Butterbur (Petasites) is a plant belonging to the group Asteraceae, which is the technical name for the sunflower and daisy family. They have big Rhubarb type leaves which in the past were used to wrap butter.
Butterbur extracts from the leaves, the root and the bulbs have been used for over 2000 years for medicinal purposes. It is thought to be a powerful anticonvulsant and is widely used to treat a number of aliments including stomach issues, problems with the bladder, coughs and fevers, pain and headaches, stress and insomnia, asthma and allergies and is also used as an appetite stimulant.
It is very important when using Butterbur supplements, to use only those certified as PA (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) free. PA is a powerful component that is present in Butterbur and can cause serious damage to the liver. Butterbur needs to be purified carefully to be considered safe for use.
Uses in migraines
In the prevention of recurring migraines, according to WebMD, certain extracts of Butterbur (taken orally), seem to help cut migraine attacks by around half and reduce the severity when they happen. Studies in Germany have concluded that after 12 weeks of treatment with 50mg of Butterbur extract twice a day, migraines in their participants were reduced by 49%.
How it works
Butterbur contains active components such as petasins, which encourage muscle relaxation, specifically in the blood vessel walls of the brain. This is what is thought brings about its headache preventative properties. It also seems to relieve pain and inflammation by inhibiting cyclooxygenase-2 activity.
For adults it has been recorded that taking between 50mg and 100mg twice a day with meals has been successful at migraine treatment and prevention. For children 6 years and over 25mg to 50mg has been used. It has been suggested to take the higher dose for up to 6 months and then begin reducing the amount until the migraines start to become more frequent. This is said to be how you find your individual ideal dose.
Other than the possible problems related to PA liver damage, Butterbur extract is generally considered safe for use among adults and children although it is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. There is a possibility it may cause gas, stomach upset and fatigue, and also people who are allergic to marigolds, daisies and ragweed should be cautious.
Butterbur extract may interfere with medications that target the liver so it is best to speak to your doctor before taking anything you are unsure about.
Butterbur seems to be working wonders for many chronic migraine sufferers. It is generally safe providing you use a good quality brand that has been thoroughly purified to remove PA. In recent years, the focus has shifted further towards more natural alternatives to prescription and over the counter medications. As long as you do your research and pay attention to your body’s reactions, there’s no reason that Butterbur can’t help you to claim back some of the normality of living a migraine free life.