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Butterbur and prevention of hay fever

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The common butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is a patch-forming, perennial plant found in the damper parts of Europe and northern Asia. Its white or pale pink flower-heads, often flushed with purple, are borne on dense erect racemes which appear before the leaves open.

Butterbur (Callie Jones)Nicholas Culpeper called butterbur “a great preserver of the heart and reviver of the spirits”. It has been used in herbal medicine as a diuretic and muscle relaxant and to treat coughs, fever, wounds, headaches, stammering, asthma and stress. There is also some scientific evidence that butterbur can help to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

A butterbur extract (petasol butenoate complex or Ze339) has been shown to inhibit the biosynthesis of leukotrienes and mediator release from activated eosinophils in vitro. This suggested its potential use in relieving the symptoms of hay fever.

A team of researchers from Munich set out to assess the efficiency and mode of action of Ze339 on allergic rhinitis symptoms, nasal airflow and local mediator levels after unilateral challenge with a nasal allergen. In a randomised, double-blind, crossover study, subjects with allergic rhinitis were given Ze339, desloratadine or a placebo for five days before being challenged with grass pollen extract. Symptom assessment, rhinomanometry and local inflammatory mediator measurements 24 hours after the challenge showed that Ze339 not only combats swelling of the nasal mucosa faster and more effectively than desloratadine or placebo, without causing drowsiness, but also significantly reduced interleukin-8 and leukotriene B4 levels in nasal secretions before the allergen challenge.

Carsten Schmidt-Weber, head of the Centre of Allergy and Environment in Munich, claimed the results indicate that Ze339 not only works in acute cases but also has a prevent ive effect.

With forecasts indicating that by 2050 up to 40 per cent of the population of the Western world will be sensitised to allergens, a product based on Ze339 could become a useful alternative to antihistamines and corticosteroids.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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