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Butterbur & Feverfew

By Adele M. Gill

Butterbur is also known as bog rhubarb, petasites plague root and umbrella leaves. Feverfew is called Tanacetum parthenium, and both herbal plants are purportedly used for treating a variety of conditions. According to the Diabetes Information Library, butterbur is indigenous to Europe, Asia and North America. Feverfew is commonly found in Europe, North America and Australia. Treatments made from butterbur and feverfew primarily utilize the leaves of the plants for medicinal purposes.


According to an article published online by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, or MSKCC, butterbur is often used to treat asthma, allergies, rhinitis or runny nose, headache, pain and urinary spasms that cause urinary incontinence. Butterbur’s antispasmodic properties are said to effectively compare to those of antihistamines. According to an article on the website of the University of Maryland, feverfew is also used to treat migraines, vasoconstriction and spasms, and asthma, but also is used to help to treat arthritis, fevers, menstrual irregularity and gastric upset such as nausea and vomiting.

Side Effects

Butterbur has fewer side effects than feverfew, but it has one major one. It may cause liver damage, according to an article published online by MSKCC. Side effects of feverfew include gastric upset with nausea and vomiting, nervousness and anxiety, abdominal pain and increased bleeding tendencies. Of particular concern is the fact that feverfew may be addictive, and rapid cessation of its use may cause withdrawal symptoms.


According to the National Institutes of Health, butterbur is available in leaf, extract and capsule forms. Recommended dosage for butterbur is 50 milligrams two times per day, while feverfew is 100 to 300 milligrams up to four times per day.

Expert Insight

As with any medicinal herb, research is important to establish the safety and efficacy of the treatments. In one study of butterbur at the Nine Weeks Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, Scotland, by D.K. Lee et al., 16 patients with allergic rhinitis received either 50 milligrams of butterbur two times per day, fexofenadine 180 milligrams once a day or a placebo daily for one week. The study found a significant decrease in overall nasal symptoms in those treated with both butterbur and fexofenadine. According to an article posted by MSKCC, in a double-blind, randomized study on feverfew by J.J. Murphy et al., feverfew was found to significantly decrease the number of migraines as well as nausea and vomiting associated with them, and was found to be safe and effective in preventing migraines.


Special caution should be taken whenever taking herbal supplements, and consumption of herbal medicines should be under the supervision of a licensed physician. Both butterbur and feverfew should not be given to children as the safety has not yet been established. According to MSKCC, it is important to know that butterbur may cause liver damage in some people. Also, with feverfew, according to the University of Maryland, it is important to know that it may be addictive and should not be stopped abruptly. Feverfew may also cause mouth sores as it is very acidic and should only be taken in capsule form.

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