Using Butterbur Extract to Ease Your Allergy & Asthma Symptoms

Eu Natural
March 22, 2018
Fact checked
Dr. Stephanie Nichols, ND

When it comes to allergy and asthma treatments, many people think they only have one real choice: medications, whether they be over-the-counter or prescription. But the truth is, there are many different all-natural supplements, herbs, and alternative treatment methods that can provide real, science-backed relief. Keep in mind, asthma can be life threatening, so never stop or change your prescriptions without the guidance of your doctor.

One of these is butterbur. Most likely, you’ve never heard of this herb – yet it continually proves to be just as effective as many medical counterparts in scientific studies.


The amazing thing about butterbur is it helps the symptoms of both allergies (hay fever) and asthma – conditions that so often go hand-in-hand and even feed off each other.

Let’s dive in and learn more about butterbur and the effect of butterbur on our airways.

What Is butterbur?

Butterbur is an herb that comes from a shrub grown throughout the world, normally in wet and marshy areas. Traditionally, people would use the plant’s leaves during seasons of warm weather to keep butter from melting – hence, the name.

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For centuries, people have been using butterbur to combat very serious conditions like fever, wounds – and even the plague. Today, it’s still being used for a wide variety of health problems – predominantly migraines, urinary tract issues, stomach problems – and, of course, allergies and asthma.

These medical uses of the plant come from a mixture of root, stem, and leaves.

Some of the chemical compounds in butterbur are anti-inflammatory in nature (which is essential for both allergy and asthma symptom improvement).

Butterbur and Allergies


First let’s take a peek at butterbur’s effect on allergies. Luckily, we have quite a few well-respected studies on the way butterbur treats allergy symptoms. Here’s the rundown:

Two separate double blind studies have compared butterbur’s effectiveness against two popular antihistamines used for treating allergies, respectively: Zyrtec and Allegra.

The Zyrtec study concluded that both Zyrtec and butterbur help allergy symptoms equally well. But the Zyrtec created far more negative side effects (like drowsiness).

The Allegra study compared Allegra, butterbur, and a placebo. Just like the previous comparison, the researchers discovered that butterbur was just as effective as the Allegra. Unsurprisingly, both of these treatment groups did better than the placebo group… which brings us to one more double-blind study…

Researchers gave one group of allergy sufferers a placebo pill. The others either received two or three butterbur tablets each day. Everyone receiving butterbur had better results than the placebo group. But those who took butterbur three times a day had even better results than those who took it twice.

As you can see, relying only on medications may not be necessary when all-natural butterbur can be just as effective.

Butterbur and Asthma

Next up we will look at butterbur’s effect on asthma.

One study looked at 64 adults and 16 kids/teenagers who had asthma. For two months, they were given the butterbur extract. For the next two months, they could decide whether or not they wanted to take it. While participating in this study, the patients were allowed to take other asthma medications as needed.

Here is a rundown of the results:

  • The number of asthma attacks decreased
  • The length of time of the asthma attacks decreased
  • The severity of the asthma attacks decreased
  • Peak flow and forced expiratory volume improved
  • Over 40% of participants who were using asthma medications reduced their use

The researchers concluded that butterbur extract is “an effective and safe therapy for the treatment of asthma.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that butterbur can take the place of the rescue inhaler – it won’t save you from an asthma attack that’s in progress. But it could mean that you wouldn’t have to use your inhaler as frequently. Never stop using your current asthma medications or change your medications without the advice of your healthcare provider.

Will Butterbur Harm My Liver?

You may have heard that you shouldn’t take butterbur because it can damage your liver or cause you other terrible health problems. But these issues don’t come from butterbur itself, it comes from chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) that can show up during processing. Not only can they harm your liver, they can harm your lungs and even cause cancer.

Many companies make sure to never include them. So be sure that you only choose a butterbur extract that is either marked “PA-Free” or “pyrrolizidine alkaloids free.” That way you and your liver can enjoy the benefits of butterbur without any bad side effects.

While taking butterbur, be on the lookout for gastrointestinal problems – that’s often your first clue that PAs are in your butterbur. You’ll need to stop immediately.

If you have liver disease or have any other concerns about taking the supplement in general, always contact your doctor before taking butterbur to make sure he or she approves of it and can monitor your health.

Should everyone take Butterbur? 


Most people who choose butterbur should have no problems with the herb, but a few groups should speak to a doctor first:

  • Children: While some children are treated with butterbur, it absolutely needs to be under the care and attention of a qualified healthcare provider
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Butterbur is considered “likely unsafe” for these women, so you may want to wait until your baby is weaned
  • Those with ragweed allergies: Anybody who is allergic to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, etc. may also be allergic to butterbur because it’s in the same family

Add Butterbur To Your Holistic Allergy Approach

By now, you probably realize this herb is a must-have solution for your seasonal or chronic allergies and/or asthma problems. But don’t think it is the only all-natural substance that can help you out.

One of the most effective ways to attack allergies and asthma is to join up some of the top-performing ingredients together. Outside of butterbur, this can include:

  • Quercetin: Can block allergens
  • Nettle Extract: Inhibits inflammation associated with allergies
  • Coleus Forskohlii Extract: Acts like an antihistamine
  • N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine: Improves respiratory issues
  • Vitamin D: Is important for inflammation reduction

Of course combining these supplements with other natural alternatives like a neti pot or chiropractic care may breathe optimal help and symptom improvement.

Breathing Easy With Butterbur

Taking butterbur may be a wonderful step for anybody who suffers from allergies and/or asthma. The studies have clearly shown it is an effective treatment for most people without any nasty side effects.

Of course, always be super conscious about buying a PA-Free brand. (Just go with Eu Natural to be safe!)


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