid; 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid; chlorogenic acid; synergistic effect.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / chemistry
  • Ammonia
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antitussive Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antitussive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cough / chemically induced
  • Cough / immunology
  • Cough / prevention & control*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Expectorants / isolation & purification
  • Expectorants / pharmacology*
  • Flowers
  • Leukocytosis / chemically induced
  • Leukocytosis / prevention & control
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Phenolsulfonphthalein
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Pneumonia / chemically induced
  • Pneumonia / immunology
  • Pneumonia / prevention & control*
  • Quinic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Quinic Acid / isolation & purification
  • Quinic Acid / pharmacology
  • Solvents / chemistry
  • Tussilago / chemistry


  • Acetates
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antitussive Agents
  • Expectorants
  • Plant Extracts
  • Solvents
  • caffeoylquinic acid
  • Quinic Acid
  • Ammonia
  • ethyl acetate
  • Phenolsulfonphthalein