(Petasites hydridus)

Butterbur is a woodland plant that is a member of the daisy family. It grows freely in damp conditions throughout Europe and the British Isles. Petasites means “large brimmed hat”, which is the best way to describe the large, round leaves. The root and leaves are used in herbal medicine.

Traditionally the entire plant was used as a demulcent to soothe a dry, spasmodic cough. It was primarily made into a tea, and used only for short periods of time. Using the herb as a tea may have helped reduce the liver’s exposure to butterbur’s toxic compounds, as they are not normally water soluble.

What it does

Although Petasites contains many sesquiterpene lactones, one, known as petasin, is thought to give this herb its potent anti-spasmodic and pain relieving properties. Petasites/Butterbur also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, volatile oil, pectin, mucilage and inulin.

Potential Uses

Hayfever Migraine Asthma
Back and neck pain/spasms Menstrual cramping Muscle spasms
Stomach pain Gastritis Pain relief

Other information

Petasites/Butterbur has been used traditionally for asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, fevers, colds, skins problems, urinary inflammation and gall bladder complaints.


High doses should be avoided due to the pyrrolizidine alkaloids content of this herb. Do not take whilst pregnant or breastfeeding.

Petasites/Butterbur should not be used by children under 12 except under supervision of a qualified herbalist.

Petasites/Butterbur may interact with tranquilisers, barbiturates and anti-depressants. It may delay or decrease the action of anti-bacterial drugs such as nalixidic acid and sulphonamides. It is best not to take it if you are using these medicines.

Petasites/Butterbur may increase the action of pain relieving drugs so reducing the need for these drugs. Always discuss this with your doctor.

At the time of writing there were no other well-known side effects or drug interactions with butterbur.


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