A study that has been published in the medical journal Neurology has shown that the herb butterbur can be helpful in the prevention of migraine headaches. The study was published late last year and found that when the root of the butterbur was extracted it could be used as a preventative measure. The butterbur extract was tested in a clinical trials that has a placebo control and involved nearly 250 people, all of whom had a history of suffering from migraines.
The patients were given tablets that contained 75mg of the butterbur extract. The pills have been made by Webber & Webber International and the study concluded that the pills were effective at reducing the occurrence of migraine. It was found that the pills reduced the occurrence of migraine by nearly 50% during the trial which lasted four months. This is significantly better than the placebo pills, which only caused a 25% reduction.
Tests were also conducted to see whether a lower does of the extract would be as effective. Test subjects were given 50mg a day and this lead to a reduction in migraines of just over 35% which suggests that the higher dosage pill is the most effective measure.
Another endpoint that this trial measured was the number of patients who experienced a reduction of migraines of at least 50% or more. In the 75 mg Petadolex group, 68% met this criterion compared to only 49% in the placebo group. In addition, this outcome was measured at 1, 2, and 3 months, indicating that the herbal extract effects took place early in the trial and lasted throughout. The researchers noted that the efficacy for the butterbur extract was equivalent to the levels of effectiveness shown for conventional pharmaceutical anti-migraine drugs.
Patients from ages 18 to 65, who met the International Headache Society criteria for migraine headaches with or without the aura that often accompanies a migraine, were chosen. Each patient had experienced 2 to 6 migraines per month for at least 3 months prior to the study.
According to the lead researcher, Richard B. Lipton, MD, vice chair and professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “Our study shows that butterbur really does reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, so it’s a welcome addition to the therapeutic arsenal we have available to combat migraine.”
Previous research and clinical use of the special butterbur root extract show that it has a high safety profile. There were few adverse side effects from butterbur in the new clinical trial; the most commonly observed side effects involved the gastrointestinal tract, e.g., burping.
“This is really good news for migraine sufferers,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, an independent nonprofit herb research and education organization. “This natural medicine has been shown to be safe and reliable,” he said. “This trial supports previous research conducted in Europe and helps to ensure that butterbur will become more widely known and accepted by physicians and consumers alike.” Blumenthal also noted that scientific research is continuing around the world on many herbal preparations, many of which, like butterbur root, have been virtually unknown in the United States.
The randomized, double-blind, three-arm, parallel group, placebo controlled trial was carried out in nine medical centers, including the Departments of Neurology and Epidemiology and Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY; the New York Headache Center, New York, NY; Innovative Medical Research, a Division of Advance PCS, Baltimore, MD; and the Pain Clinic and Christian Albrechts University Kiel and Charite, Department of Neurology, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany.
Petadolex is a patented extract of the traditional butterbur root (Petasites hybridus) standardized to contain a minimum of petasins. The extract is manufactured in Germany by Weber and Weber, a phytomedicine company.