Butterbur in the treatment of Hay Fever.




Phytotherapy Research

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Allergies
Professional Data: Allergies


If you have an allergy, your body's immune system has been programmed to treat a particular substance in food or the environment as an enemy. Defending us against harmful substances is part of the immune system's job. With allergies, the immune system reacts to a substance that, for the non-allergic person, is completely harmless. Hay fever, for example, is an allergic reaction to pollen. Why do some people have hay fever, while everyone else can breathe in pollen particles with no problem? Because the immune system in the hay fever sufferer sets an allergic reaction in response to pollen molecules that come in contact with sinus passages.

The allergic reaction, also known as a "hypersensitive" reaction, triggers the release of chemicals into the blood stream, chiefly histamine. Normally stored away inside cells that are part of the immune system, these chemicals produce the various symptoms and discomforts of allergies. These symptoms ranges in severity from mild to life-threatening.

A recent research paper published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, investigated the role of butterbur in the treatment of hay fever. This prospective, randomized, placebo-blind parallel study involved 330 participants all who suffered from hay fever. The researchers compared the effects of butterbur extract, fexofenadine (a common allergy medication) and placebo. The results showed that both treatments were superior to placebo. However, no difference in superiority was seen between butterbur or fexofenadine. The authors concluded that, “Butterbur Ze 339 and Fexofenadine are comparably efficacious relative to placebo. Despite being a herbal drug, Butterbur Ze 339 has now been subject to a series of well controlled trials and should be considered as an alternative treatment.”1


1. Engel JP, et al. Treating intermittent allergic rhinitis: a prospective, randomized, placebo and antihistamine-controlled study of Butterbur extract Ze 339. Phyto Res. Aug 2005;19(6)530-7.