Butterbur is a plant that is native to mainland Europe and Western Asia that has also been grown in North America. The plant has huge leaves that look much like rhubarb and that grow large enough to be used as shade. They also have huge routes, but it is the leaves that are used for medicinal benefit.
Benefits of Butterbur
The main benefit of butterbur reported is analgesic – that is pain killing – and it is largely used for the treatment of migraines. This use has been backed up by some studies which also suggest it may be useful for preventing migraines. Other studies suggest that butterbur may be useful in treating seasonal allergies though findings are inconsistent.
Like many herbs and remedies however marketers claim many more benefits for butterbur including:
- Irritable bladder
- Chronic coughs
- Stomach ulcers
- Stomach pain
However studies have yet to demonstrate any effect in these capacities – only as a migraine medication.
Marketing suggests that butterbur is free from side effects but this is not strictly true. In reality, side effects might include burping, diarrhea, fatigue, itching, stomach upset and more.
When using butterbur to address headaches, it is important to make sure that they have been properly treated. These products need to be treated to remove pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) which otherwise damage the liver, lungs and blood circulation and may increase incidence of cancer. It is important when using butterbur then to first check for indications that the PAs have first been chemically removed.
You should not use butterbur if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, allergic to ragweed, daises, marigolds or other herbs, or if you have existing liver conditions.