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Butterbur

Parts Used & Where Grown

Butterbur, or Petasites hydridus, is found in colder, northern regions of Russia and Europe. A species native to the northern United States and much of Canada is Petasites frigidus. All parts of either plant are used, including root, rhizome, leaves, and flowers. Both species are easily confused with their close cousin, Eastern coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), a plant that looks the same and has similar properties and hazards.

Caution: Due to reports of liver toxicity, butterbur products are being voluntarily withdrawn from markets in the United Kingdom. Based on these reports, butterbur should not be used unless a doctor determines that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. People taking butterbur should be monitored by the doctor for adverse effects.

How It Works

Butterbur contains petasins, a group of bitter-tasting compounds in a class of chemicals called sesquiterpenoids. Petasine is a specific petasin considered important in butterbur. Petasins relax blood vessels and various smooth muscles in the body, such as those that are found in the uterus and lungs, according to test tube and animal studies.1 Petasins are also known to reduce inflammation, as demonstrated in human studies.2 Because of these properties, butterbur might be expected to be beneficial for people with migraines and asthma. Butterbur extracts have consistently been shown to reduce symptoms in people with migraines more effectively than placebo. Butterbur has also been shown to help people with asthma, although the results have been conflicting.3,4,5 Some studies have also shown that butterbur extract works just as well as a common antihistamine drug for people with hay fever, but without causing drowsiness.

Butterbur also contains unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These can cause severe liver damage in some people if taken for too long. Only extracts that exclude pyrrolizidine alkaloids should be used.

References

1. Wang GJ, Shum AY, Lin YL, et al. Calcium channel blockade in vascular smooth muscle cells: Major hypotensive mechanism of S-petasin, a hypotensive sesquiterpene from Petasites formosanus. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2001;297:240-6.

2. Thomet OA, Schapowal A, Heinisch IV, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of an extract of Petasites hybridus in allergic rhinitis. Int Immunopharmacol 2002;2:997-1006.

3. Lipton RB, Gobel H, Einhaupl KM, et al. Petasites hybridus root (butterbur) is an effective preventive treatment for migraine. Neurology 2004;63:2240-4.

4. REF:Lee DK, Haggart K, Robb FM, Lipworth BJ. Butterbur, a herbal remedy, confers complementary anti-inflammatory activity in asthmatic patients receiving inhaled corticosteroids. Clin Exp Allergy 2004; 34:110-4.

5. Ziolo G, Samochewiec L. Study on clinical properties and mechanism of action of petasites in bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive bronchitis. Pharm Acta Helv 1998;72:378-80.

6. Schapowal A, Petasites Study Group. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. BMJ 2002;324:144-6.

7. Lee DK, Gray RD, Robb FM, et al. A placebo-controlled evaluation of butterbur and fexofenadine on objective and subjective outcomes in perennial allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy 2004;34:646-9.

8. Yu YJ. Effect of tian-huang-ling granule in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1989;9:720-1, 708 [in Chinese].

9. Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., 2003.

10. Schapowal A; Petasites Study Group. Butterbur Ze339 for the treatment of intermittent allergic rhinitis: dose-dependent efficacy in a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2004;130:1381-6.

11. REF:Lee DK, Haggart K, Robb FM, Lipworth BJ. Butterbur, a herbal remedy, confers complementary anti-inflammatory activity in asthmatic patients receiving inhaled corticosteroids. Clin Exp Allergy 2004; 34:110-4.

12. Danesch UC. Petasites hybridus (butterbur root) extract in the treatment of asthma—an open trial. Altern Med Rev 2004;9:54-62.

13. Diener HC, Rahlfs VW. Danesch U. The first placebo-controlled trial of a special butterbur extract for the prevention of migraine: reanalysis of efficacy criteria. Eur Neurol 2004;51:89–97.

14. Grossmann M, Schmidramsl H. An extract of Petasites hybridus is effective in the prophylaxis of migraine. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther2000;38:430-5.

15. Pothmann R, Danesch U. Migraine prevention in children and adolescents: results of an open study with a special butterbur root extract. Headache2005;45:196-203.

16. Lipton RB, Gobel H, Einhaupl KM, et al. Petasites hybridus root (butterbur) is an effective preventive treatment for migraine. Neurology 2004;63:2240-4.

17. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West. Santa Fe NM: Red Crane Books, 1993.

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The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.

Copyright © 2020 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.

The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.