Source: The Amazing Healing Powers of Nature, Reader’s Digest
Butterbur is an all-natural way to combat migraines, headaches and allergies
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is an herb most commonly used medicinally to prevent migraines and treat respiratory allergies, such as hay fever.
Though conventional antihistamines are effective at suppressing allergy symptoms, they can cause drowsiness and interact with other drugs, so some prefer to go a natural route. In a 2002 Swiss study, nasal airflow increased nearly 100 percent in people who took butterbur to treat congestion due to hay fever‘part of why even some doctors recommend it over other remedies.
The big question: does butterbur work?
Around the world, about 1 in 12 men and 1 in 7 women experience the pulsing, throbbing pain of migraine headaches. For more than half, these big headaches return with frightening regularity. In Europe, butterbur has long been a home remedy for headaches, and today scientific research and even mainstream medical groups such as the American Academy of Neurology are endorsing the plant’s effectiveness against migraines.
Congestion, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes are the hallmarks of respiratory allergies such as hay fever and allergies to mould and pets. Could butterbur conquer these, too? Published studies say yes.
How to use butterbur
To put a stop to recurring migraines or clear congestion due to respiratory allergies such as to pollen, mould or pet hair, the Natural Standard’a highly regarded international research collaboration that reviews the scientific evidence for alternative remedies‘recommends butterbur supplements containing standardized levels of the active ingredient petasin.
You should follow the dosing directions for the individual product, but in general a good adult dose is 100 to 150 milligrams of butterbur a day that provides 15 to 32 milligrams of petasin.
Only buy butterbur extracts labelled ‘PA-free.’ This means that harmful toxins called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which raise risk for liver damage and even cancer, have been removed.
Butterbur is related to ragweed, so avoid this herb if you’re allergic to ragweed, marigolds, daisies or chrysanthemums.
How does it work?
A family of multitasking chemicals in butterbur accounts for this herb’s ability to dry up seasonal allergy symptoms and stop strong headaches before they start. This includes a compound called petasin that helps relax smooth muscle, such as the muscle in artery walls, which can help prevent the blood vessel constrictions that lead to migraine pain, say researchers from the University of Rhode Island.
Petasin also soothes inflammation, which helps ease allergy symptoms such as swollen nasal passages. Moreover, 2 related compounds called isopetasin and oxopetasin reduce the body’s production of leukotrienes, molecules that cause congestion, excess mucus production and tightened airways in response to triggers such as pollen, according to German researchers reporting in the journal European Neurology in 2004.
Modern studies and research on butterbur
In a 2004 study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, 222 people who experienced 2 to 6 migraines each month stopped their regular medications and took 50 to 75 milligrams of butterbur or a placebo twice daily for 16 weeks. The butterbur group reported a reduction of between 36 and 48 percent in the number of migraines they experienced. German researchers from the University of Duisburg’Essen reported in 2004 that 45 percent of volunteers there experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in migraines.
In a large 2005 study conducted at the Allergy Clinic in Landquart, Switzerland, of 330 people with allergies, a butterbur extract was as effective as a commonly prescribed antihistamine at easing all of those annoying symptoms. The bonus? Butterbur users didn’t feel sleepy or sedated the way those who took this type of antihistamine did.
In another Swiss study of 580 allergy sufferers, 90 percent enjoyed symptom relief while taking butterbur for 2 weeks during allergy season. And 8 in 10 said the herb made everyday life easier as a result.