Life Extension Magazine March 2006
What Europeans Are Doing to Limit Migraine Frequency
By Russell Martin
Relief for Respiratory, Gastrointestinal Conditions
The ability of butterbur’s active ingredient petasin to quell smooth muscle spasms in vascular walls (which may contribute to migraine) allows it to similarly benefit other parts of the body, thereby mitigating disorders unrelated to migraine.2,30
In Europe, butterbur extract is commonly used to battle allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and studies have confirmed its efficacy, both compared to a commonly used prescription medication and in a double- blind, placebo-controlled study. When butterbur extract was compared with Zyrtec®, the brand name of the anti-allergy prescription medication cetirizine, researchers determined that both compounds were equally effective in limiting sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy nose, and itchy eyes. Among the 131 patients studied over two weeks, half took butterbur extract to relieve their symptoms and the other half took cetirizine. The researchers believe that petasin in butterbur extract proved efficacious by limiting histamine and leukotriene, which promote inflammation and mucous secretions, and by dilating constricted airways to ease breathing.30
Butterbur leaves and root have been used for centuries to manage bronchial asthma and whooping cough. A recent Scottish study showed that the anti-inflammatory action of 25 mg of butterbur extract taken twice daily significantly improved out-breath volume in asthma patients who regularly treat their symptoms with inhaled corticosteroids. The investigators noted that butterbur complemented the activity of the corticosteroids and showed a superior effect compared to placebo.31
Furthermore, in a German open trial, 80 asthma sufferers who took 50 mg of butterbur extract three times a day saw the number, duration, and severity of their asthma attacks decrease during an eight-week study period. The study authors speculated that butterbur extract may be effective both as a stand-alone asthma treatment and in combination with other asthma medications.32
Historically, butterbur has been used as a folk medicine for various gastrointestinal disorders, particularly digestive tract spasms associated with colic and bile flow obstruction. A contemporary German study found butterbur extract can block ethanol-induced damage to the stomach and reduce ulcerations in the small intestine.33 German researchers are studying butterbur’s potential applications in controlling spasms of the urogenital tract, which can contribute to urinary urgency and incontinence. They believe that butterbur may prove effective in managing these disorders.34
As more and more research documenting butterbur’s ability to reduce migraine attacks comes to light, thousands of sufferers are turning to this herbal extract as a safe, effective, and natural way to limit the crippling effects of migraine headaches.
Since its clinical use began in Germany in 1985, nearly half a million people have been treated with standardized butterbur extract, with significant success and virtually no side effects.13 Investigators in Europe and North America are testing butterbur’s applications in managing various disorders like hay fever, gastrointestinal conditions, and urogenital disorders. Butterbur thus appears to be a promising natural remedy for many common health complaints.
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