butterbur pink and white flower
[Petasites officinalis]

Butterbur: medicinal plant with a long tradition

Butterbur is a medicinal plant with a long history. Even the Romans used the plant to treat malignant ulcers. Then, in the Middle Ages, its effectiveness against the plague was attributed to it. Its current name comes from this period, without it ever being shown to have any effect against Yersinia pestis. Despite all this, today it is an important medicinal plant in the repertoire of phytotherapy and has its permanent place. However, its current range of applications no longer has much in common with the historical one.

Butterbur facts

Did you know that...

... butterbur was used in the Middle Ages to dispel the 'sickening' stench of plague?

... Petasites found in excavations dating back 4000 years and is believed to have been used as toilet paper?

... butterbur in alluvial soil stabilizes the banks of rivers and prevents them from slipping?

What is butterbur?

Butterbur is a plant that grows up to 60cm high and is best found on riverbanks. It loves moist soils and can handle floods very well. In spring, a solitary stem with flowers first grows skyward until the huge leaves follow. The leaves of the butterbur are up to 60cm in diameter and in large butterbur groups they cover whole areas with their canopy. The undersides of the leaves are gray and felt-like hairy and look very similar to rhubarb. Therefore, the butterbur is also called 'wild rhubarb', but unlike the latter, petasites is not suitable for consumption.

General and medicinal properties of butterbur

The basic knowledge


Butterbur is antispasmodic. It has a relaxing effect on smooth muscles and is therefore used for cramps in the digestive tract, period cramps or spasmodic asthma. Its active ingredients relax the muscles and cramping stops.

Promotes blood circulation

Petasites stimulates blood circulation. Due to the fact that blood vessels also have muscles, they can spasm and blood circulation deteriorates. Butterbur relaxes the muscles of the blood vessels so that the blood can flow normally again and all structures can be supplied with oxygen.


Butterbur is analgesic. Many pains are caused by tense muscles. Everyone knows this from the neck muscles. Butterbur relaxes the muscles and the pain disappears.


Butterbur is anti-allergic. Very good effect has been observed in hay fever. The flowing of the nose and itching subside and hay fever loses its annoying symptoms. One can breathe again without worries and is fit again.

Petasites officinalis: Ingredients

Butterbur contains, among other things, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are suspected of being carcinogenic. In finished medicines, these are removed. Therefore, it is advisable to use only finished medicines.

You can find the following ingredients in butterbur:

  • Sesquiterpenes such as petasins, petasols
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • Flavonoids
  • Essential oils

Butterbur: effect for body and mind

Petasites is used nowadays mainly for its effect on smooth muscles and its associated analgesic effect. It thus has an influence on the internal hollow organs, blood vessels and muscles. Its relaxing effect also acts on the autonomic nervous system, which is why it is often used in cases of cardiac insufficiency and to calm down in order to reduce the effects of stress and tension. In some countries, ready-made medicines against hay fever are sold in which Petastites is contained. Their effectiveness here is said to be comparable to synthetic antihistamines. Only its eponymous use in plague must be rejected today. The Bachpestwurz has no demonstrable effect on infections with the Pesterreger and plays as a means of infection today no longer a role. 

Butterbur properties

  • Relaxing
  • Antispasmodic
  • Promotes blood circulation
  • Analgesic
  • Antiallergic
  • Menstrual balancing

Fields of application in naturopathy

[Petasites officinalis]

Butterbur has a wide range of issues to consider using it for, due in part to its central effectiveness.

Butterbur for inflammation

Due to its combination of active ingredients, butterbur has a good potential against inflammation. Especially in the case of allergic inflammations, it was found that it intervenes at an earlier stage of the inflammatory reaction than ordinary antihistamines with comparable potency. The advantage of butterbur is that it does not cause the usual side effects of antihistamines, such as fatigue.

application area-hay fever

Petasites for hay fever

Butterbur has been proven to decongest swollen mucous membranes. Affected hay fever patients can thus breathe normally again more quickly and do not suffer from hay fever. The effect of butterbur is on the level of known antihistamines, but without their side effects.

