Butterbur - Natural Remedy for Migraines, Asthma and Allergies
Butterbur is a common name for the plants belonging to the Petasites genus. These perennials belong to the Asteraceae (daisy) family and are characterized by massive underground rhizomes and large leaves (up to three feet) that often cover poultry in the meadows from rain and sun. The flowers usually appear before the foliage in spring, and are of green, white, or pink-lilac color. Each flower is located on its own stock, which in their turn are clustered in spikes. The leaves appear in April, after the flowers decay, and they change their color from white when young, to gray when they mature and the covering disappears from their upper part.
The size of the leaves made it useful as a head cover, which gave the butterbur its derived generic name. “Petasus” is a Greek word for a broad felt hat worn by shepherds, hence “Petasites” as the name of the genus. Plant's common name “butterbur” is referred to the other function of the leaves: they were used to wrap butter for preserving it and keeping it cool.
Native to Europe, butterbur is also found in Scandinavia, some parts of Asia and North America. Due to the space and light consuming habits, butterbur grows with no other plants around where its leaves are. Plant's common habitats include meadows, shades by the waterways, flood plains, marshes, and other damp areas. It also favors clay soil and sandy loam.
The rhizome of the plant is considered to possess most of the beneficial properties associated with butterbur. It contains bitter resinous juice and has an unpleasant taste. Leaves are used for the herbal extract working against the allergies.
In some cultures seeds of butterbur are believed to have love divination properties and are used for rituals by young women.
The most common pharmaceutical form butterbur is being released in is the supplement called Petadolex. These are the butterbur gelcaps produced for relieving migraine symptoms. Raw butterbur extract shouldn't be used in any preparations due to the high toxicity of its pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
The major active chemical in butterbur is petasin. It provides an inhibitory action on the leukotriene and histamine. The former is responsible for the allergic reactions in human body, when the blood vessels are dilated and get permeable causing such symptoms as rhinitis and sneezing. The latter causes inflammation and provokes the symptoms of asthma and hay fever.
Astralagin and isoquercitrin are flavonoid glycosides found among the other important chemicals in the herb. They provide anti-depressant properties for the human central nervous system.
Butterbur is a plant with an old history of use. In 16th century it was described as an “plaque flower” due to being effective in treating this disease. Native Americans used butterbur root for inflammation, hay fever and headaches and these properties are still known in modern herbal medicine.
Medical studies have proved that butterbur extracts help both in prevention and treatment of migraine, especially its severe cases and with fewer side effects (e.g. sedative) than in typical headache preparations. This action is supposedly achieved by relieving pressure on blood vessels and affecting calcium channels. An important feature of the herb's anti-migraine action is that it can be used in adolescence and even children, both for prophylactic and treatment.
Butterbur has also shown positive results in treating allergic rhinitis. Several studies prove that its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties act against leukocyte buildup, and other studies connect its effectiveness with antihistamine properties.
Anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic effects are also working on helping in patients with asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory disorders. Therapeutic effects of petasin are applicable for such conditions as kidney stones, menstrual cramps, urinary disorders, and gastrointestinal problems (ulcers in particular) - associated with muscle spasms and inflammation.
In addition, petasin is known to provide hypotensive actions and strenghten cardiac tissue.
Also, anti-oxidant and properties associated with butterbur have been noted in several studies.
Due to the high toxicity, butterbur should only be consumed processed and purchased from the authorized dealers.
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