Butterbur: An alternate therapy for headache and allergic reactions?

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What’s butterbur?

Butterbur is a plant that grows in Europe and in some elements of Asia and North America. The leaves of the plant had been historically used to wrap and shield butter in heat climates. That is the place its title comes from.3

All through historical past, notably within the Center Ages and throughout the 17th century, butterbur has been used to deal with all kinds of illnesses. Throughout that point, it was used to deal with fevers, coughs, bronchial asthma, pores and skin situations, and the plague.3

Within the current day, there may be specific curiosity in using butterbur for migraines and different complications, allergic rhinitis, and different allergy signs.3

Advantages of butterbur

In a time when different cures have grow to be exceedingly frequent, everyone seems to be in search of the following plant with potential. Contemplating butterbur’s historical past of medicinal use, there isn’t a marvel that folks want to this shrub subsequent. 

Some potential advantages of butterbur embrace lowering the frequency of migraines, enhancing signs of allergic rhinitis, and the therapy of hysteria and melancholy in folks with specific psychiatric problems.3-4 Analysis has been achieved into every of those potential advantages and on the plant as an entire. It has been discovered that butterbur comprises some compounds that do have medicinal results on the physique.4

Butterbur for migraine

Migraines are recurrent, throbbing complications which might be usually accompanied by nausea and visible disturbances.6 These affected can face debilitating ache and will discover it tough to hold out their day-to-day actions. Migraines usually run in households and might have an effect on each adults and kids. 

There’s some proof that butterbur, and its extracts, activate a sure protein channel in human cells, which may lower irritation in nerves.2 It’s believed that that is how butterbur has historically relieved migraine and headaches in some folks.

Current analysis has discovered that butterbur might have a spot as part of a holistic method to the prevention of migraines.6

Butterbur for allergic reactions and allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a situation attributable to allergens. Some folks check with it as “allergic reactions”. Allergic rhinitis might contain sneezing, runny or stuffy nostril, or teary and itchy eyes. It typically seems seasonally, in tandem with the expansion of a person’s allergic triggers.Very similar to with migraines, the severity of allergic rhinitis might range and a few folks might discover that the situation is so extreme that it interferes considerably with their day-to-day lives.

Analysis has discovered that the leaves and roots of butterbur include naturally occurring compounds which have medicinal results. These compounds are known as petasins.4

When extracted and in contrast in opposition to a placebo in a double-blind medical trial, considered one of these petasins has been discovered to have vital results in lowering the severity of allergic rhinitis. It’s believed that these petasins exhibit an anti-inflammatory impact, thereby lowering the physique’s allergic response. Nonetheless, this mechanism isn’t but totally understood.4

Additional research are wanted to show using butterbur for allergic rhinitis, as conclusive proof has been arduous to return by.1

Cautions and issues

Butterbur is so widely known that in 2012 its use was advisable by the American Academy of Neurology to stop migraines in adults and kids. Nonetheless, this advice was discontinued in 2015 as butterbur was discovered to have doable poisonous results on the liver.These security issues have led to additional evaluation of using butterbur as different drugs. 

It has been discovered that some merchandise containing butterbur embrace poisonous compounds known as pyrrolizidine-alkaloids (PAs). These compounds can have many unfavourable results on the physique, together with injury to the liver, lungs, and blood vessels. They could additionally trigger most cancers.5

Thankfully, PA-free butterbur merchandise do exist. These merchandise have been deemed secure by some research when taken for a interval of as much as 16-weeks.6

Nonetheless, some merchandise labeled as PA-free have examined constructive for the poisonous chemical. As well as, the long-term use of butterbur has not been extensively studied. PA-free butterbur merchandise might have some gentle uncomfortable side effects, together with itchy eyes, diarrhea, fatigue, upset abdomen, and drowsiness.1

These with allergic reactions to some crops might also discover that they’re allergic to butterbur. Specifically, people who find themselves allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, daisies, and marigolds must be cautious.3

Those that are pregnant and breastfeeding ought to keep away from using butterbur merchandise solely. There’s a threat of start defects and liver injury for PA-containing merchandise and PA-free merchandise haven’t been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding populations.3

Like with any treatment, different or in any other case, you should definitely focus on butterbur along with your healthcare supplier. Your healthcare supplier might tailor your plans to assist obtain your well being targets. You possibly can work collectively to find out the right therapy plan for you.


  1. Bayram A, Cingi C, Friedman O. Complementary and different drugs in allergic rhinitis. Challenges in Rhinology. 2020:109-119. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-50899-9_13 
  2. Benemei S, De Logu F, Li Puma S, et al. The anti-migraine part of butterbur extracts, isopetasin, desensitizes peptidergic nociceptors by performing on Trpa1 cation channel. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2017;174(17):2897-2911. doi:10.1111/bph.13917 
  3. Butterbur. Nationwide Heart for Complementary and Integrative Well being. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/well being/butterbur. Accessed February 16, 2022. 
  4. Schapowal A. Butterbur ZE339 for the therapy of intermittent allergic rhinitis. Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgical procedure. 2004;130(12):1381. doi:10.1001/archotol.130.12.1381
  5. Sutherland A, Candy BV. Butterbur: An alternate remedy for migraine prevention. American Journal of Well being-System Pharmacy. 2010;67(9):705-711. doi:10.2146/ajhp090136 
  6. Wells RE, Beuthin J, Granetzke L. Complementary and integrative drugs for episodic migraine: An replace of proof from the final 3 years. Present Ache and Headache Studies. 2019;23(2). doi:10.1007/s11916-019-0750-8

Photograph by Artem Podrez from Pexels


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