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Butterbur – (Petasites vulgaris)


Butterbur is a small plant that spreads by rhizomes. Short flower spikes bloom before the large rhubarb-like leaves appear in spring. The flowers are either male or female. The name supposedly came from the practice of using the large leaves to wrap butter with during hot weather. The herb grows in temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. They like moist areas like marshes, ditches and riverbanks.


Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Butterbur has been proven effective for migraine headaches. When taken as a prophylactic, it can reduce the frequency, strength and duration of these headaches. This plant has also been used for centuries to treat whooping cough and bronchial asthma. It is an anti-inflammatory, and eases the inflammation of the bronchial tubes during asthma attacks. It is also an antispasmodic. This quality makes butterbur effective for gastrointestinal problems like stomach cramps.

Butterbur has been used for these ailments since the Middle Ages. Colic, plague, fever and bile flow obstructions all respond to the herbl remedy. Studies are also showing that the herb is also effective for hay fever and it does not have the sedative effect of most antihistamines. In these studies, it worked as well as fexofenadine to relieve nasal congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing and other symptoms of hay fever. Traditional uses included making the entire plant into a demulcent to soothe dry coughs.

Externally – Not used externally

Herbs to Combine/Supplement

This herb is sometimes combined with feverfew to treat headaches.

Parts Used

Root – The root of the plant is used to make medicinal herbal remedies.


Large doses of butterbur may inhibit the production of testosterone. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid. There are no known interactions with prescription medications or over-the-counter remedies. The herb contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are toxic to the liver and may cause cancer, however commercial preparations should have removed these toxins.

Side effects of may include headache, fatigue, itchy eyes, drowsiness, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. If you are allergic to ragweed, you may actually have a worse allergic reaction when you take butterbur. If you are sensitive to marigolds, chrysanthemums or daisies, do not use.

Preparation and Dosage

Commercially prepared remedies are considered safe and are available as tablets, teas, capsules and extracts. Follow the instructions on the label. Standard dosages range from 50 to 100 mg twice a day at mealtime. For migraines, butterbur is taken prophylactically. The herb should b taken every day for four to six months then tapered off until migraine occurrence begins to increase again.

Butterbur Herbal Remedies Top