Butterbur for allergies

Allergies and allergic reactions are often accompanied by swelling of the mucous membranes. This can be the nasal mucosa, but also the pharyngeal and bronchial mucosa in the context of asthma. Butterbur influences the blood flow in the vessels and regulates it to a normal level. Especially in inflammatory and allergic reactions, the blood vessels are widened and the mucous membrane grows as a result. However, if the blood circulation is normalized again, the mucous membrane also swells again and the allergic reaction subsides.

Butterbur as a muscle relaxant

The brook butterbur has a proven effect on smooth muscles. It relaxes them and gives them back looseness. Much used this effect to counteract spasms of the smooth muscles of the hollow organs such as the gall bladder, uterus and kidney-bladder tract. Butterbur is often a component of complex remedies that are supposed to have a spasmolytic effect on these areas.

Butterbur: effect on headaches & migraines

Muscular problems very often play a causal role in the development of headaches and migraines. However, cramps and inflammatory irritations of the blood vessels also play a role. Butterbur now influences the skeletal muscles and the muscles of the blood vessels, relaxes them and thus ensures that the complaints disappear. The pull of the neck muscles on the skull subsides and the relaxed blood vessels can again ensure normal blood circulation.


Butterbur for urinary tract problems

Many people suffer from spasms of the urogenital tract. This can affect the kidney itself, the ureters, but also the bladder. This is caused by the portions of smooth muscle in these organs that can contract and spasm. Smooth muscle spasms do not happen frequently however are very painful. Petasites has a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles so that they can let go and the pain disappears.

Butterbur for cramps of the digestive organs

The digestive organs are also partially equipped with smooth muscle, which, when it spasms, can reduce its length to 1/3 of the original length. The result is massive pain as described, for example, in biliary spasms. Petasites has a relaxing effect on these muscles and ensures that the muscles let go again and the cramps pass.


Petasites for asthma

In asthma, two major factors have an impact. One is that the mucous membranes swell and the mucus obstructs the airways in a way that makes breathing difficult. However, another factor is that the bronchial micromuscles often spasm in asthmatics. As a result, the bronchial passages become narrowed, air cannot pass through cleanly, and breathing becomes difficult. Butterbur ensures that the spasms of the bronchial muscles subside, allowing air to flow through the airways again.

Notes on the use of butterbur

Butterbur should only be taken in the form of finished medicinal products. Only here can it be ensured that the pyrrolizidine alkaloids have been largely extracted. The intake is based on the manufacturer's recommendation. As a rule, it is a cure-like application of 3 times daily intake for a few weeks to months.

Butterbur during pregnancy & lactation

Due to its influence on blood circulation and muscle tone, butterbur should not be taken during pregnancy and lactation. There is too little information available to assess this with certainty.

Petasites for allergy to daisies

People who are allergic to comfrey or butterbur should be cautious when consuming products containing butterbur and should discuss this with their caring physician or alternative practitioner.

Butterbur for liver problems

Butterbur naturally contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are toxic to the liver. However, finished preparations no longer contain any of these, since the problem is known and the manufacturers extract them chemically, they should no longer play a role. However, it is pointed out that butterbur preparations should be discontinued immediately if symptoms occur.

Discover our sprays

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Use the healing power of Petasites officinalis!

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pink, white butterbur large flower with green leaves



Botanical name

Petasites officinalis

Plant family


Other designations

Red butterbur, brook butterbur


February till April

Harvest time

March till October


sunny to semi-shady



Flower color

red purple

Flower shape

Flower corolla, bulbous, panicled

Leaf color


Leaf shape

round to heart shaped

Sheet properties

underside gray-felted, up to 60cm large

Soil type

sandy to loamy

Soil moisture

Fresh to wet


Neutral to acidic

Lime compatibility

lime tolerant

Nutrient requirements




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