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Butterbur for Migraines

Topic Overview

Petasites hybridus plant extract, known as butterbur, has been used for years to prevent migraine headaches. Studies show it is effective at reducing the frequency of migraines.1

Experts are not sure what causes migraines or how butterbur helps to prevent them. But some research suggests that it may prevent swelling and relieve pressure on the blood vessels. Another theory is that it may affect calcium channels, which experts also believe may be related to migraines. More research is needed to find out how butterbur helps prevent migraines.

Butterbur is available as a supplement (tablet or capsule). It is marketed under the brand name Petadolex. It is important to find butterbur that has been standardized (which means you receive the same amount of active ingredient in every dose) with guaranteed potency. Do not consume butterbur from the plant itself because it has toxic properties, which are removed in the standardized supplement.

Some people may experience stomach upset, including gas, when they take butterbur. It is not recommended for young children or for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Be sure to tell your doctor before you take butterbur. Like any drug, it can interact with other medicines you are taking or affect your health in ways you may not be aware of.

References

Citations

  1. Holland S, et al. (2012). Evidence-based guideline update: NSAIDs and other complementary treatments for episodic migraine prevention in adults: Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. Neurology, 78(17): 1346–1353.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
Last Revised June 4, 2013

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