Butterbur and Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids

dazed.N.confusedMay 26, 2012

Here is a butterbur extract powder that is made from the aerial portions of the plant. The manufacturer claims that the aerial portions of the plant do not contain the toxic levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids like the roots and rhizomes do. Does anyone know if these claims are valid? Is there any culture that regularly consumes the aerial portions of butterbur? Thanks in advance for any help!

Here is the product I am referring to: http://wholesale.manufacturer.com/buylead/m10044747-Butterbur+Extract+%28sally@nutra-max.com%29.html

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The root is typically used so as to get the necessary chemistry of the plant. It is a medium strength herb which means it may have a mild chronic toxicity which is unlikely to do harm and become a problem. It's best when used in a complete formula, though. This remedy should NEVER be taken continuously on its own in large doses nor during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to the alkaloids of which you speak. Actually, it's classed as an herb that promotes sweating and dispels wind-cold. So, it's best used for a short time in acute illnesses.

What were you wanting to use it for anyhow? There are good substitutes if you're interested: ginger root, osha root, or peppermint leaf. These, too, will warm the exterior, promote sweating and dispel wind-cold.

That company's claim is a selling ploy. They set their product apart as "special" so as to make people want it more.

Hope this helped.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 10:46AM
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I have posted here before about the use of butterbur extract in treating hay fever. Preliminary research pointed to this being a useful treatment; however there are recent warnings issued about butterbur toxicity being linked to carcinogenicity and severe liver damage:

"The cases of liver toxicity appear to have occurred with extracts of butterbur where the PAs (pyrrlolizidine alkaloids) had been removed and only small amounts remained. There is some evidence that other constituents found in butterbur such as the sesquiterpene constituents for example petasin may be implicated in the liver toxicity."

So even if the product the initial poster linked to had lower amounts of PAs, that still might not eliminate the risk of liver damage. I also see that the product comes from China. Personally, I would not risk taking any Chinese herbal product given the country's history of woefully slack regulation and frequent instances of adulteration of Chinese imports with harmful chemicals and unlisted pharmaceutical drugs.

The problem of PAs is not limited to butterbur, but also is the reason for the banning of comfrey for internal use and limitations on use of borage. Promoters of these herbs often cite long historical use as evidence of safety - but given poor quality health surveillance and the often short life spans of people from other eras, it would be easy for chronic toxicity to be overlooked. Now that we are living much longer life spans in countries with better testing and medical followup, these problems are coming to light.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 12:01PM
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Yeah, that is what I was planning on using it for, the treatment of hay fever. It seemed like it had the best results in treating the symptoms but risk of accumulating toxins in the liver appears to be too high. I will stick to other natural remedies such as nettle and chamomile. Thank you for the help everyone!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 4:56PM
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