Herb of the month: Butterbur, the allergy fighter

Those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies know that fall can be just as miserable as spring. The major cause of allergies in autumn is weed pollen from plants including ragweed, sagebrush, pigweed, tumbleweed (Russian thistle) and cocklebur [1]. In some places in the world, trees pollinate in the fall as well as spring.

Butterbur, a shrub that grows in wet, marshy ground, is named for its wide leaves that were used to wrap butter in warm weather. It’s widely used to ease allergic reactions, both internally and topically. [2] Butterbur stabilizes the cells that produce histamine, so it’s a great choice for people who suffer from seasonal allergies; it also has been shown to greatly reduce migraine frequency, according to Neurology. [3]

And science backs up the efficacy of butterbur for allergies: A National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) study found that butterbur was just as effective as a commonly used oral antihistamine for symptoms such as itchy eyes – without the side effects. The NCCAM also cites studies showing that it works to improve migraine and nasal symptoms. Butterbur is widely used internally to treat pain, anxiety fever and gastrointestinal and urinary tract conditions, and topically to improve wound healing. [2]

Look for products such as Petadolex that are free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (potentially toxic compounds). And do watch for allergic reactions to the plant itself: Butterbur may cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to plants such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies.



2. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/butterbur

3. The Doctor’s Book of Natural Health Remedies [Galvanized Press/Random House, 2014]

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