Butterbur grows throughout Europe and parts of Asia. It's also now found in parts of the US. Butterbur contains chemicals that might relieve spasms and decrease swelling.
Butterbur is used for migraine, hay fever, asthma, and many other conditions, but there is no strong scientific evidence to support most of these uses.
Some butterbur products may contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). These chemicals can harm the liver and cause serious side effects. Do not use butterbur products unless they are certified as free of PAs.
Safety Safety definitions
Some butterbur products may contain PAs. These products are likely unsafe. PAs can damage the liver and lungs and possibly cause cancer. Do not use butterbur products unless they are certified as free of PAs.
When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if butterbur is safe to use or what the side effects might be. Butterbur products that contain PAs are likely unsafe when applied to broken skin. Do not use butterbur products unless they are certified as free of PAs.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if butterbur is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Butterbur products that contain dangerous chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are likely unsafe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. PAs might cause birth defects and liver damage.
Children: Butterbur products that do not contain PAs are possibly safe when taken by mouth appropriately. There is some evidence that a specific PA-free butterbur rhizome extract (Petadolex, Weber & Weber, GmbH & Co) can be safely used for up to 4 months in children aged 6-17 years.
Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Butterbur may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking butterbur.
Liver disease: Butterbur might make liver disease worse. Don't take butterbur if you have liver disease.
- Hay fever. Taking a specific butterbur leaf extract called Ze 339 (Tesalin, Zeller AG) by mouth seems to decrease nose discomfort in people with hay fever. This extract might work as well as 10 mg daily of cetirizine (Zyrtec) or 180 mg daily of fexofenadine (Allegra). But this extract doesn't seem to improve airflow, nasal and eye symptoms, or quality of life when taken for 2 weeks.
- Migraine. Taking a specific butterbur root extract (Petadolex, Weber & Weber, GmbH & Co) by mouth over 16 weeks seems to help prevent migraines in both adults and children.
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis). Taking butterbur root extract by mouth doesn't reduce symptoms of eczema.
Dosing & administration
Some butterbur products may contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). These products are likely unsafe. Do not use butterbur products unless they are certified and labeled as free of PAs.
Interactions with pharmaceuticals
Medications that increase break down of other medications by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) inducers)
Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Butterbur is changed and broken down by the liver. Some drugs increase how quickly the liver changes and breaks down butterbur. This could change the effects and side effects of butterbur.
Interactions with herbs & supplements
Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs)-containing herbs and supplements: Butterbur contains PAs, dangerous chemicals that can harm the liver. Taking it along with other supplements that also contain these chemicals might increase the chance of developing serious side effects, including liver damage and cancer. Examples of supplements containing PAs include alkanna, coltsfoot, comfrey, and groundsel.