Butterbur can be found growing along rivers, ditches, and marshy areas in northern Asia, Europe, and parts of North America. It sends up stalks of reddish flowers very early in spring, before producing very large heart-shaped leaves with a furry gray underside. Once the leaves appear, butterbur somewhat resembles rhubarb—one of its common names is bog rhubarb. It is also sometimes referred to as "umbrella leaves" due to the size of its foliage. Other more or less descriptive common names abound, including blatterdock, bogshorns, butter-dock, butterly dock, capdockin, flapperdock, and langwort.
Butterbur is often described as possessing an unpleasant smell, but being malodorous has not protected it from harvesting by humans. The plant has a long history of use as an anti-spasmodic, thought to be effective for such conditions as stomach cramps, whooping cough, and asthma.
Externally, butterbur has been applied as a poultice over wounds or skin ulcerations.
What Is Butterbur Used for Today?
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Butterbur?
Two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies suggest that butterbur extract may be helpful for preventing migraines, although the optimum dosage is not clear.
The results were positive: both the number of migraine attacks and the total number of days of migraine pain were significantly reduced in the treatment group as compared to the placebo group. Three out of four individuals taking butterbur reported improvement, as compared to only one out of four in the placebo group. No significant side effects were noted.
Based on these two studies, it does appear that butterbur extract is helpful for preventing migraines, and that 75 mg twice daily is more effective than 50 mg twice daily. However, further research is necessary to establish this with certainty.
Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
Warning : Use of any butterbur product that contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids is definitely not recommended.
Butterbur should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with severe kidney or liver disease, until further safety testing has been performed.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -