Now that winter has arrived in many states and provinces, a lot of people will find that, along with the colder weather come allergies to dust and mites aggravated by dry air. It’s great to see the outside air clear of pollution and smog, but unfortunately indoor air can now become stale and stripped of any humidity.
Allergens such as dust that thrive in dry air can create some chronic, irritating symptoms that can put a damper on your well-being. You might resort to grabbing some allergy medication from the pharmacy, but why not consider some alternative treatments? They could offer some relief without the common side effects of antihistamines. Here is one you might not have heard of: butterbur.
Butterbur is a member of the daisy family. Butterbur (“Petasites hybridus”) has a lot of different names, including blatterdock, bog rhubarb, bogshorns, butterdock, butterfly dock, capdockin, flapperdock, langwort, and umbrella leaves. Historically, butterbur has been used to relieve spasms and pain in the urinary tract, in addition to easing muscle cramps. Recently, it has been adopted as an allergy remedy.
It seems that a particular ingredient in butterbur — the “petasins” (which are extracted from the herb) — bind to histamine. It is the release of histamines in the body that causes allergic reactions.
A Swiss research team recently investigated the ability of butterbur extract to have “leukotriene”-inhibiting properties. Leukotrienes are fatty molecules in your immune system that contribute to inflammation in asthma and bronchitis. In fact, leukotriene antagonists are used to treat these two conditions.
The researchers examined the effects of butterbur extract in mice. They found that butterbur inhibited airway hyper-responsiveness. The herbal extract also caused less inflammation and mucus production in the lungs of the mice. The researchers concluded that butterbur inhibits leukotriene activity, thereby reducing allergic airway inflammation and hyper-responsiveness.
A typical dose of butterbur is 50 milligrams, twice a day with food. Some recommend taking the supplement for about four to six months, and then slowly tapering off. One note of caution: butterbur that contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids must be avoided look for labels that state unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids), as these are toxic to your liver and kidneys.
Remember to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any herbal medications.