Is Butterbur Safe?

If you have any allergies or are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your healthcare provider about warnings and precautions with butterbur before using it. Butterbur may theoretically interact with certain medications. Also, natural butterbur contains certain compounds that can cause liver or lung damage. In order to ensure your safety, butterbur products that do not clearly state that all toxic alkaloids have been removed should be avoided.

Safety Issues With Butterbur: An Overview

Natural butterbur contains toxic alkaloids that can damage the liver and the lungs. Unless these alkaloids are removed (as is done with some high-quality supplements), this substance should not be considered safe. Some people may be more likely to experience problems with butterbur than others. Therefore, you should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking this product medicinally if you have:
  • Liver disease, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis
  • Any chronic or severe medical condition
  • Any allergies, including allergies to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
You should also make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Specific Butterbur Warnings and Precautions

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of butterbur include the following:
  • As previously stated, natural butterbur contains certain compounds (known as alkaloids) that can cause liver or lung damage. There is even some concern that these toxic alkaloids might increase the risk of cancer or birth defects. It is a good idea to avoid any butterbur product that does not clearly state that all toxic alkaloids have been removed.
  • If you are allergic to daisies, chrysanthemums, or marigolds, there is also a chance you may be allergic to butterbur.
  • Theoretically, butterbur may interact with a few medications (see Butterbur Drug Interactions).
  • As an herbal supplement, butterbur is not as closely regulated as prescription (or non-prescription) drugs. It can be marketed without any proof that it is either safe or effective. Do not assume that just because a product is sold or advertised in the United States it is safe or effective. Make sure to look for butterbur products from a reputable manufacturer. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are the most reputable. This is especially important due to the toxic alkaloids found in some butterbur products.
  • If you have a chronic or severe medical condition, it is always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before taking any medication or supplement.
  • In general, butterbur is not considered safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women (see Butterbur and Pregnancy and Butterbur and Breastfeeding).
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Butterbur Supplement Information

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