Leaves of the butterbur herb

The story goes, butterbur got its name because before refrigeration, people used to wrap butter in the herb's large leaves to store during warm weather.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

As I researched recent posts on bee stings, asthma, and pepper for pain, an unfamiliar herb (at least to me) kept showing up. Another thing that struck me was there were mainstream medical studies showing objective proof it worked. Many of these studies warned the findings were only preliminary and the long-term safety was not known, but still, finding a number of studies on a lesser-known herb is unusual in my experience. So I researched it further.

Butterbur (petasites hybridus) is a plant from the daisy family. In some studies, it was as effective as antihistamines in relieving nasal and eye allergy symptoms. It also may decrease migraine attacks by fifty percent and has shown promise in treating other allergy symptoms and preventing asthma attacks.

Butterbur’s anti-inflammatory effects are thought to be the key.

Butterbur Dosage and Warnings

The dosage is 75 mg twice a day to prevent migraines and 50 mg twice a day for everything else. Don’t expect it to work immediately. You need to give it a few weeks to get in your system.

Warning: Raw butterbur contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can seriously damage your liver. Make sure you get the certified PA-free product.

More Information About Butterbur

The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine features some information about butterbur, including side effects, here.

Here’s a big catch: You shouldn’t take butterbur if you’re allergic to ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums, or daisies. Hmm. Seems like that leaves out a lot of people.

Anyway, it’s another alternative when you don’t have access to prescription medicine.

Has anyone tried it?

Photo by J.G. in S.F. on Flickr.