Scientific Names: Petasites frigidus; Petasites hybridus, Petasites japonicas
Other Name: Blatterdock, bog rhubarb, bogshorns, butter-dock, butterbur, butterfly dock, coltsfoot
Butterbur has been used for more than 2,000 years as a natural treatment for fevers, coughs, asthma, digestive ailments, and skin wounds. Its name comes from its used as a butter wrapper (butterbur has large leaves) during the warm weather.
Butterbur extracts contain several compounds, including volatile oils, tannins, and alkaloids. The most active constituents of butterbur are petasin and isopetasin. Petasin is described as a bitter tasting compound.
Butterbur has a pink flower stalk with lilac and very soft reddish flowers as well as rhubarb-like leaves; it is native to mainland Europe, Asia and North America.
Part Used in Medicine: Root, Leaf and Rhizome
Available Forms: Powder form, pill, tea and tincture
Health Benefits of Butterbur:
- Butterbur is currently used as treatment for seasonal allergies or hay fever symptoms such as itchy eyes, itchy skin and runny nose – in addition to reducing histamine; butterbur appears to decrease the responsiveness of mast cells to allergens. The mast cells releases histamine in response to allergens. It can also help in the treatment of bronchitis and asthma.
- Butterbur extract is safe and effective for the prevention and treatment of migraine headache in adults and children. When taken regularly, this herb is thought to reduce migraine attacks by inhibiting pro-inflammatory substances in the body and by reducing spasms in the smooth muscle of blood walls in the brain.
For Migraine: Adult, take 50 to 100 mg of an extract standardized to 15% petasin and isopetasin twice daily with meals. Children ages 6 to 9 should take 25 mg, twice daily; children ages 10 and older should take 50 mg twice daily.
For Seasonal Allergy or Hay Fever: Take a standardized product containing 8 to 16 mg of petasin dose 3-4 times daily.
Tips When Buying Butterbur Supplements:
- When purchasing butterbur supplement choose the one that says “pyrrolizidine free;” but it is important to note that a product free from pyrollizidine alkaloids is not necessarily free from side effects. Long term effect of taking butterbur (6 months and longer) can cause liver damage.
- It is not advisable to buy butterbur in teas and tincture form because the bitter taste is unpalatable. The best way to take butterbur is in tablet or capsule form, as both are readily dissolve in the stomach without the unpalatable bitter taste.
- Make sure to use the one that contains petasin.
Side Effects of Butterbur:
- Butterbur is well tolerated. Occasional side effects may include digestive upset, headache, itchy eyes, and fatigue.
- Don’t use butterbur if you are pregnant or nursing or if you are allergic to related plants, including daisies, marigolds, ragweed and chrysanthemums.