Butterbur is an herb instrumental in enhancing health for millennia. During the outbreak of the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages, Europeans used it to counter the effects of the ravaging epidemic. This extract shows a remarkable ability to help relieve allergy and asthma symptoms, prevent migraines and headaches, and reduce inflammation and muscle spasms. It can protect the heart and brain and alleviate stomach ulcers and bladder issues. Butterbur extract offers lasting relief as effectively as some pharmaceutical medications, without the negative side effects typical of drugs.
Butterbur, Petasites hybridus, is a perennial shrub related to the sunflower, safflower, marigold, dandelion, thistle, and artichoke. It goes by many other names including butter dock, coltsfoot, bog rhubarb, and exwort. Once, people used the plant's large, round leaves to wrap butter, hence its name. Butterbur appears in Europe, Asia, and North America. Its leaves, stems, and rhizomes contain unique compounds that herbalists can extract and sell as over-the-counter supplements. Formulations include soft capsules, tinctures, powders, and teas.
Allergic rhinitis or hay fever produces symptoms such as nasal congestion, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing. These conditions result from the release of histamines in the body. Clinical studies have documented butterbur's antihistamine properties, which appear to reduce symptoms dramatically. The extract shows significant effectiveness rivaling that of cetirizine in treating seasonal allergies, with fewer adverse side effects than the drug.
Chronic inflammation gradually wears down the body and renders it vulnerable to many distresses and serious diseases. Extensive studies suggest butterbur extract induces an almost immediate anti-inflammatory effect in the body. The supplement shows remarkable promise in reducing symptoms of inflammation, including:
The University of Michigan Health System reports that consuming butterbur extract can facilitate airflow to the lungs. The herb has expectorant properties that help the expulsion of phlegm and mucus from the nasal cavities and respiratory tracts. Eliminating the buildup of these substances inhibits the growth of bacteria, thereby helping prevent or reduce the severity of the common cold and flu.
Some studies suggest including butterbur in traditional treatment may improve asthma symptoms that affect about 300 million people worldwide. A German study conducted in 2004 noted a significant decrease in the number, duration, and severity of asthma attacks following dosages of butterbur extract. Another South Korean study found the herb contains anti-inflammatory agents that may effectively treat asthma.
Butterbur extract is most popular as a treatment for headaches and migraines. It contains the compounds petasin and isopetasin, which researchers have linked directly to the reduction of the symptoms, severity, and duration of migraines. Research indicates the herb's anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsive properties can reduce vasoconstriction in cerebral blood vessel walls and soothe pain receptors, providing considerable relief.
Butterbur contains analgesic and antispasmodic compounds. Research indicates oxopetasan and isopetasin esters in butterbur help suppress spasms in smooth muscle and vascular wall tissue. Small dosages of the extract may provide quick relief from urinary disorders, irritable bowels, menstrual cramps, bile flow obstruction, kidney stones, tremors, and chronic pain.
Butterbur extract has been touted as a remedy for gastrointestinal conditions for centuries. It shows immense effectiveness in preventing and treating gastric and skin ulcers. Research indicates phytonutrients promote an inflammation-reducing chemical balance in the stomach that encourages healing. A 1993 German study found the extract inhibited ethanol-induced gastric damage.
Researchers have yet to determine the long-term effects butterbur, so it is best to consult a physician if using the extract regularly and consider researching various brands to ensure the supplement is safe for consumption. The following dosage guidelines come from extensive clinical testing:
Butterbur extract has few reported adverse effects. In some cases, it may induce belching, itchy eyes, fatigue, and drowsiness. More serious side effects include jaundice, swelling of the abdomen, and chest pain. People who have liver dysfunction or liver disease should avoid this extract. Pregnant or nursing women and individuals sensitive to plants in the sunflower family should not consume butterbur extract. When choosing a supplement, ensure it is free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). These naturally occurring chemicals may cause serious harm such as liver, kidney and lung damage. For this reason, avoid raw, unprocessed butterbur products.
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