The name butterbur is commonly used for the plants of the genus, Petasites, which are the members of the daisy family or Asteraceae. The plants of this genus are characterized by large and soft leaves. They thrive in the moist environment of marshes, ditches, or riverbanks. The butterbur plant or common butterbur was used by the native Americans to prepare a herbal medicine for conditions like inflammation and headaches. Nowadays, this herb is known for several other medicinal properties and health benefits, which are discussed below.
Uses and Benefits
This herb is known for its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, expectorant, diuretic, and analgesic properties. It has been found to be effective in treating upset stomach, indigestion, gastrointestinal problems, and headaches, especially migraine headaches.
It can prove especially helpful in alleviating conditions afflicting the stomach, duodenum, and the bile ducts. Apart from these, this herb may be beneficial in several other health problems like cough, bronchitis, fever, pain, insomnia, asthma, hay fever, inflammation of the urinary tract, and whooping cough. It can also be used to stimulate appetite, and promote the healing of wounds and skin eruptions.
Possible Adverse Effects
Though this herb has several important health benefits, it can also have some potential side effects. It contains certain chemicals, known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can be carcinogenic. These alkaloids can also damage the liver.
However, the herbal products or supplements made from this plant usually do not contain these alkaloids, as these are removed during the manufacturing process. So, if you are considering to use butterbur products, be sure to purchase the pyrrolizidine alkaloid-free products, so as to avoid the side effects.
Some other possible side effects of this herb are, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, belching, constipation, and headache. Some people can also experience fatigue and drowsiness after taking it. In severe cases, it can cause asthma, jaundice, pain in the upper right portion of the chest, and swelling of the abdomen.
The long-term effects of this herb, as well as its interaction with different medications have not been studied extensively. This herb is related to the plants of the ragweed family, and so, people allergic to ragweed can develop an allergic reaction to butterbur as well.
Apart from ragweed, individuals allergic to marigold, daisy, and chrysanthemum need to avoid this herb. An allergic reaction to butterbur can manifest in itching, skin rash, hives, unusual swelling of the mouth, lips, or throat, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If you observe any of these signs, be sure to seek immediate medical attention.
The effects of this herb on pregnant and breastfeeding women have not been properly studied or evaluated. So, they should not take this herb and its preparations without consulting their health care provider. Even people with congestive heart failure, as well as those who are taking any kind of drugs or supplements for an underlying health condition, should always consult their physician before taking any such products. Lastly, any kind herbal products should be purchased only from a reliable and reputed manufacturer.
Disclaimer: This HolisticZine article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.