Butterbur for Migraine

Butterbur, also known as coltsfoot, has long been used for a variety of health conditions. In the Middle Ages it was used to treat fever and plague. By the 17th century, butterbur was a treatment for skin wounds, asthma, and cough. Today we can add hay fever (allergic rhinitis), headaches, stomach upset, urinary tract symptoms, and migraine to the long list of conditions that respond to butterbur as a viable treatment. The herb is processed and sold commercially using extracts from the leaves, rhizome, and root. It is advised that unprocessed, raw butterbur be avoided because it may contain substances that are harmful.

What is butterbur?

Butterbur is a shrub that grows in North America, Asia, and Europe. It has large, green leaves and prefers to grow in marshy, wet ground. The name comes from an old, traditional use of the large leaves to wrap butter in when the weather was warm.

Medicinal products are made using the plant’s leaves, stem, or root. They are crushed and made into a tablet form to be used as an oral supplement. The plant is high in isopetasin and petasin which are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. This could be why it is so effective for treating migraine and other types of pain.


There have been a number of trials where butterbur has performed quite well as a preventative measure for migraine. Two of these randomized, controlled trials have received a rating as Class I by the AHS/AAN or “good” by the CHS regarding quality.

In the first trial (Lipton et al), there were three groups. One group was given a placebo, while another received 50 mg butterbur twice a day, and the last group was given 75 mg butterbur twice a day. After a four week baseline period, the trial itself was 16 weeks.

The focus of the trial was to assess any percentage of change in migraine frequency and intensity as compared to the baseline.

The group that took 75 mg of butterbur experienced the greatest percent of change. The results were:

  • 43% change – 75 mg butterbur
  • 32% change – 50 mg butterbur
  • 28% change – placebo

The four month responder rate for the 75 mg group was significantly higher that the other two groups, coming in at 68%. The group taking the 50 mg butterbur did not show a significant difference from the placebo.

The second trial (Diener et al) conducted an independent analysis of the Grossman and Schmidramsl trial that compared 50 mg of butterbur twice a day over a 12 week period to a placebo administered the same for the same amount of time. At the end of the study, the group given the butterbur experienced a significant decrease in the frequency of their migraine attacks per month when measured from baseline to week 12. The placebo group did not experience a significant difference in the same timeframe.

How to take butterbur for migraine

There has been some concern in the past about hepatoxicity related to taking butterbur as a supplement. However, companies are taking aggressive steps to process the plant appropriately and make it safe for human consumption. Consumers should only use butterbur products that have been commercially prepared.

Butterbur has received a strong recommendation from the CHS as an effective treatment for migraine. The recommended dose is 75 mg twice a day. The AHS awarded the herb a Level A rating. They noted that it is an “effective therapy that should be offered to patients for migraine prevention.”
Butterbur, along with four other migraine busting ingredient come together in Axon Relief. You get 150 mg of PA free butterbur root in each refreshing glass. Start your day off right with some healthy, great tasting migraine prevention. Try Axon Relief for yourself and have fewer migraine days.

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