Butterbur has sparked renewed interest among the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industry alike, due to its ability to alleviate and reduce the frequency of seasonal allergies and migraines. Butterbur’s claim to fame as a medicinal plant is not new. Its history dates back to the 14th century where it was used to treat plague and fever. Butterbur has also been used to treat asthma, coughs, infections and stomach ulcers. Current research indicates that butterbur has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties. Butterbur is void of the normal complaints associated with medications treating these conditions.
What is Butterbur
Butterbur (Petasites Hybridus) is a robust, large leafed shrub type plant that is actually part of the daisy family (Asteraces). This perennial bush is grown in Asia, Europe and North America. Butterbur is additionally known as Butterfly Dock, Bog Rhubarb, Butter-Dock, Blatterdock and Exwort. Butterbur contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which may cause liver toxicity, particularly if glutathione, the livers main antioxidant, levels are low. Extracts of Butterbur are available PA free with pyrrolizidine alkaloids removed. As a remedy, butterbur is available as a single preparation in teas, tablets, extracts and capsules. It may also be purchased as part of a combination herbal product or along with pharmaceutical ingredients such as fexofenadine.
Why Take Butterbur Instead of a Drug
People are seeking relief through a variety of natural sources today to subdue the frequency and duration of their symptoms related to allergies and migraines. Even though antihistamine medications may be effective, they have a common side effect of drowsiness that impairs job performance and quality of life. Studies show equal efficacy of butterbur extracts without the sedative aspect that needs to be avoided in a normal day to day routine.
Symptoms of Allergies
Individuals who fall prey to environmental allergies usually suffer for several weeks during the spring, summer and early fall. The unwelcome symptoms of sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, running nose, nasal congestion and throat irritation are triggered by particles in the air such as pollen and dust. These substances stick to the nasal pathways and stimulate an overreaction by the immune system.
How does Butterbur Benefit Allergies
Hay fever and rhinitis are symptoms of allergens in the air which include pollens from trees, grass, flowers, ragweed and spores from molds. These substances induce an immune response, releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause tissue inflammation. Butterbur contains petasin, a type of sesquiterpene ester, which is the major active component that blocks leukotrienes – white blood cells that react during inflammation. Recent research hails this herb as effective as conventional drugs for relieving allergies and hay fever. According to a study published in “Phytotherapy Research” an extract of the butterbur leaf works as well as any other commercial antihistamine in alleviating symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Evidential Study: Intermittent allergic rhinitis (IAR)
1. A double blind group compared butterbur extract to a common drug administered for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Both were superior to the placebo and both treatments were well tolerated by patients and equally effective. The interpretation by physicians states, “despite being an herbal drug, Butterbur Ze 339 has now been subject to a series of well controlled trials and should be considered as an alternative treatment for IAR.”
2. Another similar study evaluated butterbur to a common drug allergen, Allegra in patients with perennial allergic rhinitis. The study also included dust mites. Again no significant difference with exception to drowsiness and they were equally effective in attenuating the nasal response to allergens and in improving nasal symptoms.
How does Butterbur Work for Migraines
Modern research reveals that extracts of butterbur is effective for migraines. Butterbur contains active ingredients that prevent migraine attacks, while reducing their severity and duration at the time of occurrence. Butterbur has been prescribed in Germany for more than 30 years as a migraine treatment.
To reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, Dr. Alexander Mauskop who is the director of the New York Headache Center in New York City, recommends taking 75mg of butterbur, twice a day with food. Using this protocol, results are felt within a month. He also suggests continuance of butterbur until you have had a one month free of headaches, and then stop. Resume as needed.
Evidence of Butterbur for Migraine Relief
1. A study published in Headache 2000, where 58 patients were given 50mg of butterbur twice a day, resulted in 50% fewer migraines than the placebo group.
2. Similarly, a double blind study in Neurology in 2002 gave 202 migraine sufferers 150mg of butterbur extract a day or a placebo. Researches reported 48% fewer migraines than usual taking butterbur after the 12 week trial.
An interest in herbal medicine continues to climb as people strive to gain and maintain good health through a holistic approach which is the path to well being. The herb butterbur is one such example of an alternative solution for the treatment of migraines, hay fever and allergic rhinitis. Researchers agree that butterbur is worth considering based on published reports, as a therapy for alleviating symptoms related to headaches, grass allergies and other similar complaints.
1. Phytother Res. 2005 Jun;19(6):530-7. Treating intermittent allergic rhinitis: a prospective, randomized, placebo and antihistamine-controlled study of Butterbur extract Ze 339. Schapowal A; Study Group.
2. Clin Exp Allergy. 2004 Apr;34(4):646-9. A placebo controlled evaluation of butterbur and fexofenadine on objective and subjective outcomes in perennial allergic rhinitis. Lee DK, Gray RD, Robb FM, Fujihara S, Lipworth BJ.
3. Archives of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery (2004;130:1381-6). A butterbur leaf extract can effectively treat allergies.
4. Charles W. Fetrow Pharm.D. Juan R.Avila Pharm.D. The complete Guide to Herbal Medicines 2000.
Copyright © 2016 – All Rights Reserved – Michelle Honda Ph.D.
Look for my new forthcoming books “Reverse Heart Disease Naturally” (Jan.31, 2017) and “Reverse Inflammation Naturally” (May 31, 2017) and “Reverse Thyroid Diseases Naturally” (Fall 2017)
While close attention was given to the accuracy of information in this article, the author accepts neither responsibility nor liability to any person with respect to injury, damage, loss or any circumstances involving alleged causes directly or indirectly related to the information in this article. The sole purpose is to educate and broaden ones awareness. This information is not meant to replace medical advice or services provided by a health care professional.