Butterbur (petasites hybridus) is an ancient plant that has been used for centuries to promote health in people suffering from migraines, allergies, and digestive disorders. Active ingredients petasin and isopetasin, especially concentrated in the butterbur root, provide the medicinal properties attributed to the purple butterbur flower, the spiky-leaved cousin of the daisy, or aster.

Butterbur grows in shaded, marshy areas around Europe and certain parts of Asia and North America. Native Americans once used the large heart-shaped leaves of the butterbur plant as a wrapping for butter, hence the name. Healers relied on the cuttings of “sweet coltsfoot” for treating an assortment of ailments; people suffering from frequent headaches, sinus pain, harsh coughs, and sore muscles benefited from treatments of curative butterbur.

Today, migraine sufferers continue to use butterbur for optimum health. Petasin and isopetasin combine to prevent the production of histamines, a common migraine trigger for many headache sufferers. Also, butterbur regulates leukotrienes, chemicals associated with painful inflammation, chest congestion, and narrowing of the nasal cavities. All in all, butterbur is the perfect health supplement for people suffering from migraines or chronic allergies.

Researchers are currently studying the effects of butterbur supplementation on chronic migraine patients, gaining more evidence every year. Clinical trials published in medical journals such as Neurology confirm significantly positive results in patients taking regimented doses of butterbur supplements, versus a placebo. Additionally, the effects of butterbur lasted for months, without providing negative side effects associated with most migraine preventive treatments.

Additionally, many scientists have recorded respiratory health benefits when butterbur supplements are given to people suffering from allergies such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis).

It’s important to note that not all varieties of butterbur root are safe- some contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), a toxic chemical released during processing which can damage the liver. Be on the alert for any butterbur products containing PAs, and only purchase from suppliers carrying “PA-free” butterbur, specifying that all pyrrolizidine alkaloids were removed during manufacturing.