Reduce your allergies and pain with a common weed

August 18, 2012
Volume 2    |   Issue 64
You’ve probably heard that eating local raw honey can help with allergies. When the bees in your area make their honey, they use the local plants – the ones you’re allergic too. So when you eat the honey, it helps your body build up defenses against those allergens. Well, what if I told you that an actual weed can help you fight allergies? And what if I told you this same weed can fight pain at the same time?

Well, it’s true. And this particular weed doesn’t have to be from your area. It’s the weed butterbur. Butterbur is actually part of the daisy family, though it’s much more robust than your typical daisy. Some people don’t consider it a weed, but I’m not here to argue botany (I’d lose).

What’s important about butterbur is its medicinal abilities, especially with allergies and pain. Most allergy sufferers turn quickly to antihistamines. These are effective for treating certain symptoms of allergies, such as sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose. But the problem with antihistamines is that they inevitably make you drowsy. Even some of the non-drowsy formulas list drowsiness as a symptom (I never figured that one out).

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have the benefits of an antihistamine without the drowsiness? Well, you can. One study from 2002 found that butterbur works every bit as well as the antihistamine Zyrtec. In this study, the researchers divided 125 people into two groups. In the first group, 61 people took butterbur. The other 64 took the Zyrtec. After two weeks, both groups experienced the same relief.

Zyrtec is one of the antihistamines that’s not supposed to cause drowsiness. But in this study, that didn’t pan out. Eight of the 64 people taking the drug said it made them drowsy. That’s not a huge number, but it’s still 12.5% of the test group that experienced it. And when you compare it to the butterbur group, where not one single person reported feeling drowsy, the difference is significant. Plus, this isn’t the only study showing that butterbur works as well as the drugs. Another one in 2005 had the same results when compared to Allegra.

So butterbur works every bit as well as the drug, without the side effects. That’s pretty impressive. But butterbur doesn’t stop there. It also helps reduce pain. In fact, it has a long history of relieving pain.

The plant is native to Asia, where they used it to treat pain. Some claim that Native Americans used the plant to treat headaches and inflammation. And the Mayo Clinic reported in 2008 that it can effectively reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Obviously, if butterbur can reduce inflammation, it has a lot of uses in treating just about any type of pain.

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The only negative with butterbur is that you can easily take too much. Doing so can upset your stomach. So you need to take small doses throughout the day instead of one big dose. And butterbur contains alkaloids that can cause cancer and be toxic to your liver. So you want to make sure you buy a quality supplement from a manufacturer that certifies it’s free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The bottle may say “PA free.” You can find butterbur in most health food stores and online.

Your Insider for better health,

Steve Kroening

Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.


“Complementary and alternative therapies for migraine.” Mayo Clinic. 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2009-09-19.

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