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Butterbur Extract

Topic Overview

What is butterbur?

Butterbur extract, from the root of the butterbur shrub, was originally used in Europe in the Middle Ages to treat plague and fevers. Although we don't completely understand the benefits of butterbur, people frequently use it to treat coughs, asthma, headaches, and stomach ulcers. The scientific name for butterbur is Petasites hybridus.

What is butterbur used for?

People commonly use butterbur to treat coughs, asthma, hay fever, and stomach ulcers. Butterbur extract may prevent migraine headaches.1 Doctors do not know exactly how butterbur prevents migraines.

Butterbur is considered a dietary supplement in the United States and is available under the brand name Petadolex.

Is butterbur safe?

When used properly, butterbur extract is safe and well-tolerated. But it is not safe to use all formulas of butterbur extract, since the plant contains cancer-causing substances. Make sure you only use butterbur that has had the cancer-causing ingredients removed. Talk to your doctor before you take butterbur, and ask him or her to examine the specific brand you intend to use.

Side effects may include mild upset stomach and gas. Experts do not recommend butterbur extract for young children or women who are pregnant or nursing.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Lipton RB, et al. (2004). Petasites hybridus root (butterbur) is an effective preventive treatment for migraine. Neurology, 63(12): 2240–2244.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Last Revised June 11, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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