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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
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.
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.
June 4, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
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