Butterbur is a natural antihistamine, that has been used for years in Europe. It is effective for treating allergy symptoms and migraine headaches. Since the allergy season has already started, this is a good herb to highlight.
Butterbur has been used in Europe since 1972 for migraines, where it is sold under a special formulation called petadolex [www.petadolex.com]. Its use for migraines is well-researched and documented. It has proven to be safe, even in the treatment of children. There are certain precautions, however. There is a government warning about the use of the raw, unprocessed herb.
The raw, unprocessed butterbur plant contains chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). PAs can cause liver damage and can result in serious illness. Only butterbur products that have been processed to remove PAs and are labeled or certified as PA-free should be used.
Petalodex and most supplements sold in the U.S. should be marked PA-free, but check the labels.
In recent years, butterbur has been studied for its effectiveness in the treatment of allergies, asthma and other sinus conditions. While there is still not enough evidence to warrant its use for asthma, there does appear to be benefits for allergy sufferers. A review of research literature by the NCCAM (a division of the National Institutes for Health) founded that:
in a clinical trial of 125 participants, butterbur was just as effective as a commonly used oral antihistamine for allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes.
Butterbur would be a good herb to look at for antihistamine action, but for allergies it should ideally be combined with quercetin, other anti-inflammatory herbs and decongestant herbs, like mint.