The plants commonly referred to as Butterbur are found in the daisy family Asteraceae in the genus Petasites. They are mostly quite robust plants with thick, creeping underground rhizomes and large Rhubarb-like leaves during the growing season. Another common name for many species of this genus is Sweet Coltsfoot.
The short spikes of flowers are produced just before the leaves in spring, emerging with only a few elongated basal bracts and are usually green, flesh coloured or dull white depending on species.
Butterburs are found in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere. They prefer moist environments such as riverbanks, marshes and ditches.
Petasites is very closely related to the genus Tussilago (Coltsfoot), and also related to the huge genus Senecio.
Butterbur was used by native Americans as a remedy for headache and inflammation. Some Butterbur contains petasin and isopetasin, with the highest concentrations occurring in the root. Butterbur has been reported to be effective in reducing the occurrence or severity of migraine headaches.
Several mainstream double-blind studies have shown that extracts of Butterbur petasin and/or isopetasin are effective both in preventing and in relieving migraine, with the best results coming in more severe cases. Additionally, a peer-reviewed journal published a Swiss study showing Butterbur extract to be an effective treatment for hay fever without the sedative effect of the antihistamine cetirizine .
Butterbur naturally contains components called pyrrolizidine alkaloids. They are toxic to the liver and may cause cancers. The concentrations are often highest in the rhizomes and stalks, and lowest in the leaves, and may vary depending on where the plants are grown. Butterbur extract should be taken only when prepared by a reputable laboratory. Long-term health effects and interaction with other drugs have not been studied.
See Also: grand opening flower, grand opening flowers, carnation