Seasonal allergies affect millions of people every year. Symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and irritability bring discomfort to those affected. Many experts think it is best to turn to Mother Earth and her natural healing capabilities to deal with these symptoms. One of the herbs with natural healing abilities that has been making a name for itself in combating seasonal allergy symptoms is Butterbur.
To better understand butterbur’s role in alleviating seasonal allergy symptoms, it is best to understand the cause first. Seasonal allergies, commonly known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are caused by allergens in the air. These allergens include spores from molds as well as pollens from trees, grass, ragweed and other flowers. Normally, when these allergens enter a person’s body either through the eyes, nose or mouth, a less sensitive immune system will not be affected. However, in some people, the immune system wrongly identifies a non-toxic substance as a threat, causing the white blood cells to overreact. These cells then launch an attack on the foreign substance. This is done by releasing a cascade of chemicals, such as histamine and other compounds, that cause tissue inflammation. The inflammation will manifest itself through the common seasonal allergy symptoms.
Butterbur, an Antihistamine
Butterbur is a waterside plant native to Europe, Africa and Asia. According to a study published in “Phytotherapy Research,” an extract of a butterbur leaf works as well as an antihistamine in alleviating seasonal allergy symptoms. Butterbur contains petasin, which blocks leukotrienes (an inflammatory) and histamines. Histamines dilate blood vessels making the walls extremely permeable.
A controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine, a known antihistamine drug, as treatments for seasonal allergic rhinitis was conducted by several researchers in outpatient clinics and allergy clinics in Switzerland and Germany. Based on the result published in the “British Medical Journal,” it was concluded that the effects of butterbur are similar to cetirizine. Cetirizine supposedly does not cause drowisiness, however, the participants of the trial reported mild drowsiness. Butterbur, on the other hand, did not have that side effect. Another conclusion derived from the trial is that Butterbur is worth considering for treating symptoms of allergic rhinitis when sedative effects need to be avoided. British researchers have recognized the effectiveness of Butterbur in subduing symptoms of grass allergies.
There are several Butterbur extracts available in the market today. It is important to note, however, that Butterbur contains a harmful type of alkaloid which is toxic to liver and may cause cancer. It should be taken only when prepared by a reputable laboratory or company.