Butterbur (Petasites Hybidus)




Butterbur, or also known as, Petasites Hybidus, has been used medicinally for over two millennia. Although related to sunflowers, they have a very different structure and unique combination of chemicals that make the plant highly sought after. Green above and woolly gray below, the heart shaped leaves may reach nearly 3 feet in diameter on plants growing under ideal conditions on marshy ground.


Native Range

This plant is centered mostly in cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe, Asia, and North America.

Historical Facts

  • The ancient Greeks used Butterbur to treat asthma as well as relieve coughs and other respiratory conditons.
  • In medieval Europe, infusions of the roots or leaves were a remedy for treating hoarseness, bronchial infections, urinary tract complaints, expelling intestinal worms, as well as given to lower fever and calm intestinal ailments.
  • In the 1600s, fresh butterbur leaves went into poultices that were applied to swelling, painful joints, cramped muscles, rashes, wounds, and other irritations, and was even smoked to relieve nagging coughs.

Therapeutic Uses

  • As butterbur is an antihistamine substance, it naturally helps relieve coughs and various other respiratory conditions such as seasonal allergies (without the drowsiness or other side effects associated with taking antihistamines).  The compounds in the root appear to inhibit mast cells- a type of cell involved in nasal congestion and allergies.
  • As this plant is expectorant, it helps stimulate the expulsion of mucus and phlegm from the respiratory tract and nasal cavities.
  • The extraction of the gargantuan leaves and creeping rhizomes of this plant are sources of two chemical compounds, Petasin and Isopetasin, that are directly linked to reducing the duration, frequency and intensity of migraine headaches by as much as 50 percent.
  • Standard treatments are designed to control symptoms by calming sensitive nerve pathways and preventing spasms of the cranial blood vessels as well as future attacks due to it being a powerful immune booster.
  • Due to it’s immediate reduction to inflammation, butterbur can be used to reduce fevers and to ease irritation of the small intestine.


Overall Benefits

  • Migraines
  • Inflammation
  • Seasonal Allergies
  • Stomach Irritation
  • Urinary tract infections


  • Butterbur contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), a group of compounds that can be toxic to the liver. Only Products labeled “PA free” should be used. Butterbur extracts that are PA free appear to be quite safe when used as directed.
  • Use of Butterbur in pregnancy and lactation is discouraged.


“Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, Tirana Low Dog, David Kiefer. (2010) National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs. Washington DC: National Geographic Society.”

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